My son, granddaughter and I went over to Owen Ranch for a trail ride. Having ridden horses many, many years ago my expectations were very basic. I thought there would be horses lined up, bridled, saddled and ready to hit the trail. All we would have to do is jump on and ride. Boy was I happily wrong!
Meeting Our Horses
It was a beautiful, somewhat cloudy later summer day and the temperature was comfortable. When we got to the ranch we were warmly greeted by the ever-smiling and always positive Helen Owen and her three dogs. After welcoming us to the ranch she asked us about our experience with horses. She then matched up specific horses for each one of us. The horses were unbridled and walking around in a corral. After putting lead lines on each of our horses we were encouraged to lead them out of the corral and get to know them a bit. It was a great first step and we all knew right from that moment on that this wasn’t going to be just any trail ride.
The very first thing Helen taught us was basic horsemanship. We were taught how to approach our horses and walk around the rear of them. She said horses use their eyes and ears and that it was a good idea to approach them so they could see you. She also said to talk to them while making contact with them, this way they don’t get spooked. We were also taught how to properly tie their lead lines up to a hitching post using a quick release knot. Next, Helen showed us how to properly groom our horses before they got saddled.
As it turns out, when the horses are out in the corral, they get dirt, mud and bits of things like burrs caught in their coats. A burr beneath a saddle blanket or belly strap can make a horse feel mighty uncomfortable, let alone cause a sore on their coats when something rubs up against it. We were shown how to use a curry brush, which stirs up dirt, loose hair and those items that may be stuck to their coats. Then a soft brush was used to brush it all off including loose hair. Now our horses were ready to saddle.
Again, Helen patiently showed us how to properly place a blanket on the horse and then how to place a saddle on them. She guided each of us through the entire process and because we were interactively involved in the process we learned all of the important pointers on how to properly saddle a horse firsthand. Helen bridled the horses so we didn’t actually actively take part in that process, but if we had wanted to she would have guided us through how to do that too. She did explain what she was doing as she did it. Now we were ready to climb in the saddle and start riding.
Once we mounted up she suggested that we go into the ring and get familiar with our horses while she got her horse ready. But before we did that she gave us a primer on how to get a horse to go forward, stop, backup, and turn. We were taught that our horses would respond to neck reining and inside and outside reining. We were encouraged to use the later method.
All of our horses responded beautifully to our commands. Before you know it we were guiding our horses around the ring, walking through poles (pole bending as it is called in a rodeo) and getting to know how our horses would respond to our commands. It was a great idea. My granddaughter felt much more comfortable with her horse and Helen continued to give us pointers and checked us all out until we were all comfortable. Now we were ready to hit the trail.
Hitting The Trail
Helen offered us several different options for our trail ride. One of the options would have led us by a local yogurt shop called “The Big Chill”. Although my granddaughter was all for that, and we thought about the hour and a half journey along the ridge and to the other side of the hills, we opted for an hour long trail ride which took us up the hills to some high elevations. We were all glad that we chose that. So off we went with the three family dogs coming along.
Along the way Helen pointed out all of the landmarks and the great scenery. She even took pictures of us at various view points along the way. You really get a chance to appreciate the beauty of Lake County when you’re high up in the hills. It was so peaceful and quiet. Only the sound of a slight breeze, gentle cadence of the horses and our chatter interrupted the simplicity of the moment. At one point we could hear Helen’s goats and the clanging of their bells on the other side of the hills. Another time we heard the dogs playing in the creek down below where we were. And during those moments the stress of everyday was washed away by simpler things like sunshine, fresh air and nature.
A VERY Happy Ending
And much too soon, we were back at the ranch. When we got back to the corral we tied up our horses removed the blankets and saddles to help the horses cool off. Helen encouraged us to spray the horses down with cool water, which the horses LOVED. We watered them and after Helen prepared their feed, led them to their well deserved meals. We sat around and chatted, petted the dogs, and hung out one last time with our horses. My granddaughter also got a chance to meet a pony called “Peanut” (a very popular pony at the Friday night rodeo in Middletown). She helped feed her and also helped Helen feed her goats.
Although our few hours at the ranch and the trail ride seemed to fly by, we all knew that the memories of our experience would last a long, long time. If you want to do something refreshingly different and wonderful with your family, friends or significant other, I highly recommend scheduling a trail ride at Owen Ranch. It’s a great way to escape everyday living and create good, lasting memories.