Posts Tagged With: horseback 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

Olwen Law tells us about riding in the USA

If you are considering a riding holiday in the USA, make sure you read our blog to find out more about the various choices available!

MONTANA is one of my favourite places in the world and it was actually the first place I visited when researching worldwide riding holidays and setting up In The Saddle. With some brand new business cards in my pocket and a fairly vague business plan in my head, I flew to Montana in July 1995. That was before the ‘worldwideweb’ and so my pre-trip research had consisted of ploughing through tourist board listings of ranches and phoning them to say I would be in the area.

For me, riding in Montana is all about getting into the mountains; to areas off-limits to vehicles. I’ve never felt the need to ride fast; it’s the being there that’s important and often you ride on very narrow tracks and switchbacks up and down mountain sides. At other times you might ride through meadows where “the grass is a high as an elephant’s eye” or at least brushing your stirrups. Since most of Montana’s moisture is snow melt, it’s not until late June/early July and the ground has warmed that the grass is green and you see beautiful wild flowers like the crimson Indian Paintbrush or delicate tiny orchids. Most of the guest ranches are near to the Continental Divide, where the rivers either flow west to the Pacific or east onto the great plains. These are where you will see the most spectacular Montana views and wish you were a billionaire film star and could afford your own ranch to enjoy for the two or three months of the short Montana summer.


WYOMING has many guest ranches. It also has most of Yellowstone National Park and Cody, a town which hangs onto its wild west history with a re-enactment of a shootout in the high street every afternoon and later a rodeo every night. Butch Cassidy was a cowboy on a number of ranches in Wyoming and the famous Hole in the Wall gang took its name from a high escarpment in central Wyoming. There was a gap in the escarpment, which became the hole through which the gang would escape and hideout. In this area, in a town called Ten Sleep (so named by the Indians because it was a journey of ten sleeps from Yellowstone) lives a wonderful woman called Belinda Daugherty who guides riding expeditions for the experienced rider. You could just imagine Butch Cassidy and his gang appearing from behind any of the bluffs. You can also still ride to the saloon and tie up your horse outside with the ride back home later being one of the hairier of the week! Sleep in a cowboy tepee which is a largish tent with a central pole in the middle, pegged out at the corners.


COLORADO for us means cattle work and Colorado Cattle Company. Many many Americans (and Europeans too) yearn to recreate the life of the cowboy. The re-release of City Slickers (the movie) as a collector’s edition DVD includes a 10 minute feature on Colorado Cattle Company in the extra features section titled “The Real City Slickers” which tells the story of a day in the life of a guest to the ranch. At this working ranch some 12 – 16 guests spend the days with cattle work and the job to be done will depend on the time of year. In spring the ranch will be busy with calving, branding and moving pairs to summer pastures. In autumn there are several cattle drives a week before cattle are shipped to winter feedyards. In the afternoon there is the opportunity for Cowboy School – learn the correct way to handle a rope from a horse and how to read and work cattle.

SOUTH DAKOTA’s Fortune Ranch offers the chance to be a part of the real thing because the rancher takes just one or two guests at a time who live as part of the family, riding alongside the family. This close experience wouldn’t suit everyone but for those who go, they get to see and work cattle in much the same way as their forefathers did with horse, rope and neighbour helping neighbour. About the main thing that has changed is that rarely now do cowboys camp out overnight. We’re always getting asked if we know of any cattle drives involving overnight camps, but cowboys just don’t it that way anymore. All prefer the comfort of their own bed and trailer the horses to and from the cattle each day. But that’s about the only aspect that’s not how you would imagine it to be if like me you grew up with Little Joe and Hoss Cartwright (and if you are curious Bonanza ran for 14 years between 1959 and 1973) and perhaps showing too many hours in front of afterschool TV, my first thoughts on visiting Fortune Ranch was that it was just like “Little House on the Prairie”.


ARIZONA in southern USA is much warmer than the northern Rocky States like Montana and Wyoming and so the guest ranches can be open all year round, although it’s mainly only the British who would visit in July and August when it’s really far too hot to enjoy any horse riding. Here we also find one of the most famous resort ranches in the USA. Tanque Verde Ranch has been taking “eastern dudes” since 1908. It has over 70 luxury rooms and nearly 200 horses. Riding is still the main activity although you can also play tennis, swim, go mountain biking or hiking or relax in a luxury spa. The ranch is undoubtedly very popular with families but suitable also for experienced riders who must pass a lope test before being allowed out on the fast rides.


CALIFORNIA is the home of Lari Shea, one of the most famous American endurance riders who won the Tevis Cup in 1989. She first moved to the north California coastal town of Mendocino in 1968 and since then has completed well over 6,000 miles in 50 and 100 mile endurance races, with top ten completions in 94 of 106 rides. Lari has offered her Redwood Coast Riding Vacations since 1985 and as such it was one of the first riding holidays on the international market. Getting there is an exciting drive over the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco and north through famous wineyards, then roads lined with majestic Redwoods until you reach the wild Pacific coastline. Lari has a wider selection of horses than you would typically find at a ranch and they include Arabians, Akhal-Teke, Appaloosa, Thoroughbred and Quarter horses. They are all super fit so it’s a fun fast ride galloping along the endless beaches and winding through forest tracks. Her currently competing horses are given to guests and when Lari is guiding throughout the day she shares her immense knowledge of getting horses fit for competition and successful completing an ER. She is keen to retire from the riding holiday business and so if you want to ride with her don’t delay; and if you want to take-over a successful riding holiday operation then she would be very keen to hear from you.

THE CHOICE
This is just a short summary of the wonderful riding opportunities in a few US states. Western riding should come very easily to endurance riders who are used to controlling and turning their horse with a slight change in their weight. And of course the typical ranch Quarter horse is so well trained that even a beginner can quickly feel in control. It’s clear that when choosing a vacation in the US you need to think carefully about what you are looking for. Is it scenery, fast riding, cowboy life? Being part of a larger fun group or visiting somewhere which takes only one or two guests? Accommodation can vary from beautifully furnished log cabins to a bunkhouse shared with five others. Horses have been key to the development of America and on a riding holiday you can experience a little of the way early settlers travelled and how the cowboys lived and worked.

Riding holidays in the USA can be booked through In The Saddle www.inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ranch holidays, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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