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A Day in The Life Of a Texas Rancher

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Austin horse whisperer Jo Marie MacCoy is inspiring a new crop of riders.

Story and photos by Gretchen M. Sanders

Jo Marie MacCoy could ride a horse before she could pedal a bike. She spent her teenage years learning everything she could about the 1,000-pound animals. By 18, she was training them. Today, the 33-year-old has her dream job, providing riding lessons to children and adults at parks and barns throughout Austin and Central Texas.

The owner of Maverick Horseback Riding also has a 105-acre ranch in Lockhart, Texas, where she leads horse lovers on stunning trail rides. Beginner, intermediate and advanced students can spend hours in a saddle, trotting up hills and wading through a creek on MacCoy’s property.

MacCoy, who usually travels bareback, takes care to select the right mount for every rider; quarter horses, thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, paint horses, Morgan crosses, mini horses and ponies make up her herd. Tending to 25 horses doesn’t leave the North Carolina transplant much downtime.

“Running a ranch is everyone’s dream job until they realize how much work it takes,” MacCoy says. “There’s really no routine.”

Here’s how 80-hour workweeks keep this wrangler in bareback-riding shape.

THE A.M.:

“Every day on a ranch is different. Typically, I wake up around 7:30 a.m. and have coffee before I do anything else. Next, I go outside to call in the horses. I use an all-terrain vehicle to round them up. When I’m tired or having a bad morning, I say to myself, ‘You’re on an ATV in an enchanted forest, chasing horses. It’s not that bad.’ ”

THE WORKOUT:

“Some days I’m so busy, I jog from my house to the barn and back. I don’t have time to walk. Ranch work is very physical. I’m constantly hoisting 20-pound saddles, brushing horses, feeding animals, mending fences, pulling weeds and pickaxing riding trails. I also run 3 to 4 miles twice a week and do yoga. I eat about 4,000 calories a day.”

THE DIET:

“I put away 2,500 calories in liquids daily. I’m always thirsty, and it’s easy to have a low-sugar veggie drink while I multitask. Some days, I only have time for one solid meal, and I’ve been known to eat a taco while riding a horse! Plant-based protein shakes and granola bars keep my energy up while I’m working. I try to avoid cheap carbs, sugar and fake ingredients. At night, I’ll cook something at home or go out to dinner. I live in the barbecue capital of the world, so I take advantage of that.”

THE GEAR:

“I use Western saddles and hackamores, a bridle with no bit. I tell riders to wear jeans and long-sleeve shirts to protect against branches and brush on the trail. It’s important to wear boots with a good heel, and I ask everyone to put on a helmet that I provide.”

THE MOTIVATION:

“I work hard for my son, Sammy, who is 10. I care about conservation, and I want him to see me working this ranch and taking care of the land we live on.”

THE MINDSET:

“Gratitude and grit.”

THE P.M.:

“I step away from all screens about an hour before bedtime. Evenings are for family, for watching the sun set, for reading books. I like to be in bed between 10:30 and 11 p.m.”

 

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