Although growing up in the Army has the advantages of meeting people all over the world and making friends everywhere, it may not be exactly ideal for having a single consistent home.

I grew up not being attached to houses, but knowing that wherever I was with my Family was my home, and never had a single complaint. I thought of home as the people, not the house.

My parents grew up differently than I did – both on farms in the Midwest – for their entire childhood and adolescent lives, so they know what it’s like to grow up in one house and also what it’s like to raise a Family moving around in the Army.

My grandparents kept their farm for my entire childhood, so every summer my brothers and I had a constant place to go back to, no matter where we were living. The things that stand out to me the most are helping my grandpa bale hay, helping him feed the cows, riding around on a tractor all day long and, most of all, the horses.

This week, I went horseback riding for the first time since my grandparents sold their farm, and it was right here in Central Texas. After not being on a horse in almost 10 years, it was a little intimidating considering that the last time I was on a horse, I was 12 and it threw me off.

When I pulled up to Horsin’ Around at Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area’s ranch, the horses were the first thing I saw. Horsin’ Around houses more than 30 horses, and they all wanted my attention as I walked past the fences to the main desk to check in for my ride.

I noticed some of the horses were wearing saddles and were resting from just getting back from a trail ride, but most of them were just roaming around getting ready for the guests who would soon be arriving for riding lessons that evening.

After checking in, I met my horse wrangler, Lee Mosley, who rode up on a horse named Dawn. He showed me around the ranch and introduced me to the horse I would be riding.

Gunner, who is a 4-year-old, 1,100-pound mix of two breeds known for horseback riding – half Tennessee Walker and half Quarter Horse – was bigger than what I expected. Walking up to him, I was a little nervous, but my anxiety went away when he met me halfway and put his nose in my hand, like he was giving a proper introduction and handshake.

Lee fitted Gunner’s saddle and asked me if I needed help getting on the horse, but it seemed easy enough, so I declined. I put my foot in the foothold, grabbed the saddle horn and paused, realizing that it was farther up Gunner’s back than I originally thought.

“It’s not a drag, it’s more of a bounce,” Lee said, giving me the single tip I needed to jump up on the saddle. Since grace isn’t always my best attribute, I’m surprised this step went so well, but I successfully made my way onto the horse without embarrassing myself. I was feeling pretty good about myself until I looked down at Lee and I saw how tall Gunner actually is – I was really high off the ground and sitting on an animal much more powerful than me – but he didn’t even seem to notice I was even on his back.

The next step before Lee and I hit the trail was my horse-driving course. I learned how to make Gunner go forward, how to slow down, how to go faster and ultimately how to communicate with him in a language he knows and can understand. I also learned that having chemistry with your horse is important, because they can tell who they will be able to take advantage of.

Lee told me that there is a pecking order between horses, and it is the same between a horse and a human. At first, Gunner could see that I wasn’t trying to stop him when he put his head down to snack on some grass, so he tried to take advantage of that. But Lee showed me how to pull up on the reins in a way that let Gunner know I wouldn’t be taken advantage of, and soon we were ready to head out for our ride. Lee and Dawn were leading the way, with Gunner and I following, and I quickly realized how sensitive Gunner was to which way I was steering him.

At first I thought he would just generally follow Lee and Dawn wherever they were going, but he was listening to me – his rider. I was thinking Gunner would just automatically avoid any low-hanging tree leaves because I was on his back – that is not the case with horses. They will go under trees that they fit under, they aren’t worrying about their rider fitting under them. I couldn’t help but crack up when I ran myself straight through some low-hanging leaves with Gunner none-the-wiser.

I finally got the steering down before we were on some of the more narrow paths, thankfully.

The trail ride was very pleasant, Lee and I were riding close enough that we could talk easily, and he told me so much that I didn’t know about horses. Like how not every breed of horse needs horse shoes, and how some have more tender feet than others.

I found out that Horsin’ Around likes to have all kinds of different breeds, and that they host overnight trail rides complete with camping and barbecue. They also permit visitors to bring their own horses, but the horse is required to be current on all of its vaccines.

When Lee and I returned from the trail ride, horse-riding lessons were well underway. Riders of all ages were learning everything from beginning horseback riding to advanced and learning how to steer a horse backward.

Brenda Ramos, owner of Horsin’ Around, told me that every Thursday the Horsin’ Around ranch hands and trainers are required to take an up-to-date training session on all things horse related, just so they stay current in their training.

Luck was with me again while I was getting off of Gunner, and I did so without embarrassing myself once again. He walked away from me to go get a drink and relax, which he probably needed because I’m sure I wasn’t the best driver.

To find out more about Horsin’ Around at BLORA, riding lessons, riding prices, parties, scheduling and privately-owned horses, visit their website at www.horsinaroundkilleen.com or call 681-9788.