Real Cowboys Wear Nylons
Yoga pants on, donning my Australian outback hat, and throwing my duffel bag over my shoulder, I anticipated an exciting and intense week of trail riding in Waterton National Park – a Unesco World Heritage site. Come rain or shine we were going to ride world-class trails with the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies, a renowned riding association established back in 1923.
Bill, who is an old time Rodeo cowboy, still competing despite his age, clued me into the pantyhose trade secret. He claimed “Cowboys wear nylons, that’s how they avoid skin chafing. Ask them.”
I mentioned Bill’s advice to other experienced riders. I only received quizzical looks.“Wear two pairs of pants”, “avoid polyester”, “use talcum powder”, they countered. Trusting Bill completely, I ignored them. He wanted to make sure I could ride upwards of 60 hours in 6 days without tissue damage or pain. He even offered a couple horse riding lessons. Surely he had my welfare at heart? I generated further throat clearing amongst my rider friends when I explained that I hiked and did yoga to strengthen my core. In the end, those activities did prove invaluable.
Our group consisted of 4 veterinarians, 2 professors, social workers, a mathematician, local cowboys, retirees and myself. On our way to Waterton we stopped at the Bar U – a National Historic Site, and lived-in museum, south of Longview, taking in a bit of the local western flavour and history. I asked the Bar U farrier Barry about the pantyhose secret. “Nope! I’ve never heard of it. Try Vaseline.”
The week went by quickly. We rode the mountains’ backcountry in the sun, rain and the wind – through plains, hills and narrow ridges. The horses were always willing to work hard, sure-footed, even on narrow ledges. Most of all, they were very patient with us. By night we slept in tents and tepees, camaraderie and good food in abundance.
Our guides were a grandfather, a trapper and his grandson, and a teacher. They shared their knowledge of the area, about edible plants, bears and cougars and told us many stories. As to my nylon question, the old trapper gave me a perplexed look, clearly not understanding what I was talking about.
We left Waterton wanting more. Many believe they can’t trail right without experience, but the Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies cater to the uninitiated. Their secret for a successful ride? Trust yourself and your horse and, bring a sturdy sense of humour. They offer 4 and 6-day packages.
As for the nylons, who knows? But be sure to wear a pair of padded cycling shorts under your riding pants. Trust me!
Photos and Story by: Renée Delorme