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Her big, mud-brown eyes, framed by enviably long eyelashes, bore into mine. I held her unblinking stare, determined not to back down first and ready to yell “git!” at a moment’s notice.
I was in the 29,000-square-foot Saddle Club riding arena of The Resort at Paws Up, a five-star ranch and resort in Montana that offers 50-plus activities ranging from fly-fishing and archery to river adventures down Class I and II rapids.
But on that afternoon in early May, I decided to try on cow croquet for size.
The object of the two-hour game — an original idea inspired by croquet and launched in December 2017 by Paws Up’s equestrian manager Jackie Kecskes — seemed simple enough. While on horseback, players must wrangle a few dozen cows (and three affectionate goats named after The Three Stooges) in and out of two pens and four gates, while the clock counts down on how quickly the groups can push the animals through each gate.
The competition typically features two teams (of up to four players each) who are pitted against each other. But during my modified activity — where only our guides, Levi and Arielle; my friend, Audrey; and I were present — it was us versus the doe-eyed cows.
They say to dress for the job you want, so I had on my best denim-on-denim combo of a chambray shirt and jeans, along with a bandana and ankle boots that were really just made for walking. And there I sat atop my long-haired mare, moving my reins clumsily to and fro in hopes of herding the lackadaisical, stubborn cattle.
Before each round began, Levi and Arielle would call out a pattern, such as “11, 1, noon,” referring to the pens that our guides had directionally labeled as 11 o’clock, 1 o’clock and noon, and signifying the order of how the animals would weave through the area. They also taught Audrey and me the sport of “cutting,” in which a rider separates an animal from the rest of the cattle — an act easier said than done, we discovered, when targeting two apathetic cows named Loki and Dennis the Menace.
By the afternoon’s end, I had almost split my sides with laughter, and I had never felt so ignored in my life — by both my horse and the cows.
I’ll blame it on the shoes.
The bookable activity is a winter and spring exclusive, and guests ages 8 and up are welcome to participate.
The DetailsThe Resort at Paws Upwww.theresortatpawsup.com