Meet a Globetrotter: Catherine Garrard

Big Horn Cattle Drive, USA

Catherine Garrard is a fresh-off-the trail globetrotter who lived out her own real-life cowgirl adventure on the Big Horn Cattle Drive in Wyoming. And she loved it so much she plans to do it all again next year! We caught up with Catherine post-trek to get the low-down on what made this horse riding holiday so very special, why she loves being a globetrotter, and the horses in her life.

What is your day job?
I’m a chef.

How have horses influenced or changed your life?
Horses have helped me through some ups and downs in my life. Just being able to hop on your horse, the freedom you feel when riding, and they are just such beautiful creatures. My love of horse has just recently taken me to America to do the Big Horn Cattle Drive, and over the years it has taken me to many beautiful riding places.

What is your earliest memory of horses?
That would have to be going to the Heathcote Clydesdale Show. My dad loved horses and every year we would go there. He was also friends with the Carlton Draught team (Clydesdale horses) in Melbourne and we were lucky enough to go visit them regularly. I first really got into horses when I was 9. Our neighbors put a sign out the front: ‘kids wanting to earn extra pocket money mow our lawns’. I knew they had horses as I’d see the floats out the front all the time, so yes, my dad mowed the lawns and they took me horse riding at their property. The rest is history!

What was your childhood pony called?
My first pony was called Jerry-Lee. He was a 20 year old palomino. That’s where it started: pony club, gymkhanas, shows – every chance I could get I’d be up at the horse paddock. He was a beautiful old boy, you could do anything on him. He taught me so much!

What does riding or being with horses mean to you?
Riding means a lot to me. I started when I was 9 and I’m now almost 45. There was a period where I stopped riding for about 10 years. My last horse, Jack, was a 32 year old Standardbred. I had him for 17 years, but due to old age I had him put down. I have a ring made out of his tail hair. I loved that horse so much. But I guess just getting up first thing in the morning, the crisp air, steam coming out of their nostrils, the freedom you feel when riding, the excitement of getting ready for a show… when we were kids we’d be up at 5 am getting ready. Horses are one animal that really understands you. They’re such beautiful creatures.

What have horses taught you the most?
Horses have taught me trust. They can sense when something is wrong. On the Big Horn Cattle Drive I really hadn’t ridden much leading up to it, and was a bit nervous, so it took until the last day to fully trust my horse. I’ll be honest, some of the terrain we rode in was a bit scary, but on that last day we went up the mountain single file with a big drop over the edge and I thought, you know what, my horse has done this before. So I let my reins loose, put 100% trust in him, and he was amazing.

Was this your first Globetrotting ride?
Yes, and it won’t be my last!

What made you take the plunge and sign up for a Globetrotting holiday?
Ever since I was a little child, I’d be glued to the TV watching cowboy and indian movies. I’ve always had a fascination with them. I was originally going to do a ride up in the Northern Territory, but then I came across Globetrotting on my Facebook page. I looked into it a bit more and thought, now this is the real deal. And it certainly was an authentic American cattle drive!

Was this Globetrotting ride celebrating or marking a significant moment/milestone/achievement in your life? And if so, would you mind sharing?
I recently sold my house and bought another one a bit further out of town so I could have a bit of an easier life. I’m a single mum and at times I’ve worked 4 jobs just to make my mortgage payments. I guess it was gift to myself. People thought I was crazy, even my kids: ‘you’re going where?! What, no toilets or showers?!’ So I treated myself to something I’ve always loved and am very passionate about. I also recently lost my mum at Christmas and it made me realise, ‘life is short, you only get one, so I’m going to make the most of it.’ I stepped out my comfort zone and went on my own. I’ve always traveled with other people, and I was a scared – I’d be lying if said I wasn’t. It’s not as if it’s in the next state, this was in America, half way across the world. But once I was over there, not once did I feel scared. I had the time of my life. I would go back yesterday!

What Globetrotting rides have you since completed/planned/dreamed about?
I haven’t completed any more as yet, but I’d love to do the Hunting in Ireland or Castle and Estate Ride, so I’m looking into that. I’m also 100% going back next year to do the Big Horn Cattle Drive again! I loved it so much – the people, the hospitality, being on horseback in the mountains, waking up in a teepee, the wilderness… it was just beautiful.

What is your most memorable Globetrotting moment?
That’s a tough one. I would have to say sitting at the campfire listening to the cowboys share their stories, and it’s so peaceful and quiet. Or being in the saddle for 11 hours then unsaddling our horses and letting them run loose, watching them head up the mountain, that was beautiful. Riding through the crystal clear rivers was also amazing. Even though it was summer, there was still snow on the mountains and I actually touched it!

Why choose this type of travel? As in exploring a new country from the back of a horse?
The Big Horn Cattle Drive makes you appreciate how hard life really was back then. As our host Dana said to us, ‘this is our life, we do this every day whether you’re here on not.’ I loved getting back to basics, getting up some mornings at 3:30 am with the coffee pots on the fire, saddling up your own horse, herding 250 Cattle up the mountains, the scenery, the sound of the wind when you’re up at 9,000 feet – wow. And America is where the cowboys and indians lived – we were even lucky enough to stay on the Crow reservation. Anyone can jump on a plane or hop in a car, and stay in hotels with all the modern comforts, but this is an adventure you will always remember.

Who is your favourite safari horse of all time and why?
My horse was Flame. He was a beautiful chestnut with a blaze, such a gentle horse. It took a couple of days to get to know and trust him, but he was just beautiful. They only keep the horses for a year as the job is hard on them, so he was for sale. I did think about buying him, and I’m now looking around for a Quarter Horse, as they’re such a pleasure to ride.

A tip that every globetrotter should know before going on a ride…
I would say depending on what ride you’re doing, be prepared for long hours in the saddle. I did about 10 rides before I left home. I was sore, but even people who rode a couple of times a week were sore. Bring plenty of Nurofen, be open minded, pack lightly… zip lock bags are really hand to pack things in. There are 2 days where you have to pack your stuff in one bag that they supply, and if you pack your stuff in zip lock bags, it won’t get wet if it rains. Bring packets of tissues or toilet paper to put in your saddle bag, too. It also pays to have a Drizabone, as the weather can be unpredictable in the mountains.

Finish this sentence: Don’t leave home without…
This would definitely have to be your camera. While your host, Cathryn, is a photographer and takes hundreds of photos, it is good to take your own as well. I took my mobile phone with 3 backup battery chargers as well as my iPad. I just love taking photos and to be able to look back on the wonderful memories is priceless.  I’d also recommend taking two thermal water bottles. And one lady on our ride, Deedee, had her phone case attached around her neck, which I thought was a good idea, because if you lose your phone you won’t find it. But most of all, don’t leave home without a sense of humour.