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Make a Difference, by Doug Lindgren



v3-i9 tristan doug lindgrenAs I contemplate writing this article I keep thinking about a young man that camped here at Hay Creek Ranch last month. Tristan traveled with his mom and several of their friends to enjoy a vacation in the Black Hills. Little did I know I was in for such a great week when he arrived. We had a camp full of trailers with many guests, all of whom were accomplished riders. Still, Tristan stood out.
You see, Tristan is a very special kid that lives to ride his horse. Every time he was in the saddle he inspired all who watched him ride. Getting ready for a ride was very different for him than it is for most of us.Tristan’s saddle was custom built for him; it looked like a saddle and a race car driver seat all in one. Wow, what a cool contraption. Tristan’s mom and friends would help him up into the saddle. Then they would place a back rest on the back of the saddle that had a special seat belt built into it and arm rests. The seat belt was designed to hold Tristan’s torso in place. He had tapadaros with rubber bands on them to help hold his feet in place, too. This kid has the ultimate in saddle technology and a pit crew that knows what they are doing. A regular Mark Martin, or was that Roy Rogers? Oh well, you know what I mean.
When I first met Tristan I figured he would just want to ride some easy forest roads, trails that were non-challenging would be his cup of tea, and he would probably ride for only an hour or two. Boy was I wrong; this young buckaroo came to the Hills to ride and ride he did. Every morning I plan a ride going out different directions from camp, some are three hours long and some are five to six hours long. Each direction offers different terrain and scenery. Most rides have a nice amount of diversity in the level of challenges so everyone gets some easy flat riding and everyone gets some rock climbing. Nearly every ride will stretch a fair number of guests beyond their comfort zone, in which case they are all surprised what they and their horses can accomplish.
Back to Tristan. Well, Tristan didn’t need a special ride for himself; he chose to join me on all of the rides. I must tell you I was amazed at how well he and his horse did. It did not matter how tough the ride was, this duo made the trip. Never did I hear from this cowboy a word about the trail being too rough or too steep or too rocky. I never heard a word about how his horse couldn’t handle the long day or that he was getting tired. The riding was all about being on his horse, joining his mom and close friends in the Black Hills National Forest and forgetting about all of life’s challenges. Every time I looked back to see how the young cowboy was doing all I would see was a big smile and an eagerness to keep on going.
One particular moment sticks in my mind. One of our rides has a very steep hill that descends about a hundred feet. The footing is pretty good but it still makes most riders wince a bit. Some folks really question their ability to negotiate their way down. After looking down the hill and getting everyone lined out for our decent I took the lead and who was right behind me? When Tristan and I got to the bottom we sat and watched every one else make their trip down. Once everyone made it down looked over at Tristan and knew I was looking at Hay Creek Ranch’s COWBOY OF THE YEAR. All of the grownups in the group were so impressed with how well Tristan handled a hill that, quite frankly, scared the pants off of some of them. Everyone started calling him COWBOY OF THE YEAR and it stuck. All Tristan said was “Going down that steep hill was my favorite ride”.
Earlier that morning when I was planning my ride for the day I ALMOST didn’t take that route because I thought for a moment, it may be too much for my little buddy. I sure am glad I didn’t second guess my original plan. My life and everyone else’s lives would not have been the same had we taken the EASY ride. Tristan’s example made a difference for everyone.
Life gives us easy rides and it can give us rides that scare us to death. I have found the scary rides to be the most rewarding because we survive and become better people from the experience. Tristan is a young man taking the scary rides, too. He’s not staying at home and watching TV, playing video games, and generally wasting his time. He has chosen to challenge himself and figure out a way to ride horses. He is a special kid that has already accomplished more in his short life than most of us do in a full lifetime. He has faced real adversity, more than we can imagine, looked it in the eye and stood up to the challenges in front of him. He has found a true love, a love of horses and the joy of riding. He has a great family and lots of friends that care about him. He knows “It’ll Be Fine”. Every ride is a training session, sometimes the horse is the one being trained and sometimes the rider is the student.
If we are paying attention to our surroundings we will be amazed at what we can learn. More amazing is realizing where the learning comes from. Last month it came from a young COWBOY named Tristan, Hay Creek Ranch Cowboy of the Year 2010!
Congratulations, Tristan!
Doug and Jody Lindgren own and operate Hay Creek Ranch near Nemo, SD. Doug rides 2-10 hours every day, spring, summer and fall, training horses to be great trail horses. You can visit their website at

[This article was published in Performance Horse Digest, Volume 3, Issue 9.]


There are no excuses! Get out there and ride those horses!

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