The start of day three at the Cowgirl Spring Roundup was very similar to the start of day two. Cowgirls had the chance to rise before the sun and start the day with either a sunrise trail ride or a photography session with the legendary Barbara Van Cleve.
Because I had done the photography session the day before, I originally opted for the sunrise trail ride. However, come the morning of the ride I got a text from Anna (the amazing Paws Up employee that helped me plan my trip) saying that she was able to score me a one-on-one ride with Jackie Kecskes, the equestrian manager and head wrangler at Paws Up.
Rather than do the morning trail ride, Anna was kind enough to show me around Paws Up. (It's 37,000 acres--so it takes a few minutes to see it!) We piled into one of the many green Kias, and headed to one of the campsites to see what glamping is all about.
I enjoy hiking and the outdoors, but I can't say I'm a huge overnight camper. However, the tents at Paws Up will change just about anyone's mind when it comes to overnight "camping." The tents we saw were set up perfectly next to the Blackfoot River. They provide complete privacy, and plenty of room for friends and family to come with--not to mention they have the amazing bathroom amenities that included heated tile floors and heated towel racks. Oh, and they also come with a 24-hour butler... yup, your own butler. My iPhone photos don't give these glamorous tents the justice they deserve. Check them out in their full glory here.
After a quick bite to eat back at The Village, I was ready to head to my first activity of the day: The cattle drive. I had been looking forward to this portion of the trip since I got off the airplane in Missoula. While being around cattle isn't necessarily a new concept for me--my mom grew up on a cattle farm and her side of the family is still very active in that industry--being able to participate in a cattle drive in the middle of Big Sky Country was something I'd only ever seen on television and movies.
Because of my riding experience, I was given a horse named Jasper. Even thought he's reaching 20 years old, he didn't act it. The minute we stepped outside of the arena and headed toward the cattle in a pasture adjacent to the barn, his ears perked up and he excitedly walked forward. I knew right away we were going to get along just fine!
Jackie and her team of wranglers took the time to explain the horseshoe concept when doing a cattle drive; it's where we the riders on the sides of the cattle to help guide them, and the riders in the back to push the cattle forward. It was fun to work as a team, especially with riders of all skill level participating. You could see people slowly breaking free of their comfort zone and getting excited about the ride.
There were a few times the cattle escaped from our watch, but considering this was a first for most people (some only riding a few times in their life) I think we did a decent job of driving them through the resort.
Later that afternoon Jackie was kind enough to take a few hours out of her busy schedule (did I mention she's training Mustangs?), and take me on our one-on-one ride. Once again I was able to snag Jasper, while Jackie rode a horse that's new to her riding program.
I think that ride was definitely the highlight of my trip. Being able to lope for long stretches while looking at the beautiful Montana background was something I'll remember for a long time. Competitive riding is something I absolutely love, but it was refreshing to release the reins and just go--not worrying about every little detail or thing. The conversation was great, too. I loved having the chance to talk about horses with someone that truly loves being around them and is doing something they enjoy every day of their life.
Once our ride ended, it was time to prepare for the last dinner of the weekend. Paws Up's has a very cute boutique called The Wilderness Outpost on their property. I met Margit and Fawn in the shop, and they took time to dress me up for a true cowgirl dinner after being in my riding clothes all day.
As you walk in their shop, you'll see just about everything. Leather jackets, turquoise accessories, cowboy boots, and hats are just a few of the things you'll find. Margit and Fawn ended up going with a Double D vest, and a cute pair of pants. They paired them with my Old Gringo cowboy boots and my turquoise Charlie 1 Horse hat.
Before dinner the National Cowgirl Museum held a Q&A with the honorees, giving everyone a chance to learn more about them and how they got involved in the Western industry. We had a little over an hour to talk with them and hear their stories before it was time to head upstairs for the last dinner of the weekend.
The dinner upstairs was followed by a silent and live auction; the proceeds went to the National Cowgirl Museum. There was a little bit for everyone during the live auction. A piece of art made by Veryl Goodnight, a Barbara Van Cleve photograph, saddles, leather jackets, a spot in a Sharon Camarillo clinic, beautifully crafted chinks, and a trip to Paws Up to stay in one of the glamping tents were just some of the things people bid on through out the night.
They also offered a silent auction at the same time, filled with vintage turquoise, handmade bags, and other one-of-a-kind pieces.
Overall, this dinner was a great way to end the weekend. As you looked around the dinner room, you noticed the new friendships that had grown over the last few days. Even as a solo traveler I never felt alone. There was always someone around to enjoy conversation with.