I’m barreling down the interstate at 75mph on a perfect 75 degree spring day, hauling my horse behind me. I’m driving my truck, Ricky Bobby (my Ford 150 that is one of my great loves ), and singing along to George Strait playing on the oldies country hits station. It dawns on me, in that minute, that I am living my childhood dream.

I grew up in rural southern New Mexico. I actually lived on a farm with assorted animals: goats, chickens, peacocks, horses, a steer, rabbits…you name it. My dad was on a horse before he could walk and made sure we were, too. I come from a long line of horsemen and ranchers. There are family whispers that a one great grandfather was a horse thief, and another shot a horse for losing a race. You could say that horses and The Wild West run deep in my blood, but unfortunately; I showed no interest in them as a kid. Try as he may, my dad couldn’t convince me to put down a book long enough to go outside and ride.

Still, throughout school, kids who lived the cowboy life surrounded me. I attended rodeos that my friends competed in, wore my jeans and boots to school, listened to country music and identified with all of them, but never really felt a part of their circle. By the time I realized I wanted it, I was too filled with teenage angst and low-self confidence to try something that might make me look like a fool in front of them. I always felt a bit of a liar wearing my boots to school. They were too shiny and there wasn’t any dirt on the cuffs of my Wrangler jeans.

Fast forward 30 years, and I’ve got plenty of dirt on the cuffs of my jeans. I live and breathe for those three horses in my back yard. The first thing I do in the morning is throw open my bedroom curtain, count heads, and often open the window and holler “good morning!” at them. My heart bursts when they nicker back, their low, breathy whinnies sounding like a group of Harley Davidson motorcycles on idle.

There are a few differences between me and the kids I grew up with. I’m not exactly a cowgirl. I wear riding breeches instead of jeans and tall boots instead of cowboy boots. I ride in an English saddle – I won’t be roping a calf in that anytime soon. Oh, and most importantly, I ride in a helmet instead of a cowboy hat. I practice dressage and I often tease that my big quarterhorse feels like a dandy, the way I dress him up in his fancy school clothes.

But I’m finally the girl I always wanted to be. I am living a life in which my passion centers on animals and the great outdoors. I still listen to country music and haul my horse wherever I can find a good riding spot and good company. There aren’t any bronc busters or county fair queens, but I have a community of friends who always have a fresh horse, a bale of hay, a good story, or a shot of whiskey to share with me. I can finally say I’ve gone country – and I ain’t lookin back.