This 85-year-old cowgirl is still herding cattle across Wyoming: ‘We will age together’ – USA TODAY

Posted: October 15, 2019 at 11:46 pm


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Shay Pendray of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, on her horse, Einstein, during a cattle drive at the A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming last month.(Photo: Courtesy Shay Pendray)

NOVI, Mich. Shay Pendray doesnt fit the typicalcowboy image.

She's actually a cowgirl. She's also 85. And she lives not in the Wild West, but in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan,a retired retail store owner and former host of a PBSshow on needle arts.

Still, last month, Pendray was drivingcattle across Wyoming on her horse Einstein, as she has done for the past 10 years.

You cant go on a lark;its a serious thing, Pendray said. A cattle drive is for an advanced rider.

Pendray has been riding horses for 80 years, since her father returned home from World War II and bought her a horse.

When she was 16, Pendray's father took her to a dude ranch in Arizona and sealed her lifelong passion for horseback riding and ranches.

For the past decade, she has been going for a couple weeks every year to A Bar A Ranch, a 100,000-acre ranch which runs 6,000 head of cattle in Encampment, Wyoming, human population 600.

Last month, she was part of the yearly fall effort to bring incattle spread all over the ranch. The work involves separating cows and heifers from young cattle and bulls, gathering them to put in safe places for the winter.

For Pendray, this meant being on her horse by 8 a.m. every day, going up and down rocky terrain, crossing rivers and streamsand searching for cattle hidden in brush. Riders split in a semi-circle and drive cattle that arent always cooperative toward a point where they can be corralled.

Sometimes that means driving cattle across the highway, which in Wyoming is simply calledtraffic and may necessitate the state police stopping vehicles until all bovine have passed, no matter how long that takes.

You drive them slow, contrary to the movies, because if you drive them fast, they will lose weight, she noted. They are sold according to how fat they are.

Shay Pendray, 85, takes a break from driving cattle in Wyoming last month.(Photo: Courtesy Shay Pendray)

At 7,500 feet above sea level, altitude also takes a toll on the horse and, of course, weather is also a factor.

Pendray and her partner Einstein have worked through sleet, snow, rainand sunshine, averaging six to seven miles a day, before evening comes and they return to the guest quarters on the ranch, where she enjoys a good dinner, conversationand music in a different, happy, contented world with very, very interesting people.

But Pendray enjoys particularly the zen feeling when it is just she and her four-legged companion.

It is her love for Einstein, her20-year-old bay quarterhorse, that returns her year after year to the cattle drive, as well as her love for the landscape and what she gets from her time out on the vast ranch.

Pendray is the only 85-year-old on the cattle drive; most riders arein their 50s and 60s. She laughs as she notes they often search for Shay rocks, stones big enough for her to step on to assist in mounting her horse.

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The riding is difficult, but she still loves it, and said she is never sorewith a still-strong core and balance at her age, helped by water aerobics, cardio and regular walks, up to four times a day when shes not at the pool or gym.

Somehow, God gave me a gift, I dont have cancer, Pendray said. I can easily stay on a horse eight hours a day. Its not a problem, its a joy.

Pendray has seen elk, deer, mooseand, on this most recent drive, lots of antelope.

There are also animals she doesnt want to see black bears and mountain lions, which will spook her horse.

Other dangers include deadfall, downed tree limbs that can trip up a horse. There's alsobogs, areas which can appear to be green grass, but with water underneath and in whicha horse could be easily be in mud up to its stomach and immobilized as happened to a fellow rider. Luckily, the pair escaped without injury.

Shay Pendray (right) a Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, resident, with Katherine Boucher, head wrangler at A Bar A Ranch in Wyoming and horse Einstein.(Photo: Courtesy Shay Pendray)

Pendray said she hasnt been thrown from a horse in a long time, but everyone takes a turn in the bucket.

She also recalls the time she was on top of a mountain when a storm blew in. She and 40-50 other riders scrambled to get off the mountain, as lightning struck just 8 feet away and the prairie caught fire.

We went straight down a cliff, not something you normally do, but you have to get down in order to be safe, she said. You could see the prairie burning, and every able-bodied man dug a ditch in a circle around the fire. It all took place in about 15 minutes.

The dangers dont deter her orkeep hercomfortableon a couch.

She quotes painter Charles Russell, who said, You can see what man made from the seat of an automobile, but the best way to see what God made is from the back of a horse.

Pendray feels the only way to see Wyoming is from the back of Einstein. And she plans to continue to drive cattle with him, already booking next years trip to A Bar A Ranch.

Einstein can probably ride until 28 or 29, she said. We will age together.

FollowSusan Bromley on Twitter:@SusanBromley10

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This 85-year-old cowgirl is still herding cattle across Wyoming: 'We will age together' - USA TODAY

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