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FREE REIN »
Finding Your Smile
AS A DRESSAGE RIDER, I felt
decidedly out of my element
when I headed to Wyoming
for an article on a ranch riding
vacation some years back.
I gamely bought myself a pair of
saddle-worthy jeans and tried to find
some western boots that I hoped
wouldn’t make me look like an escapee
from the local line-dancing emporium. (However, I did hang on
to my helmet—that’s a fashion risk I wasn’t willing to take.)
I had never been to a ranch before, so I was unsure what to
expect. Just how rustic were the accommodations, and how
extreme would the riding be? Enter at A and … yee-haw! Just
like in the movies, right? I had a feeling my re-enactment of that
classic big-screen western “yee-haw” scene would be closer to the
Billy Crystal version rather than the John Wayne one.
I was excited about the riding, but I had absolutely zero
experience with cows. Pushing tra;c on the 405 freeway was
more my speed than bringing in the herd.
I had the time of my life. The horses knew their jobs and
packed all of us city slickers around for a week. I moved some
cattle and enjoyed riding through the amazing landscape
surrounding the Big Horn Mountains. The sta; was incredibly
welcoming, and the accommodations were all top-notch. My
boots, helmet and the jacket I had to rustle up at the last minute
when I saw the forecast all did fine too.
I may have arrived a dressage queen, but galloping across the
wide open spaces and riding rugged mountain trails, I found a
smile I didn’t know was missing as I tapped into my inner cowgirl.
I lucked out when I got the ranch assignment, but if you’re
dreaming of a ranch vacation, picking the right one is important.
I probably wouldn’t have felt so fortunate if I’d wound up at a
place with wimpy nose-to-tail trail riding or roughing it with a
“bring your own bedroll” type of outfitter.
Find the right ranch, and you’re sure to find your smile too.
Get the lowdown on pg. 34, where former wrangler Allison
Griest and Top 50 Ranches guru Jody Dahl share five di;erent,
unforgettable ranch experiences and reveal the secrets to
planning your ultimate vacation. (And if you need boots before
you go, see pg. 28 to pick just the right pair for riding!)
—Elizabeth Moyer, ;;;;;;