What could be finer than a morning like this? Start with a breakfast of homemade pancakes, strong coffee and bacon. Then head down to the corral to saddle up a slick-haired ranch horse: sorrel, bay or buckskin, your pick. Set out on a trail loping across a meadow, splashing through a stream, climbing slopes of pine and aspen to catch a view of the backside of a 14,000-foot peak. Perfect.
That's been part of what has attracted vacationers to guest ?dude? ranches for decades now. In the last few years, however, ranches across the West have found their guests asking for more: They want a better communion with that sorrel, bay or buckskin carrying them through that scenery. Many guest ranches have added another element to their western experiences: horsemanship instruction in everything from fine-tuning the basic aids to upper-level colt-breaking clinics.
And that has provided new and added vacation experiences for more horse-savvy guests, as well as a valuable entry for newcomers to the larger horse world.
?It's not like we never did horsemanship instruction at the ranch,? says Bob Foster. The Foster family has owned and operated Lost Valley Ranch guest ranch outside Sedalia, Colorado, since Foster?s parents bought it in 1961.
?What our guests wanted was more of it,? Foster says. ?The other thing was that we had a gorgeous time of the year (fall) that we needed to market. We put those two things together.?
Guest ranches across the West have come to offer a slew of horse-related activities that appeal to horsemen of all levels. At Laramie River Ranch in Jelm, Wyoming, guests can participate in team penning competitions, fall cattle roundups and sorting. They also bring in outside clinicians for weeklong sessions with either the guests? own horses or the ranch?s horses. Latigo Ranch in Kremmling, Colorado, has periodic colt-starting clinics. In addition to roundups, Lost Valley Ranch offers horsemanship weeks where the ranch brings in AQHA Professional Horsewoman Laurie Krause or reining trainer Terry Wegener to offer riding instruction on ranch horses.
?It's an added benefit for guests? vacations,? Krause says. ?It makes it more educational for many of them; they?re not just trail riding.?