I am planning a family reunion for a big birthday in 2016, and where else would I want to be but Rainbow Trout Ranch! So we already thinking about it. Two of my four girls have been dude ranching before, but the other two haven’t. Two of their husbands have never even sat on a horse! One husband and the boyfriend of my youngest have ridden a little. And then there is a grandaughter of 5 who is pony mad, but has only ridden a little as it is so ridiculously expensive in London, and then there is a grandson of 7 who is allergic to horses, but desperately wants to catch a fish. Add to the party the birthday girl and her sister who have riddden since the age of six, and one husband who ‘hates horses’ and you might think it would be hard for us to share a holiday together! But I know it will be just great, since Jane will soon have the non-riders on the trail on trusty steeds, and the riders will have more forward going horses and can go on faster rides when they feel the need for speed. And the non-riders can fish and shoot and learn to rope a steer. And we can all get together round the table for meals and catch up on what a wonderful day we’ve all had – just like we do when we go skiing. Except this time Mum gets to go fast and the children have to play catch-up for a change! I am excited already.
My mission in the meantime is to get some horseback time for everyone so that they can hit the ground running in 2016. The first hurdle is to find some western riding facilities in the UK for some practice. I decided to start with the youngest member of the party, grand-daughter Poppy . Poppy rides each summer on our holidays in France, and is obsessed with all things horsey. What a joy for her grand-mother! She has a little fat Exmoor pony to ride in France, called William , and he is now equippped with a western saddle. Poppy rode every day for 2 weeks this summer and has started rising trot (that’s posting to the Americans amongst you). But she has always had me on the end of the rope and she needs to have some instruction from someone who isn’t afraid to let her go on her own. So I got on the internet and found our nearest western riding centre, which turned out to be in the beautiful New Forest, about 90 minutes from Windsor where we live.
Burley Villa is home to Tammy Greaves, who has won eight European championships, including four for reining.
But besides Tammy’s champion horses there are plenty of paints and apalossas for beginners to ride. They do lessons in the arena, or you can trail ride in the forest if you are 12 and over. For the 4 to 12s they do a cowboy experience, which is what I booked for Poppy. There is a maximum of 6 children and they get to help groom and tack up, have a lesson and then a Bar-B-Q and a try at roping .
Poppy had the time of her life! Gypsy was quite a bit bigger than William and she rode all on her own, but wasn’t at all fazed.
Of course, the Bar-B-Q wasn’t quite up to Rainbow Trout Ranch standards,after all, no-one does ribs and steak quite like Doug- but Poppy was quite happy with the burger, sausages and beans and chocolate muffin to follow. After all, riding is hungry work!
After the Bar-B-Q poppy tried her hand at roping, and played with her new friends. I can see she will fit right in at RTR in 2016!
We had a great day at Burley Villa, and I am going to make sure all the family pays a visit to get ready for our trip to Colorado. If you are based in the UK and you want to give western riding a try before you take the plunge and go to the US, then I suggest you give Burley Villa a call. Of course, it isn’t Colorado, and it isn’t Rainbow Trout Ranch, but it might just give you the confidence to try a dude ranch holiday. And a dude ranch holiday is a fantastic way to spend time with your family away from the outside world and all its distractions. Roll on 2016………………………………