First day on the ranch: Cowboy or Alien?

BY Jody Dahl | Sat 21 May, 2011

Top50 blogger Mel Rutheford reveals why first time ranching isn't so different from an alien invasion...

I’d consider myself pretty comfortable in my well-worn cowgirl boots. Cattle drives – I think I can hold my own, and considering I’m an English girl through and through, I reckon I’ve got this whole Western style of horseback riding pretty much cracked. But rewind a couple of years to the first day I’d ever set foot on a ranch and it was a whole different story... Cowgirl I was not. Alien? Most definitely.

When you’re used to the hustle and bustle of suburban England, 18,000 acres of authentic working ranch really does feel like a different planet - from the wide open spaces and mountainous terrain, right down to the smell of fresh Montana air. Granted, a couple of rainy days in June evoked the familiarity of home, but you wouldn’t find me sitting in a Western saddle on a responsive Quarter Horse rounding up cows back in my native territory.

My most alien experience came when setting foot in western stirrup for the first time. Despite nearly 20 years of English horseback riding experience under my belt, I found riding ‘cowboy style’ a distinctly foreign phenomenon. Direction (never my strong point anyway) was the most challenging aspect. Using leg pressure and neck reining to get my patient mount to move where I wanted him to go in the arena took a little while to get used to. After five or so minutes of turning in circles on the spot – with my poor horse probably wondering what kind of creature he had on his back – everything suddenly clicked into place. For me, those first few steps in which I was actually in full control was my transition from alien to cowgirl – or at least a hazy version of.

And I can safely say I’m not the only one to have felt like an extraterrestrial in a strange and unknown world on my first day on the ranch. In fact, most people I’ve spoken with have felt like a creature from outer space when first stepping foot onto unknown western soil. Megan Walker, a fellow Brit and US ranch vacationer, confesses: “Despite knowing and working with horses all my life, on my first day on a working ranch I suddenly felt very English! My immediate thought was, ‘This is a real skill and I don’t know if I’m going to get it.’ I mean, these guys live and work it. When you take a riding holiday at an authentic working ranch, it’s not just coming and playing – it’s developing a real skill that’s been perfected over the years.” Adds Megan: “And there’s nothing like 18,000 acres of ranch to make you feel like an alien – I did get lost on more than one occasion! Turns out I’m not the first and I certainly won’t be the last alien to invade a ranch."

But whether you choose to stay at a dude ranch vacation, guest ranch vacation or an authentic working ranch vacation, chances are that by the end of your western vacation, you’ll be more of a cowboy than you ever could have imagined!

Whether you head to one of Top50's dude ranch vacations, guest ranch vacations, working ranch vacations we know you'll have a great time. Or book a riding holiday estancia Argentina or a riding holiday, or to a working ranch in New Zealand, or go horse trekking in Australia, either way Top50 can help you find that ideal ranch experience.

TAGS: cowboy culture, dude ranch vacation, guest ranch vacation, horseback riding, montana, movies, riding holiday, working ranch vacation, cowboys vs aliens

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