While we were in Denver, Mr. Beaver surprised the family by arranging for us to go horseback riding.
He found the perfect outfitter that was only about 15 minutes west of my parents' home in western Denver. The owner who greeted us wasn't overwhelmed by the size of our group or the age of our youngest children. He'd had his crew prepare a horse for each of us based on Mr. Beaver's reservation.
The location was beautiful--just miles from the base of the Rockies. Because the morning was crisp, there was no haze between us and the mountains.
As we pulled up we quickly sized up who was in charge--the two "working" dogs sitting like royalty on the bed of a trailer hauling hay.
Oksana (7) was the first to be matched with her horse. She was clearly hesitant about this new experience and the giant animal standing so close, but she relaxed pretty quickly. She's a brave child who enjoys physical challenges.
As the owner brought the horse, he took delight in getting the reins looped just right for the perfect photo op as I stood snapping pictures.
When it came time for Oksana to mount, they had a stump all ready for her.
The owner informed Cassandra (17) her horse's name was "Killer." Eventually one of the women working with the group told Cassandra he was just teasing. She spent the morning on "Sassy."
Both Natasha (11) and Tatiana (below - 13) are passionate about anything and everything having to do with horses.
Lissie (19) looked color coordinated with her horse!
We thought this might have been 12-year-old Alexander's first time to ride a horse since he was placed in an orphanage as a toddler. However, he told us that he'd gone horseback riding at one of the summer camps Russian orphans attend.
Joe (19) and his horse were a good pairing because when Joe was little his hair was just about the color of his horse's mane. Joe has since gone auburn and lost his curls.
Daria (16) -- another of the family's horse lovers
I laughed when my horse was brought to me. Me--the mother of nine Russian children was given a mount named Czar! Couldn't be more perfect!
The owner told me Czar was his favorite horse and that I'd find him so cooperative that I'd be able to take photos as we rode. The owner didn't know just how much I love to take photos of my family, but God knows. I immediately threw up a breath prayer to God for His lovingkindness to me.
Before heading out for our trail ride, they had us practice horse-riding skills in circles around the ring.
Then we hit the trail. Most of the time the ride was orderly...
...every once in while chaos broke out as a horse or two tried to snack on grass or leaves. Oksana's horse was the most determinated, but by the end of the trip she was the one in control.
We had a more noticeable disruption when one of Daria's reins broke.
But then order returned.
Eventually our hour of bliss ended.
Daria had a hard time saying good-bye to her new friend, Ike
As we were saying our good-byes to the employees, the leader's horse reached over the fence and gave Cassandra quite an embrace!
Cassandra was happy to return the affection until...
...the horse used her as a Kleenex!
Other than the presumption on the part of this horse, we had an amazing time...cooperative horses, beautiful weather and scenery available few places in the world. We climbed into the van and immediately said a prayer thanking God for the unusual--and wonderfully fun--opportunity.