Posted on Friday, December 10th, 2010
You can find some of the best horseback riding in the equestrian sense at dude ranches in the West. Yes, I know, you have heard about nose to tail riding, no speed faster than a trot and tired old nags used to taking the same trails with overweight guests day after day. You aren’t interested in barbecues, sing-alongs, and saunas or strutting about in Marlboro hats. You want to ride! You want to ride at your own pace in spectacular country on a variety of trails and maybe help herd stubborn, bolting cows on responsive, athletic horses.
The Rocky Mountain area has some of the most beautiful and challenging terrain in the world. It also has vast wild areas where you can ride all day without seeing another human being. On top of that it is healthy country for horses and they have been raised and trained in that kind of country so that they perform to near perfection and take great pride in their work. They live in open country, graze freely together at night and do not have the complexes of horses shut in stalls most of the day. They are happy horses with a natural herd life.
Of course you have to recognize that dude ranches, like human beings, have totally different characters. Some of them have blatantly abandoned the old tradition of a dude being a guest who shares the life of a family working ranch; eats with them and works with them during the day. They attract those who want to have views of distant mountains, dip a foot in the heated swimming pool, take a massage and soak up a pseudo Western scene. That is the kind of thing which appeals to many Americans these days.