Riding in Montana

Looking back at my Cowgirl Adventure

In this edition of ggjourneys, In The Saddle’s Becky Clarke tells of her stay at Hidden Hollow Hideaway in June 2016.

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It’s been a while now since I visited Montana and still most days I find myself day-dreaming of the wide open spaces, beautiful horses and the immense sense of freedom that comes with having the wind fly through your hair!

I have been to a fair few places in my life and yet whenever anyone asks me about my favourite, my mind skips back to the days I spent chasing calves and watching the sun rise over the Rockies.

When I first arrived at Hidden Hollow Hideaway Ranch, I was beyond excited to be joining one of their  cattle drives! My childhood summers as far back as I can remember would consist of my cousins, my sister and I riding off from the farm, across the fields in search of some cattle to round-up (much to my grandfather’s annoyance)!

Hidden Hollow Hideaway is owned and run by the Flynn family whose roots can be traced back to the 1860s when Kelly’s ancestors followed the gold rush to Diamond City. Kelly, Jill and Siobhan Flynn were at the ranch whilst I was there and after welcoming the group and showing us to our rooms, it was time to ride.

First though, we got to meet our steeds and it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the beautiful ‘Cub’ – and what an absolute gentleman he was too.

As it happened our first full day of the week was the cattle drive itself. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it was everything I hoped it would be!

To start with we had to scour a huge pasture for a couple of hundred head of cattle! This was a slow and careful process, making sure to get all of the calves and not split them from their mothers. Getting the bulls to move sometimes also proved difficult……

The bulls were sometimes more interested in each other than moving on.

After we had brought the whole herd together and crossed the river, we proceeded to drive the cattle up towards the mountains.

Kelly explained to us all that it was really important to keep the calves up in the middle of the herd. This was because once the herd is moving and they separate from their mothers, they try to go back to where they last fed. In this case it would be several miles back down the mountain and so we all worked hard driving the herd from the back and sides.

Once we had navigated up through forest paths, down ditches and over streams, it was time for what Kelly called the ‘stampede’! I’ll admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…….

About a mile along from where we were, the track became narrow and twisted downhill through a section of forest. This is where the cattle would start to run due to the downhill momentum. At the bottom they needed to be turned 90° right so that they didn’t head straight into a deep gully….. and guess who got taken along with Kelly…. yep it was me!

I’ll be honest – it was exhilarating! We sped around and ahead of the cattle before dropping down and through the forest. Before we’d even gotten to the bottom of the track, we could hear the herd picking up the pace, the sound of their hooves echoing through the trees.

I’m glad I didn’t try to take any pictures during the stampede but here is a nice one at the bottom of the hill once the herd had settled again. My angel Cub stood like a rock the entire time.

Although it was a hard 7 hours in the saddle, it was the cattle drive I have always dreamed of! And the view from the top was just …..WOW…..

Becky on the beautiful Cub

The riding during the rest of the week was an array of trails across the beautiful countryside. Siobhan told us stories as we rode which made the hours slip by far too quickly for my liking! In the afternoons when we weren’t riding, there was the chance for gold panning, rifle shooting or even fishing if we didn’t want to relax.

Hidden Hollow Hideaway is a working ranch and so every week is different depending on what needs to be done. However something that always needs doing is changing the irrigation pipes.

One morning I volunteered to meet Kelly at 5:30 and help him. It was great to hear all about how he set up the pipes to run water uphill and how each of the different systems work. It really put into perspective how much work is done behind the scenes – and also helped work up an appetite for breakfast!

Working at sunrise on the irrigation pipes.

Jill’s cooking throughout the week was another highlight for me. The family style, help yourself approach worked really well and we would all sit around the table together each meal time. There was a different desert each evening which was brilliant but I was slightly worried I wouldn’t fit back into my jeans by the time I left!

The main lodge at Hidden Hollow Hideaway

Each evening there was the option to go with Kelly on a wildlife drive. I remember finding these drives really interesting and learned to identify several different dear types as well as being lucky enough to see mountain goats!

There is no wi-fi at the ranch which is really nice. It allows you to just get away from everything and really get immersed into rural Montana life. With the big belt mountains behind you and the brilliant horses you get to ride, you can just forget about everything else and enjoy your surroundings.

If I had the opportunity,  I’d be back out there in a heartbeat.

And the last picture has to be of Cub.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ranch holidays, Riding Holidays, Riding in Montana | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging from Big Sky Country

Becky from In The Saddle is currently on an exciting adventure in Montana. In this blog we hear about her first few days, spent at Rocking Z.

Becky says, “After the long flights out to Montana the last thing I felt like doing was driving anywhere. However as soon as we drove outside of the Helena city limits it was totally worth it; it was just like stepping into another time. The beautiful countryside seemed to roll on forever with dramatic mountains creating the backdrop to our journey.

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Rocking Z – a perfect choice for aspiring and experienced Western riders alike

My first full day at Rocking Z was brilliant. Since I had never ridden in a Western saddle before I was nervous that I wouldn’t take to it or that I would just be terrible! However, I found the saddles really comfortable and the horses were just so responsive. We trailered up to a neighbour’s ranch and rode up into the mountains for a full day ride.

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Making dreams come true – moving cattle in Montana

I didn’t think the riding could get much better after the first day but then it was announced that we had to move cattle from pasture to pasture. Now this is genuinely my biggest dream come true, ever since I was little and used to round up my Grandad’s sheep!

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It may have been a long day in the saddle, but what an experience!

The riding was a little slower as we were crossing such varied terrain, but it was an experience that I will never forget. Even though I ride 5 times a week at home, I must admit that my legs were starting to feel the saddle a bit by the end of the day!

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How could you ever get tired of this incredible view?

When people said that Montana was ‘big sky’ country, I understood that they meant it was really open and beautiful, but I never truly understood it until I arrived. Once you ride up into the mountains you can look for miles in any direction and all you see is rolling green and sky. It is absolutely breath-taking”.

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A very happy Becky!

 

Thanks Becky – we’re looking forward to hearing more about your adventures over the next few days.

If you’ve been inspired by Becky’s blog and are looking for a last-minute getaway, then there is still some space at Rocking Z in late June. You can contact us on 01299 272 997 to book your place.

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding Holidays, Riding in Montana | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Anna Wirth-Snell from Montana

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December will be full to the brim with talented and experienced riding guides for you to meet from around the world. Here, we have an article by a guide who needs little introduction, Anna Wirth-Snell from Rocking Z in Montana.

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1.    How long have you been guiding at Rocking Z?    

I have grown up on the Rocking Z Guest Ranch.

2.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

From the age of 10 I have been helping where able, and teaching what was valuable to our guests.

3.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

Now, at 27 with a Masters degree from Durham University, I will be able to write on the history of Horsemanship as well as teach Horsemanship in person.

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4.    People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

I feel proud when I’ve swept the barn, and when the dishes are finished, and especially when I’ve caused a horse to become more relaxed or helped a guest do their first canter.  Without feeling proud of the accomplishments, it could be very difficult to remain happy with the hours of close contact with guests and limited privacy inherent to working on a guest facility.

5.    If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

My best (and favourite) horses are a Quarter Horse named Cougar, for her colour, a Connemara cross Andalusian named Dante for how much he challenges me to improve, and a Tennessee Walking horse cross Connemara named Sizzle.

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6.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

Sizzle is my hangover horse – an absolute necessity in this industry, for no matter how unwell I feel he will take care of me and my guests and has perfect walk-canter, canter-walk transitions for taking care of a headache! I believe that every guide needs a horse they can rely on no matter what, like Sizzle is for me.

7.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

When I was only 12 I received such gratitude for the way I taught the rising trot that I was hooked! I love teaching and could never be fully content with any other work.

8.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

After a long day I love to relax by working with a young horse, often in front of an audience, because the youngsters have such an openness to learning that it inspires me for the following day as well as giving me the sense of accomplishment that allows me to have a good night’s sleep.

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9.    What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?

I can’t imagine not having done this job, but I think it is not suited to a person who doesn’t gain pride from all the small jobs.

10.    Where do you go on holiday?

When winter does come, I vacation by being alone at the ranch with only the horses for company.  After a few months of solitude, the next year comes along with me having honed more teaching skills and possessing more tuned and athletic horses for our guests to ride!

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Thank you Anna for some fantastic images and another interesting article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Anna from Rocking Z at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ranch holidays, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding in Montana, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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