The horseback riding program at C Lazy U is the highlight of the ranch, thanks to its beautiful trails, trained horses and skilled wranglers. While experienced riders love coming to the ranch to challenge themselves, we still welcome hundreds of beginners and even those who have never been on a horse before.
For those guests, the ranch always offers expert guidance and encouragement to help them feel secure in the saddle — but before they take off, there are a few more things for beginner riders to keep in mind.
Get your body ready.
Horseback riding is not just sitting on a horse — it’s a workout! Various studies, along with real-life experience, has shown that horseback riding is considered a good form of exercise for the body. You’ll use a lot of muscles, including your abdomen to stay upright and your thighs to keep your balance, that may not see much action in your day-to-day life.
There are two trail rides offered per day, which may be a lot of muscle strain for those who are not used to that type of workout. Start training your body beforehand by heading to your nearest riding center to start practicing; if it’s not possible to get on a horse, simply do a few at-home exercises for horse riding such as squats, split lunges and tricep kickbacks.
Yoga pants and gym sneakers won’t cut it at a dude ranch. Pay close attention to what you’re packing for your trail rides, as the wrong clothing will only hinder you and make it more difficult to enjoy the experience. C Lazy U offers dude ranch packing lists for all seasons, which always include long pants (jeans or riding pants in the summer, snow pants in the winter) and sturdy riding boots.
If you’ve purchased new clothing for the trip, make sure everything fits comfortably and your boots are broken in. Don’t worry if you’ve forgotten an item, as C Lazy U Ranch does offer some of the essentials at Luis’ Old Place.
If you’ve never been on a horse before, don’t stress — and be sure not to carry any nervousness with you. Horses are very sensitive animals; a 2016 study showed that horses could actually distinguish between happy and angry faces, exhibiting signs of stress and elevated heart rates when viewing the latter.
If you’re feeling nervous about riding a horse, try to practice some mindfulness exercises to calm your nerves and practice taking deep breaths. Once you’re at the ranch, our wranglers will match you with the horse that best matches your skillset and personality — and once in the presence of these sensitive creatures, your worries may just float away.
Keep your eyes on the trail.
When you’re finally out on the trail, you may be tempted to stare at the beautiful horse in front of you. However, watching your horse instead of the trail is akin to driving a car and staring at the steering wheel — it’s dangerous. Keep your eyes focused on what’s ahead of you (stealing a peek at the scenery to around you, of course) to make sure you stay balanced and avoid any obstacles.
In addition, try to keep your hands off the saddle horn, i.e. the protrusion at the front of the saddle; it’s a feature of Western saddles that is used when working cattle. Using it to balance yourself will only prevent you from using your own muscles to stay balanced.
Don’t try to keep up if you can’t.
Trail riding is done in groups, and there may be more experienced riders with you. Don’t feel the need to keep up with the herd — if you’re having trouble, just ask the CLU staff for help. Guests aren’t obligated to go on trail rides, either, so you can spend some much-deserved time in the Lazy You Spa if you’d rather skip out on the second ride.
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy your time at C Lazy U. Beginner horseback riders should prepare, but there’s no pressure to become an expert equestrian — it is a dude ranch vacation, after all!