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Dude ranch riding vacation in Colorado


Holiday company: Vista Verde

My dream comes true, going to play Cowboys and Indians with REAL LIFE cowboys!

We arrived at Vista Verde dude ranch. High in the rocky mountains on the edge of Routt National Forest, 8,000ft above sea level, near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We were shown to our private log cabin, decorated in western style. With living area, bathroom, bedroom and private Jacuzzi on the front veranda.

Vista Verde ranch
Our log cabin has its own Jacuzzi.

The guests were getting ready to venture off on a trail ride, so I threw my suitcases into the bedroom and headed straight for the corral. I was shown my horse Sugar, a flea-bitten grey quarterhorse. He proved to be a true gentleman with a sensible nature and a deep heart.

The person I went with was a non-rider, but there were plenty of other activities. Fly fishing, rock climbing, nature trail, and even a hot air balloon ride. Of course, by the end of the holiday all the non-riders were trail riding and team penning!

The riding for experienced riders was exceptional. The trail rides could take you up steep wooded hillsides, through rivers and over varying terrain. There was also team penning and lessons available. I had a private clinic with a local cowboy called Orval (ever seen ‘City Slickers’, with the old cowboy Curly?!). He taught me how to cut a steer from the herd and pen him. Afterwards, Orval invited me to join him checking fencing at the next farm. My proudest moment was when Orval spotted a steer that had escaped from one of the fields, he instructed me (yes me!), to ‘go get him’. I was a real cowgirl now!

roping a steer
Roping a steer!

Spurred on by my success with Orval, I asked about the possibility of roping a steer out of the pens. Little did I know what was in store! I had to prove I could ride sufficiently in the round pen, which I passed. Then I had to rope a pretend steer on the ground. Not the easiest of tasks I found out, and he wasn’t even moving!!! Then they tell me it’s Sugars first time too! (Beginning to get a little nervous now). We started by letting Sugar see the steers run out of the shoot. He soon got used to this, so the next thing was for me to chase the steer. This progressed to swinging the rope around my head while controlling Sugar and galloping after a steer. It has to be done to understand this amazing experience. I’d recommend it to anyone who has both the ability and the nerve.

In the evenings all the guests headed to the main ranch house for Al La Carte dining. The food was fantastic; from wild berries for breakfast, to buffalo for dinner. One night we spent the evening on the veranda where the chef cooked on a barbeque, and we had live western music. Other entertainment included a barn dance, camp-fire with songs, and a play on the veranda where everyone could get involved.

At the end of the stay we were all given badges with photos of our horses and a boot remover. Vista Verde was excellent at the little things that count.

My next horse will be a quarterhorse!

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