A Fall Horse Vacation

Here in Tennessee, the leaves are still falling, but fall is fading away. Before it’s gone, I want to share the beautiful fall trail-riding vacation I took in Colorado last October.

My trusty steed and I at stunning Panorama Point.

Banjo, my ex-rescue horse, and Sensei, my latest rescue, are happily settled at their lovely boarding facility. So I went on a trip to the Rocky Mountains for a trail-riding weekend.

Some might ask why I’d trail ride on someone else’s horse when I have two of my own. It’s a valid question—I have several reasons.

One, it takes a lot of time and work to pack up and trailer horses to a faraway destination. My schedule didn’t allow for that kind of a trip.

Two, I rode at an elevation of around 9,080 feet, a huge altitude adjustment for horses living in Tennessee. To safely ride at that elevation, horses need time to acclimate.

Three, I love taking care of my horses, but it sure is nice to hop off after a long trail ride and hand the reins over to a smiling wrangler. Next stop, the hot tub.

My fall vacation trip was to the award winning Vista Verde Ranch in Clark, Colorado. This quintessential mountain spread is nestled in a picturesque valley about 25 miles North of Steamboat Springs.

After a lovely drive through the Yampa valley, my friend, Kim, and I arrived at the ranch.

The main lodge and cabins are surrounded by stunning mountains covered with pine trees and, in the fall, dotted with bright-yellow aspen groves. The valley grasslands serve as pasture to the 100 horses that live on the ranch.

The view leaving the lovely Vista Verde Valley for a mountain trail ride.

To say it’s beautiful would be a colossal understatement. It’s truly magical.

After check-in, we quickly unpacked, then joined the other guests for “happy hour.” On the ranch, this meant walking in the pastures to meet the horses, which were fit and friendly.

Wrangler Nate spent a good deal of time talking with all the guests. During this time, he asked each person about their riding experience. He made note so he could match horse to rider. I loved this personal touch.

The ranch has a horse for everyone. For the beginner, there are mellow horses. One horse, actually named Mellow, took great care of Kim on her first ride in years. For more experienced riders, there are handsome ranch horses with excellent training.

At Vista Verde, you ride the same horse for the duration of your visit. This allows you to develop a bond with the horse. And the horse experiences fewer different riders—and riding styles—throughout the season.

Our first trail ride was a jaunt around the facility. This gave inexperienced riders a chance to get comfortable on flat ground close to the barn. The fall foliage ranged from bright yellow to dusky red and even olive green.

The rides later that day and throughout the weekend were epic. Did I say that? Yes, I did.

The ranch sits on 540 acres in the middle of the Routt National Forest. Talk about getting away from it all. Trails traverse every kind of Colorado terrain you can imagine. There are low-lying, colorful grasslands, dense pine forests, rocky single tracks, switchbacks, and steep ascents through aspen groves.

Credit: Courtesy of Vista Verde Ranch. Riders enjoying the spectacular fall foliage.

On our ride, there were also creek crossings and a few scary cliff edges to keep us deep in the saddle.

My trusty mount was surefooted and trail-savvy. Each day, we explored the trails with a small group of riders and a friendly wrangler. We were able to bushwhack, trot, canter, gallop, and ride side-by-side.

Each meal brought together an eclectic group of guests who filled the dining area with talk and laughter. The food and amenities were high quality.

So, if you’d like to give your horse some time off and yourself a memorable riding vacation, I highly recommend Vista Verde Ranch. The friendly, knowledgeable staff will make you feel right at home, and the trail riding is top-notch.

For more information, go to www.vistaverde.com.

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