Cowgirl Spring Roundup: Day 2

Associate/Digital Editor Nichole Chirico headed to Montana to attend The Resort at Paws Up's annual Cowgirl Spring Roundup.

Missed day one? See the first blog from my Cowgirl Spring Roundup journey here.

While it was vacation time for most, we were all ready to tackle the day before the sun was up. Activities were scheduled to start at 6:30 in the morning, which meant we needed to be at the Wilderness Outpost by 6:15 to grab our pre-packed breakfasts and check in with the individuals in charge of our activities for the morning. 

Barbara Van Cleve during the photography class.

There were two activities to choose from on Friday morning. One was the sunrise trail ride, the other a  morning photography session with legendary photographer Barbara Van Cleve. Everyone was pretty eager to get on the back of a horse, so the sunrise trail ride filled up fairly fast. I opted for the photography session, knowing I would have plenty of time to ride later on. 

Because Paws Up has over 37,000 acres of land to explore, there’s plenty of transportation available for guests. You can choose to drive your personal green Kia around the property, but since this was a large activity we opted for vans to take us to Moonlight Camp. 

A quick five-minute drive and arrived at our destination. We split off to our designated groups; the riders sat around a campfire to discuss riding experience, and how to ride the resort’s horses, while the photography group headed straight to where the horses were saddled and tied up hoping to catch some of the golden-hour light we had to work with.

The trail horses waiting for their riders to go on the sunrise trail ride during the Cowgirl Spring Roundup at The Resort at Paws Up.

Barbara explained lighting and angles to our group, even taking the time to show several people how to work their cameras. The best part about Barbara’s class was that it was for anyone interested in photography. Many people brought their DSLR cameras, excited to finally learn how to use them. While others came armed with only their iPhone. 

One of the photos I took during the photography session at The Cowgirl Spring Roundup with legendary photographer Barbara Van Cleve.

One thing I took away from Barbara was making sure I shoot both vertical and horizontal options. Part of my job involves photographing people and horses, and sometimes I go into autopilot. When I finally go back and review my photos, I wish I shot it either horizontal or vertical. Thank you, Barbara, for the friendly reminder!

As the sun began to rise, the riders finally made their way to their assigned horses. We photographed them as they began to ride toward the sunrise, and then headed over to the campfire where Barbara sat down to answer any questions people might have about their photos or cameras. 

Because I had another activity scheduled for 9:30, I left Moonlight Camp a little early to drop off my camera equipment at the cabin, and then headed over to the breakfast area to warm up and have some hot tea. (While the weather was absolutely AMAZING during my stay, the mornings were still pretty crisp.)

Chef Sunny and a guest (who brought her favorite cooking apron with her) during the demonstration.

The next activity on the list was a cooking demonstration with Executive Chef Sunny Jin. If you follow us on Instagram (@horseandridermag), you might have seen some videos with Chef Sunny in our Instagram Stories. (If you haven’t seen our Paws Up story, head to our Instagram and watch the story in our highlights section!) While we watched him prepare an Italian dish, we were treated to a wine tasting from featured vintner Planeta. 

Once we had the chance to taste the dish Chef Sunny prepared for us, we wrapped up our class to head to lunch. You’re always well fed at Paws Up! There were several activities to choose from going on at the same time, so it was fun to catch up with the different groups to hear how their experiences went. It also helped me prepare for the next day when I would be participating in some of those same activities. 

Once again, the activities that involved riding filled up fairly fast, so I opted to do the carriage ride with Marilyn Williams Harris, where she talked about her Arizona ranch and how land, animals, and water work together to create a sustainable landscape.

Land conservation is something The Resort at Paws Up is very passionate about, so we also had the chance to talk with Leigh and Kyle Kelley, co-ranch managers at Paws Up, while we were on the carriage ride. The carriage, pulled by Pete and Repeat, took us around different parts of the Paws Up property. We saw a little bit of everything as we were pulled around the property. We came across a coyote den, and even saw a few coyotes. Then we went into one of the cattle pastures and saw newly born calf, that had only been a couple hours old. As we were headed back to the barn we spotted a bald eagle circling above us. 

We spotted a bald eagle during our carriage ride at The Cowgirl Spring Roundup.

This tour allowed us to see the other side of Paws Up. The guest ranch is beautiful, but it was great to hear and see that Paws Up continues to be a working cattle ranch, as well. 

Once our ride ended we had just enough time to head back to our cabins and change for dinner. One really fun part about the Cowgirl Spring Roundup is the love for Western fashion. I saw lots of beautiful handmade leather jackets covered in fringe, cowboy hats, Old Gringo boots, plenty of vintage turquoise, and one-of-a-kind pieces that held sentimental value to the woman wearing it. One guest wore an old cowboy hat that was her father’s when she was younger, while another guest proudly wore an NFR belt buckle given to her in remembrance of a good friend. 

And if you needed an outfit for dinner, all you have to do is head over to The Wilderness Outpost and see Margit and Fawn. She’ll have you dressed to the nines in no time. (Keep an eye out for the next blog post where I have Margit style me.

Friday night’s dinner was at The Saddle Club at Paws Up. This time the vans came by each cabin to pick up the women and drive them to the barn and arena. We arrive and the barn is as stunning as the rest of the resort and the indoor arena is 29,000 square feet; every equestrian’s dream arena! 

During cocktail hour we headed to the indoor arena to throw axes and work on our archery skills. It was fun to see everyone get out of their comfort zone and participate in new activities. It turns out I’m much better at archery, I even managed to hit the target every time. As for ax throwing, I broke one ax, and then finally hit the target. 

Dinner at The Saddle Club during the Cowgirl Spring Roundup at The Resort at Paws Up.

Dinner was held in the barn, and after we sat down we got to learn a little bit more about the National Cowgirl Museum, and learned a little bit more about what the National Cowgirl Museum does. (Learn how you can support the museum and women associated with it here.) Afterward Marilyn Williams Harris got up and spoke a little bit more about what it meant to be part of the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. 

The buffet-style dinner was displayed in a spotless tack room that was surrounded by neatly placed Western saddles, old pictures from owner Nadine Lipson’s horse-show days. I even spotted a few National Snaffle Bit Association trophies and a photo of trainer Gil Galyean (my old neighbor from my Purcell, Oklahoma, days) in her tack room. 

After dinner we headed back to The Village in Paws Up and grab a quick dessert and drink before heading back to our cabins, as it was going to be another early morning the next day.

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