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Time of firsts: MacDonald experiences new adventures in ND

I have ridden many waves at the Jersey Shore in my lifetime, but I have never ridden on the back of a horse.

I assumed that when I moved to North Dakota that I would slowly but surely get acclimated to western-style living. My parents even had a bet to see how long it would take until I became "westernized."

"I told (your mom) last week that I expected you to be on a horse within a month," my dad texted me Monday morning.

Turns out he was right.

I'm more of a city kind of girl. I like the fast-paced lifestyle, I love getting dressed up and always being kept busy. So when I told my friends that I rode a horse, they were shocked.

"I can't wrap my brain around this," my best friend Erica said. Turns out no one could until I gave them evidence.

Needless to say, my first Labor Day weekend in North Dakota was definitely enlightening. From covering bull riding to getting "lost" in the Badlands, it was a weekend to remember.

The news reporters and myself were invited by Kevin Holten, the editor of The Drill, to come to the Little Missouri Cattle Ranch in Medora to have dinner and drinks Sunday night. We started our journey around 5:30 p.m., which was supposed to be a little more than an hour's drive. It took the four of us two hours to get there. There were road signs down, signs without the right name and even signs leading to nowhere.

We eventually found the road and second-guessed ourselves the entire time. It was a beautiful drive, taking our car right through the Badlands with the setting sun illuminating the buttes and grass fields in hues of gold and orange.

We finally made it to the ranch, famished. During dinner, I noticed two horses that happened to be Kevin's. I said I had never ridden a horse and was immediately offered to ride one of them. My eyes got wide and my mood became hyper. I wasn't expecting to come out to the ranch and actually ride a horse.

I was set up with Zippy le Pew, a beautiful copper-colored horse with white on his nose. To be honest, I knew horses were big, but I wasn't expecting them to be so big that I couldn't get my feet into the stirrups. After three or four tries, I finally made it on top of Zippy, hesitant to make him start walking. I felt so high up, what if I were to fall? My mind was rambling but through all the internal panic, I was able to muster up enough courage to click my tongue to signal to Zippy to walk.

We started out slow, casually walking around in circles. But then we went a little faster into a trot and eventually I was brave enough to get Zippy into a light run. I bounced up and down on his back and felt like I was going to fall, but the feeling of riding a horse was unbelievable. It was fun and I could feel my western apprehensions starting to melt. I was becoming more comfortable with a non-hectic lifestyle and enjoying the simple pleasures around me.

Riding a horse wasn't my only western first of the night. Believe it or not, I saw my first shooting star. Yes, my first. Being from the city along the East Coast, there really aren't a lot of chances to see hundreds of millions of stars illuminated behind a pitch-black sky. Here, I was surrounded in complete darkness, giving me the opportunity to see the millions of stars that have been hidden from me forever. It looked in some parts as if the stars were streaked across the sky with a paintbrush.

Writing a column will never fully capture the magnificence and beauty of what I experienced that night. Between the night sky, bonding with a horse for a half hour and being completely cut off from civilization, I was able to push my East Coast ways over slightly and make room for this North Dakota living. I'll always be a Jersey girl, but I am starting to adjust and enjoy this new lifestyle.

MacDonald is a sports reporter for The Dickinson Press. Tweet her @MegtotheMac.

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.