Holidays

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It’s a beautiful day to head out to the mountains for some playtime. You grab your horse and tack and head out in the afternoon for a quick ride to your favourite spot. It’s 28 degrees Celcius and you don’t see a cloud in the sky. You grab a light windbreaker for “just in case,” get on your horse, and soon you’re enjoying the peaceful sights, sounds, and smells of the forest.

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Since 1926, the Circle Z Ranch has welcomed guests to the traditions and beauty of our pristine Arizona property. We create unique, all-inclusive horseback riding vacations for visitors of all ages and riding abilities.

Our group of 17 horses and riders had taken shelter from the brutal midday sun beneath a massive overhang created thousands of years ago when water roared through the valley, and our chosen lunch spot was also home to several rattlesnakes.

Traversing Canadian Rockies, Tania Millen, holidays on horseback, Alberta pack-trip, Azure Lake, Sulphur River, Jasper National Park, Summit pass, crossing Chown Creek

“Whoa up,” I called. One of the pack horses had broken loose and was causing havoc in our seven horse string. It was the first day of a three-week pack trip and all the horses were antsy, particularly my Spanish Mustang, Chocolate. He wasn’t happy being tucked in behind horses he didn’t know, leading one he didn’t like. I hopped off Chocolate and foolishly left him loose, breaking one of the golden rules of backcountry travel: always hang on to your horses.

My colleagues sometimes ask about my commitment to overseas riding holidays. Why would someone who rides horses all day travel overseas to do more of the same? Why not go sit on a beach in Cancun and sip fruity beverages? Let me answer that, but first I should confess that as I write this, the buttery evening light slants across the trellised hillsides of a classical riding school in Tuscany wrapping up a good day in the saddle.

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The Flying U Guest Ranch, one of North America’s only unsupervised riding ranches, is a horse lovers’ dream. Over 100 horses graze on the expansive Cariboo pastures that extend from the large barn, which was constructed 150 years ago. The barn stands central to the hustle and bustle of the stockyard, paying homage to the region’s rich history.

Shawn Hamilton, Wild Deuce Outfitters, Rocky Mountains Alberta,  Bighorn Backcountry, Wild Deuce Women’s Retreat, Clix Photography, Horse riding holidays, canadian riding holidays, canadian horse holiday, equestrian vacations, horses in the rockies

Along with my travel mates Ali and Heather, I leave the Calgary airport in our rental car, stock up with snacks and refreshments, and head to The Grandview Stage Inn just outside of Rocky Mountain House, AB, where we bed in for the night. The next morning, we start off for the Cutoff Creek Staging area in the Bighorn Backcountry. The herd of wild horses grazing in a small clearing at the side of the road is so complacent with our presence that the foals remain lying down as we snap photos. Upon arrival, we spot a group of women gathered in the staging area, their gear laid out on the grass. Introductions reveal that our fellow riders are from Manitoba, Winnipeg, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, and as far as Australia and New Zealand. Most are new to Wild Deuce Outfitters, and a few are repeat visitors like me, although it was eight years ago.

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