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John Patrick Leyba Can Now Call Himself a Cowboy

April, 2008

John Patrick Leyba

The Exchange Visitor Program is pleased to announce John Patrick Leyba as April’s Exchange Visitor of the Month. Each month, we select an exchange visitor who has made an effort to get involved in his/her community and explore American Culture.

How many cowboys do you know? How many people do you know who are tough enough to ride horses for seven hours a day, rope and float free range cattle and sleep on the hard ground? No, this isn’t the wild wild west of American Western movies, it’s present day Texas. Enter J-1 trainee John Patrick Leyba, 30, of Hamburg, Germany, who lives and works deep in the heart of Texas.

The president of John’s host company encouraged him to participate in a four day cattle trail to learn more about the history of ranching and of cowboys. A self-described “greenhorn,” John took bi-weekly riding lessons to familiarize himself with the horse.

“It is difficult to keep your body in the same relaxed position and have the horse determine the way you are moving instead of you. I was scared like hell when I saw this very tall horse at the beginning of my training. It was necessary to read the horse’s feelings and keep an eye on the horse’s body language and behavior. Controlling the direction wasn’t as big a problem as learning different speeds and keeping your body in the saddle.”

It was on the actual trip that John’s real life and America’s Hollywood take on being a cowboy collide. John certainly “roughed it” like a real American cowboy on the trail.

“It was great fun but at the same time it was also hard work,” John said. “Sitting in a saddle for seven hours a day can be very painful if you’re not used to it. Sleeping outside next to the fire wasn’t too difficult, mostly because we usually had always a few drinks together with the cowboys. The biggest challenge was first to find and then to float the free living cows together in the Palo Duro Canyon.”

All in all, John found that taking a risk, hanging out with his coworkers and participating in the community opened up his world.

“I learned the unlikely way of life for the ranching lifestyle. I met a lot of new people on that trail and was invited to another gathering in July in Colorado as well as a trip in Dallas.