This has been a time of great transition for our family. We have gone from the hectic schedule of a busy school year to the relative ease of summer, jobs are in transition, and our son has returned home. We were sorely in need of a family vacation…and while most people consider a trip to the lake or beach to be an ideal destination, we had something else in mind. We yearned for something adventurous, but also easy. I didn’t want to worry about making meals (or even a week’s worth of dinner reservations!) or researching local activities or destinations. Our solution: Black Mountain Ranch in Colorado, a family friendly dude ranch, complete with family activities, delicious meals, and lots of adventure. By the end of the week, I was yearning to stay…Why? What was so appealing? The ranch was inviting, inclusive, and interactive – and I wished that real life were more like Black Mountain Ranch (BMR)… I’ll try to narrow down my reasoning for you into 5 main reasons why real life should be like BMR:
Everyone Works Hard
Every family was matched with a wrangler, a person with what feels like a lifetime of horse experience. They care for the horses, teach about riding, and in our case, about the natural world surrounding us. While they loved to have our help saddling the horses, they worked seamlessly as a team to make our guest experience a relaxing one. In addition to the wranglers, the kitchen and housekeeping staff were excellent and made the stay away from home feel like a true vacation. After a challenging year working with some students who put in very little effort, it was refreshing to be somewhere where everyone gave 100%.
It’s safe to take risks and learn to be trusting
Even for horse lovers like me and my daughter, there was a lot to learn at BMR. Here, the horses are used to get a job done – they are not exclusively used for sport in a controlled environment like an arena. In the mountains of Colorado, there are no railings to contain the horses (or cows), and you have to be ready for anything. Once we got to know our horses, our incredible wranglers, and ourselves a little better, most of us were ready to take on new challenges, like jumping over fallen trees or creeks. We could learn at our own pace and were encouraged all the way.
Everyone is ready to learn and to collaborate
We certainly didn’t expect to leave BMR with a new set of skills. However, in a supportive environment with lots of opportunity, we did. Every day, we practiced and enhanced our skills – all with the ultimate goal of finding a herd of cattle (spread out over 1000 acres!), moving them to an area where the calves could be branded and doctored, and then returning them to pasture. Of course, it was much easier to get the job done as a team. So, over the course of the week, not only did we all become better riders, but we also learned to rope, drive cattle, and communicate our goals more clearly with others. (It made me want to explore the idea of using horses with teens for team building, leadership, and communication workshops…) My horse, Alf, really loved working with the cows. He and I had great adventures together as we ventured off the trail, between trees and under low branches to find and move cows that were straying from the herd or lagging behind. Our daughter practiced roping all week and caught two calves all by herself… …and then got help from her dad, other parents and wranglers to get them to the ground so that they could be examined and branded.
People are Encouraging
Even in this time of global political instability, people from all over the world encourage each other – even kids who might not otherwise interact. It was a common sight to find kids of all ages engaged in a foosball battle or a game of pool. Repeat visitors helped newbies learn to snap the bullwhip, and flocks of kids ran at the opportunity to bottle feed the baby goats. One night we went to the rodeo in Steamboat Springs, where we all rooted for two of our wranglers who were making their debut in the team roping event. The highlight of the evening for my daughter was watching her new friend, the daughter of one of the ranch’s owners, who was competing in a barrel racing event.
It’s healthy to get outside
Black Mountain Ranch is breathtaking. Literally. It is located over a mile above sea level, and even the simple act of walking to our cabin left me breathless for the first several days. It was a wake up call – it’s time for me to spend more time outside and be more active. By the end of the week, I felt stronger and more energetic…and once I scrubbed off the thick layer of dust from my face, I am pretty sure that I was glowing. It was a clear reminder that even if we spend the bulk of our day inside at work or school, it’s important to go outside and smell the roses (or campfire!)
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