Let’s just say I’ve done my fair share of riding horses, mainly because I grew up in the Texas Panhandle, otherwise known as “Cowboy Country.”
I’ve always had a love for horses. In fact, I went as far as to take a western horsemanship class in college. I learned all kinds of cool things, such as handling, grooming, riding western, riding English and more.
Every summer, my family would bring me to Colorado for a month or so. And every year, I would beg my mother to let me go horseback riding. Each year, it was the same routine, no matter where I went. You get on a horse, go through the safety speech and ride your horse with about a dozen people in a single-file style. Being allowed to challenge your horse or break away from the group was always out of the question. And after several years of riding horses, the same routine got a little old after a while. If you think about it, this probably happens to a lot of people who visit Colorado. They come to Colorado every summer, and after a while, they no longer want to go horseback riding. That’s because they’ve been there, done that. As the Marketing Manager at Summit Mountain Rentals, I wanted to find something a little different for our customers — something that wouldn’t be like your average tourist ride. So I called the folks at the Rusty Spurr Ranch and asked them if they would let me tag along on one of their trips.
First of all, I now know why the folks at the Rusty Spurr ask their customers to show up 30 minutes early. Why? Because I showed up about 15 minutes later than I had planned to. The Rusty Spurr Ranch is a hidden gem, located about 10 miles north of Green Mountain Reservoir. I’ve made this drive multiple times and typically, it takes about an hour … if you stay on the highway. However, the 10,000 acre Rusty Spurr Ranch sits on a curvy, dirt road, about 5 miles off of Highway 9. It was more of a trek than I had anticipated. My suggestion is to give yourself at least an hour and half to get there from Breckenridge. It’s definitely worth the drive. Not to mention, it’s nice to get out and about to see different areas of Colorado.
The wrangler put me on a horse named Joker. Joker was absolutely beautiful. And he was also absolutely HUGE. I actually needed a stool to get onto him. I’m not a short woman. I’m 5’8 and the top of Joker’s back was about my height. Joker and I became buds. He was a very gentle horse and we gained a lot of respect for one another during our two-hour ride. Our guide was Connie, who is actually the owner of the Rusty Spurr Ranch. She was such a great guide for our group. I got to tag along with a family from Kansas, a couple and their two children. The entire family had ridden horses before. They, too, came to the Rusty Spurr Ranch, because they wanted something different. And they got something different. We weren’t forced to ride our horse in a single file line. If we wanted to take a different path, we were allowed to. We just had to stay in Connie’s sights. My favorite part: We got to gallop the horses! That’s right…for a moment, I felt like the Lone Ranger. There aren’t many companies that allow you to do this, so this was a treat for me. I hadn’t galloped a horse in more than 10 years. And boy did I feel the repercussions the next day. This 31-year-old just wasn’t in horseback riding shape anymore. Would I gallop my horse again? Absolutely.
The views were phenomenal. We rode our horses through all sorts of terrain; through fields of sage and aspen trees. There was even a nice little elevation gain. We rode to the top of a ridge, where you could see the Gore Range to the west and Longs Peak to the east, a 14,000 foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. You can also see the Colorado River Basin to the north.
What to Bring
First and foremost, bring a camera. Trust me, you’ll want to capture some of the views.
Secondly, bring water. Horseback riding is a lot more work than you think. Not to mention, two hours in 80 degree sunshine can be quite exhausting itself.
One thing I failed to bring that I wished I would have: bug spray. There might not be many mosquitoes in Breckenridge, but it all changes once you lose a little bit of elevation. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes.
Last, bring tip money for your guide. The folks at the Rusty Spurr allow you to do things that most horseback riding companies won’t allow you to do. Make sure you show your appreciation by tipping them.
For those who consider themselves expert riders, the Rusty Spurr offers an “Outlaw Ride.” It’s a ride designed for experience riders who would like to ride at a more advanced level. And if you want to feel like a real cowboy, try a cattle drive. The cattle drive is a full four-hour ride where you get to help wranglers move cattle from one part of the ranch to another. For more information about the Rusty Spurr and their trail rides, visit their website: www.rustyspurr.com.