Saddle Up: Horseback Riding at Copper

Mount up a horse at the Copper Mountain Stables this summer, and you can find out yourself along a dusty trail, experiencing the mountains at their optimal pace.

Winston Churchill once wrote that “no hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle” – and to think, he never even visited Copper Mountain to discover how right he was. 

Mount up a horse at the Copper Mountain Stables this summer, and you can find out yourself along a dusty trail, experiencing the mountains at their optimal pace.

The world is simplified: just the creak of the saddle, the earthy scent and easy rocking of your mount beneath you, the clop-clop of hooves on hard ground and stone, the riotous splash of wildflowers and the breeze through the pines.

“They’ll enjoy a trip through the forests and alpine meadows, maybe see some wildlife,” said Bob Anderson, the owner of the stables and a lifelong horse wrangler. “It’s a fun time.”

Catering to small groups and families, the stables offer hour, two-hour, half-day and all-day trail rides led by experienced wranglers well-practiced in the art of the tall tale, the lonely cowboy song and the groan-inducing joke.

Chapped lips? Rub horse manure on them: It doesn’t help the chapping any, but it sure keeps you from licking them.

Never ridden a horse before? They’ve got a horse for you that’s never been ridden.

(In all honesty, Anderson has sure-footed, reliable horses for everyone from first-time riders to seasoned cowhands. “We’ve got some really good horses for all abilities,” he said.)

Once introduced to your horse, you’ll grab a handful of the horse’s mane and neck and climb on from the left side – a vestige of Medieval times, when soldiers typically mounted that way because they wore their swords on their left side so as to draw it across their bodies with their right hands.

From there, it’s a quick lesson in reining: gently but firmly lay both reins across the horse’s neck to guide it in the direction you want to go, pull easily straight back to stop, use some resolve to keep the horse’s head from dipping down to grab a mouthful of tall grass. Squeeze your horse with your legs to signal it forward, and off you go, following the wrangler on the ol’ Chisolm Trail.

Rides meander among the trees and clearings of the ski area and into the surrounding White River National Forest, where it’s not unusual to see deer, elk and even moose, along with great bird life – watch for splendid song birds and raptors – and the occasional untamed mountain biker.

The stables operate seven days a week from June 13 into September, and rides generally will be scheduled to depart on the hour, although Anderson said he also handles special requests, including trailering horses to other locations. “If they want to ride through downtown Silverthorne, we’ll take ‘em,” he joked.

No experience is necessary, but riders should wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. (A quick trip to the new Murdoch’s western store in Silverthorne beforehand can get you outfitted from ten-gallon hat down to pointy-toed boots and have you looking the part and in the proper mood for moseyin’, squintin’ and even tobacco-spittin’.)

Rides will occur rain or shine, within reason and sensibility, and each saddle will carry a rain poncho. Additionally, the stables offer riding helmets to those who request them.

Walk-ins are welcome, but reservations are preferred – especially on weekends – to ensure that they have a horse ready for you. Call 970-968-2232 or visit www.coppermtstables.com for more information on booking your ride.

Sure, you’ll be walking funny for a little while after your ride – the only cure is more riding – but the experience is so much different than anything else you’ll do on your vacation that it will be among your most vivid memories.

But whatever you do, don’t believe everything the wranglers tell you, especially about horse manure.

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