First Time Horse Riding at the Running R Ranch

by Jessica on November 7, 2011

In a row of eight rocking chairs on a long wooden porch overlooking the Texas Hill Country sits two young Italians from Verona, an older gentleman from somewhere so foreign that we can't seem to find words in any language to understand each other, and a couple from Germany.  And then there is me.  As a native Texan, you would think I would be the most comfortable on the sprawling ranch with horse whinnies in the distance and the smells of country breakfast from inside, but I am just as out of place as anyone.  Although the ranch life may be a new one to my multicultural friends, at least they have sense to dress the part.  Everyone has on a pair of well worn jeans and most have a crisp new cowboy hat.  I don't even have any boots.   But what really sets me apart from the others is that I have never ridden a horse before. 

As a kid, I did have one horse experience, but it wasn't what you could call riding.  My grandparents owned a dairy farm which provided me and my cousins a great place to ramble and roam.  On the farm there was one lone chestnut horse that seemed to me to be the most massive stallion, but in reality, it was probably a normal sized horse that was way past its prime.  At one family gathering, it was decided that someone should try to ride the horse, even though (and this is important) no one had ever ridden the horse in any adult's recollection.  Nevertheless, it was gentle and geriatric enough that collective wisdom felt it would be safe.


As the oldest of the line of fourteen cousins, I was selected as the lucky sacrifice rider for the gentle, geriatric, but completely untrained horse experiment.  I was a plucky enough kid to be pleased to be the one picked and I darted to the horse's side.   With no tack and no saddle, I was hoisted onto the back of mighty beast with instructions to grab onto the mane and hold tight.  I'm not sure exactly how old I was; old enough to remember it clearly, but young enough that my legs were too small to straddle the breadth of the horse adequately.

As expected, the horse didn't even move when I was placed on his back and for a moment it looked as if the experiment would turn out to be a success and everyone would have chance to ride.   Then I began to slip.  Slipping turned to screaming and my screaming alerted some primal instinct in the poor old horse to head for the hills.  Fast.   As the horse jumped like a thoroughbred at the starting gates, I shot forcefully off of his back and landed with a dusty thud on the ground.  Thus, ended the geriatric horse riding experiment and any other horse riding for me.

My lack of successful horse riding experience has always left me feeling a bit like a poser in the great state of Texas, so I was excited to get some real horse wranglin' under my belt.   Although I had a less than stellar record, the wranglers at Running R Ranch assured me that they could take any rider with any experience (or lack thereof) and teach them to ride. 


We were given the option of taking a one hour ride around the property or a two hour ride out into the nearby state park.   We chose the one hour ride, as we thought it would be the most enjoyable for the kids (always best to quit while they are still having fun.) In the back of my mind, though, I was still thinking that there was possibility that things might go wrong and I wanted to be close enough to the barn to walk back on my own two feet if I had to.   With that in mind, we hit the corrals.


The formula for success at the Ranch begins with training great horses and knowing their personalities.  But it isn't just the horses that the staff knows well.  Diane, the owner of the Running R Ranch, personally gets to know each and every rider so that she can best match their personalities, experiences, and even fears with the perfect horse.  Not only does she carefully match guests to horses the night before the ride, she and her highly experienced wranglers are right in the corral as you mount up to make any changes necessary for a successful ride.


With all this careful personal attention, I completely forgot to be apprehensive about my first real horse ride.  That is, until I saw my kids fearlessly saddle up on their first real horse ride.  Up to this point,   horse riding experiences for them have been miniature ponies walking tethered in a controlled circle.  This was real horse riding.  I resolved if they were not afraid, neither was I, so I saddled up my own mount and we headed for the trail.

It didn't take any time before we all settled into a loping rhythm and I realized that the Running R Ranch had made good on all their claims.  The horses couldn't have been more gentle and their obvious experience made up for our complete lack thereof.   There were a few moments as we traveled up and down rocky hills that I instinctively gripped onto the saddle horn (appropriately nicknamed the Oh @!#* handle by the wranglers), but overall the ride was very tranquil and over far too quickly. 


As we dismounted our faithful steeds and made plans for a ride the following, my kids were clamoring about growing up to be cowboys, so the ride for them had been a huge success.  I spent a few minutes contemplating (as much as one can contemplate while dodging piles of manure) that it is easy to overcome fears to put another notch in your adventure belt if you have the right tools.   Running R Ranch gave me all the tools I needed to claim that successful ride and carry my Texan card with pride.  Now I just need to get me a pair of boots.


~Running R Ranch provided us with free horse rides during our visit, but did not require that I express any particular viewpoint.  The opinions expressed are, as always, my own.~


Marina {Yummy Mummy} November 8, 2011 at 1:00 am

Hi! This looks so fun! I want to take my family riding!

Barbara November 8, 2011 at 5:12 am

How much fun!!  I used to love riding when I was a kid!  I can't wait to get my son on a horse for the first time.  Sadly there aren't too many typical ranches around here.

Lisa November 8, 2011 at 10:07 am

You are very brave to contemplate going again!  I went horseback riding once when we were on vacation and Katie begged me to go with her.  Once was enough for me.  As much as I love horses, I don't like to be off the ground and feeling out of control!

Katie November 8, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi! This looks like a fun adventure!! I'm a new follower from the blog hop!

Krista November 8, 2011 at 10:30 am

I just found your site through a blog hop and I must say, your pictures are all BEAUTIFUL.

Steve November 8, 2011 at 1:18 pm

Good for you for being brave for your kids. I've done the horse riding thing for my kids sake before, and I didn't like it at all. I'm pretty sure my horse kept aiming for every low branch he could find. They should put steering wheels on those things!
Glad your kids enjoyed the experience though. Of course, now you're in for a whole bunch more rides if your kids grow up to be cowboys.

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