A Few Days At a Dude Ranch

Charley and I headed down a trail.

I’ve wondered what it would be like to spend a few days at a dude ranch. I wanted to experience the moments for myself. I have always wanted to ride a horse out on the open range; smell the air, feel a soft breeze in my hair, and especially feel the movements of a horse I am riding. There is something about being in the saddle and letting the horse step out in his natural habitat and absorbing nature. It’s hard to explain unless you experience it.

I’ve ridden a lot throughout my years. And I never tire of it. Riding over a hill and taking in the view, seeing what’s around the next bend in the trail, watching my horse’s ears flick back and forth as she takes in what she sees. I’ve noticed my horse seemingly enjoying the ride as much as me.

As time went on I found myself with smaller areas to ride, then came the day when my old horse became so sick I had to make that call to the vet to have her put down. After some time the urge to ride came over me and I booked a few days at near-by dude ranch so I could experience those moments again. Though I knew it was going to be hard riding a horse I didn’t know and remembering my own sweet little mare, the time was right. This is my sharing of those days on a ranch.

Sunshine, Open Skies, and Charley

As I drive to the K Diamond K Ranch in Republic, Washington, the skies are cloudy. Rain splashes on my windshield. Where was the sunshine and the balmy breeze to make a horseback ride perfect?

I arrived in the late afternoon and was greeted warmly by the owner. She took me to my room almost first thing. Talk about western hospitality and down-home friendliness. I whirled into a cowboy atmosphere the second I drove onto the ranch property. The log structure oozed with the western/cowboy theme. This wasn’t hype, this was real. A true working cow ranch.

So I got settled in a comfy room with a really comfy bed. Leather halters and bridles were part of the decor on the walls. One picture in my room was cowboys roping a bear. One could feel the movement and fear in the picture. The bear is snarling and reaching out with claws to swipe the unlucky cowboy or horse who got too close.

In spite of the energy in that painting, I knew it would be a great place to relax tired, unused muscles after a ride.

I hadn’t been on a horse since I had to put my horse down the past winter. It broke my heart. She was my family. I did my best for her and was with her at her passing. I didn’t know if I could connect with a horse again or enjoy a ride, but that tug was there and I didn’t resist it. Instead, I embraced and let nature do its thing.

Now here I am at the K Diamond K getting my horse riding muscles back in shape and giving my cowgirl dream a chance.

Meeting Charley

I jumped into a four-wheeler with the owner, the wrangler, and two other guests and drove up on the hill to find our horses. Charley munched grass with three other horses. I was told he was calm and easy going. Just what I needed to get those riding muscles a chance to renew themselves. Also, a chance for my heart to feel again for a horse.

Charley proved to be the horse for me. We bonded quickly. He went along the trails and never shied at birds flying by or plastic covering a piece of machinery. I was given a choice to ride a different horse if I wished, but Charley held my heart. I rode him all three days I stayed at the ranch.

Charley and I. He’s waiting to get hosed down after our ride.

I brushed him and combed out his mane and tail, ridding them of burrs. I learned a new skill when I was told I could pull off any ticks I found. It’s spring so the bare mountains with pine trees and balsamroot flowers are covered with ticks. Yucky little buggers. Some of the other riders didn’t want to do this part and didn’t have to, but I felt I could and did. The owner and wrangler were appreciative of the help. It wasn’t that hard of a job. They hang down like little silver bells. If you squeeze too hard the blood comes out. I pulled gently and put them in an old water bottle.

Soon that part was over and I could put the saddle pad on Charley followed by the saddle. They did the bridling even though I do know how to put the bit carefully in a horse’s mouth, I understand they prefer to do it.

Charley looked back at me with those big brown eyes as I tighten up the girth, just like Poppy used to do. My heart melted and tears were close. I patted and hugged him. I’m glad sunglasses hid the tears I tried to keep from escaping.

I think too, that maybe this ride is going to be too much for me, that I’m not ready. Once in the saddle love takes over. I’m smelling leather. My boots in the stirrup, hands on the reins; everything fits into place, like wildflowers on the hills. Feels wonderful to be in the saddle again. Poppy’s spirit is nosing me on.

On board our mounts we are ready to head out on the trail. By this time the rain had gone away with the early morning fog. The day is bright, sunshiny, with a little breeze to make things refreshing. How perfect. In my group, there was the Wrangler, a young couple and myself. A small group, but pleasant.

That first ride was especially fun. The wrangler took us down the road and over a wooden bridge stretched across the flooded river. Charley confidentially walked over the bridge. I felt secure and enjoyed the ride.

We were looking for cows to bring in. We rode up hills, down hills. I knew there were going to be sore muscles and funny walking when I got back to the barn.

Well, we didn’t find any cows, only one little calf with no mama. It ran off in the woods and I hoped it would find it would find mom. Later that day I heard mama and calf were reunited.

The horse the wrangler rode didn’t want to lead the group. She told me to go ahead. Charley went forward and became the leader. He saw no problems in his new role. Eventually, her horse got in the groove of things and did his job, but every once in awhile Charley had to take things into his own hooves and lead the pack. They got to say, “Okay, Charley, take over.” I’m not one who likes to be the leader, but apparently, he didn’t mind being in charge. Guess I should take a lesson from him.

After a great ride of about two hours or so, we got back to the main lodge and had lunch. Amazing how good food taste after an activity you love and being outdoors.

Plenty to Do

Tired and sweaty after a ride. I was too.

All the food, breakfast, lunch, and dinner were tasty and plentiful.

There was plenty to do at the ranch. We milked a cow, fed chickens, turkeys, rabbits, and other small animals. Plenty of birds flew overhead and groundhogs scampered to their holes as we rode by.

A few of us went on a hike, tried to find a cave, but missed it. Maybe next time I visit here.

Yes, I would like to come to visit here again someday. There are many dude ranches to visit. Click here to find one closest to you.

K Diamond K is a working ranch. We did herd a few cows. I would have liked to participate in branding and a little more herding, but I did get a lot of great riding in. All three rides were on different trails. It was a delight to explore the outdoors on the back of a horse, see different scenes of the area.

A herd of longhorn cows with a couple of calves roamed the ranch land. Reminded me of the Jimmy Stewart movie, The Rare Breed.

The Longhorns.

My first dude ranch experience was fun and exciting. I did learn a bit about myself in that I tired easily. I had moments of feeling a little old but still wanted to go and do. I threw a lasso a few times at a plastic calf head. I sat out by the campfire and enjoyed the twilight. It all made me feel younger again. But I warn of sore muscles and tiredness too.

I look forward to visiting either this dude ranch or another one in the future. I want to come back and spend time with Charley again. I without a doubt recommend planning a dude ranch visit to anyone with cowboy/cowgirl tendencies. It’s great fun and good food and a chance to bond with a great horse. It truly is an experience to remember a few days on the ranch.

Thank you for stopping by. Be sure and check out a dude ranch near you.

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