Horseback Riding – For the very first time

Riding a horse has been on my life list for quite a while.

Actually, initially it was “Ride a hose” but obviously that was simply a misspelling. Horse was what I meant and when I arrived in Calgary, it seemed like a perfect place to have such an experience!  Riding a horse that is, not a hose. Just to clarify.

And it was awesome!!!

Sarah and I spent some time looking for a good place to book a ride and eventually we came across Moose Mountain Horseback Riding, a place where we could book an hour and a half ride into the foothills of the Rockies.  Not only was their website easy to navigate, but when I called, the woman who answered was incredibly friendly and helpful. After a number of annoying websites and unhelpful contacts, she was exactly what we were looking for and I booked our riding adventure on the spot!

Bragg Creek is a beautiful location! It was raining and quite wet when we arrived but rather than let it bring us down, we decided to embrace the rain!

The main cabin

We were grouped with two other people, a mother and daughter team, whose skill level matched mine pretty well. The mother had ridden before but was a beginner and her daughter was on par with me, the two of us having no previous experience.

Well, except for my ability to point and confidently say “THAT is a horse.” I could do that pretty well.

First thing we had to do? Pick our helmets!  We were already so excited that even helmet picking was fun! Otherwise, we’d come dressed appropriately. I think I reread their list of TO-WEAR a dozen times to ensure that I would be comfortable and ready to ride.

Once we were helmeted up, it was time to meet the horses.   Our guide, Justine, was awesome.  Very open to questions and understanding when we hesitated and needed an extra minute or two to work up our courage.

She introduce me to Emile, while Sarah got to meet Fury.

When we heard the names of our partnered horses, I think Sarah said something like, “Um, pardon? Fury?”

I would have said the same thing! Justine was very encouraging, however, and told us that Fury was a very understanding, experienced and docile horse.

Sarah and Fury became fast friends…had some good times, some laughs….

Sarah and Fury, two peas in a pod!

My partner, Emile, was laid back and cool.

Emile, just chilling 🙂

Unlike me.
I found myself much more hesitant than I expected.
When I tried taking a “Whee! About to ride a horse!” picture…I got this instead….

Um..yaay horseback riding?

Lucky for me, Emile was very experienced dealing with newbies such as myself and didn’t seem to mind my awkwardness as I fumbled with the saddle and tried to tell my feet where to go.

I’m sure at this point Emile was thinking, “Just get up there already!”

 

He also obviously was used to dealing with silly laugh-out-loud Fury!

 

I love how Emile is just standing there, practically rolling his eyes! Hehe!

We headed out into the foothills after a short introduction to riding: how to direct our horse, how to sit, how to speed up, slow down…the usual stuff.
Of course, our horses were very much used to following each other in a line, as this is pretty much what they do all the time, so hard braking wasn’t really needed.

Emile and I were last in the line-up.  I found my groove soon after we set out…relaxing my body, loosening my hips as I had been instructed and allowing myself to move with the horse. It was the most amazing feeling to be moving in tandem with such a large animal who seemed to respect that I was on his back and didn’t necessarily know what the hell I was doing.

He also took advantage of that fact, stopping to eat….often. 😉
Justine would look back to see us and instruct me to “Let him know who’s boss.” “Don’t let him eat…hold the reins and be in control.” I tried. I really did. I’d prep myself for his next snack and grasp the reins well. Then Emile would see a nice patch of greens, lean down to eat and practically pull me up on to his neck as I tried to stop him.

I was the boss? Suuuuuure. Tell Emile that. 😉

Riding a horse through the woods was one of the most amazing experiences. I felt at one with the rolling hills and meadows.  Rather than traipsing through the trees, cracking branches and making typical obnoxious human noises, we practically glided through the woods. We belonged there. The forest  welcomed us.

I really began to feel this way when we walked across a meadow and passed three young bucks and a doe. They watched us, we watched them, and then we both went about our business.

A blurry picture of the deer in question.

The most amazing experience for me, however, was when Emile spotted something in the woods and stopped in his tracks. He pricked his ears forward and gazed intently to the left. Everyone else continued on, unaware that we had paused.

I followed Emile’s gaze and saw a large brown, hairy butt half hidden behind some undergrowth . It moved. I immediately thought “Bear!” Or it might have been “Bear butt!”
I lightly tried calling Sarah, who was a little ways ahead and at that moment, the animal turned and looked at us. A young moose, as curious as Emile, stared at us for a moment, decided that our presence was acceptable and headed off into the bush.

Wow. Amazing. Mind-blowing. Holy shit! What do you say when you meet an inhabitant in whose world you are the trespasser? I gave him a silent nod of respect and we continued on our way.

 

It was an amazing ride that was over much too soon! It whet my appetite for riding , however, and I look forward to going again.  Now I just have to find some place close to Toronto where I can gain experience points.
Moose Mountain offers all sorts of riding adventures, including an 8-day ride that I would LOVE to do one day! When we arrived, there was a group of about 8 people heading out with a guide. They had necessities with them and a vehicle with camping equipment etc was going to meet them at each stopping point during their week-long adventure. So jealous!

Upon arrival back at the ranch, we were given as much time as we wanted to say goodbye to our horses, so Sarah and I spent some time just hanging out with them and taking pictures.

Emile and I saying goodbye

Then we changed out of our wet clothes and ran through the rain to the car!

Asshats!

So, how do you finish off a lovely afternoon of horseback riding? You go to a pub in Bragg Creek that has swinging saloon doors!

I’ll be back Bragg Creek. Count on it!

 

 

 

 

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