News: Soldiers tour the southwestern trail on horseback
Story by Sgt. Ida Irby
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- The West is known for the colorful horseback adventures it offers local civilizations. Although the horseback adventures of the open range Buffalo Soldiers are now a thing of the past, U.S. soldiers still enjoy the nostalgia of the old west.
Sgt. Marcus Norfleet, 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, took time off from driving military tactical vehicles to ride horses at the Corralitos Ranch in Las Cruces, N.M., desert. Norfleet grew up on a farm in Selma, Ala., where his father owned many horses that he rode as a young child. He says riding horses isn’t just a pastime but part of his life.
“I love horses; you could say it is my favorite pet,” said Norfleet. “From the smell of the horse to the hide I love everything about riding.”
“I have been thrown off a horse. I have had a broken ankle and a broken arm on different occasions,” said Norfleet as he discussed the occupational hazards of learning to ride. “I had to make a transition from the flatlands of Alabama to the mountains (here), but I got it now.”
Norfleet says he looks forward to returning home to ride the three horses he owns in Georgia. Until then he relishes visiting to the Corralitos Ranch. He has returned approximately six times after his first free riding session with Billy “Billy the Cowboy” Prewitt.
Billy the Cowboy is the owner and operator of the Machine Hat Basin Horse and Mule Company. Billy has more than 30 years of experience as a guide in the Sierra Nevada Mountains that make up the horizon of the Corralitos Ranch.
Billy, a native of Las Cruces , N.M., mounted a horse for the first time at the age of four. “Many people ask me if I was born on a horse,” he said.
“The horses at this ranch are great horses; they are trained very well for walking and riding. The horses I own will act up depending on the season or day of the week,” said Norfleet.
Billy honors veterans by offering free rides for first time riders; he says he appreciates what they do for this country. Norfleet has deployed five times overseas in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Each riding session begins with instructional riding to help beginner riders gain confidence in the horse’s abilities.
“You ride the horse with your back straight, and from the waist down you dance with the horse,” said Billy. “You talk to your horse with your hands and your feet.”
“Horseback riding provides an inner peace,” said Sgt. Priscella Gray, 142nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion a first time rider from St. Catherine, Jamaica. “When I am riding my thoughts come in clear and are not interrupted.”
“The breathtaking scenery is worth coming back every weekend,” said Gray while looking into the horizon of desert and mountains.
For more information about riding call (575) 640-8184.