While many guests' dates are restricted based on their summer schedules, we still tend to receive that question often. "When is the best time for us to come?" What many people don't realize is the answer I'm going to give you doesn't have anything to do with horses. In fact, I've come up with a list of questions that are my "go to" to figure out exactly when would be the best time for you to vacation at the Elk River Guest Ranch:
1) Do you prefer fishing or rafting? Or, do you care?
2) Are you coming with your family, spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend or by yourself?
3) If you have kids, what ages are they?
4) Do you prefer wildflowers or fall-like temperatures and colors?
And that's it! As silly as it may seem, our program revolves around horses but the time of year you come really has nothing to do with our horseback program. No matter the time of the season, that part of our program remains flexible and accommodating to suit your needs and desires.
But, as weather and who you're traveling with would have it, there are certain times of our season that our better suited than others for certain groups and individuals. Here are my thoughts for each question above:
1) Rafting is better in June and early July. If you consider all the snow we get (over 160 inches per year), just think about the high waters and rapids created by all of that snow melt in the early season. While there is fishing available all season, especially in our high mountain lakes, our rivers are saturated and more murky early in the season. Fishing in the rivers tends to be better in August and September.
2) & 3) Who you're vacationing with makes a difference in what dates I suggest for you because if you have kids and want to visit us when we have other children around the same age, I'm going to try to make that work for you. And then again, if you're traveling with adults only, you may very well only want adults on the ranch when you're here. We do offer some adults' only weeks at the beginning of September and occasionally throughout the summer.
4) This one's pretty self-explanatory, and you'll likely choose dates that reflect this if it's important to you. During the summer season of 2015, our best wildflowers were during the months of June and very beginning of July. And, our best fall colors happened to be at the very beginning of October.
The moral of the story is if you have certain things that are important to you, don't hesitate to ask Bex and Scott to try to find a solution for the dates that work best. When you visit us, we want this to be the best vacation you've ever had. And, that often begins with meeting your expectations for what you want out of the experience.
When you explore every option possible to get to places when you travel, the list is overwhelming. Luckily for your sanity, we have only three options in the summer:
1) Fly to Denver (4 hrs from ranch)
2) Fly to Hayden/Steamboat Springs (1 hr from ranch)
3) Drive (For driving directions, check out our CONTACT page)
How You Sit on the Horse
"Functional training" refers to training your body, or parts of your body, for activities you perform regularly. In order to functionally train for horseback riding, you must first observe what your body is doing while you ride. For instance, when you're sitting on the horse, your legs are spread, heels are down, and toes are slightly turned outward. Your legs shouldn't be tense or locked out, there should be a slight bend in your knees, and most of the pressure is directed toward the balls of your feet.
What Your Riding Stance Means
When you ride as described above, your legs, knees, and hips are absorbing pressure. Thus, it makes sense to develop these areas in your training. When you spread your legs as you ride, push down slightly on the stirrups and turn your toes slightly outward, your hips are extending, abducting and externally rotating.
Hip extension, abduction and external rotation exercises
1) Hip extension-Lying Hip Extension
2) Hip abduction-Side Lying Hip Abduction
3) Hip external rotation- Clamshell Exercise (Use band for added resistance)
Each of the above offers a link to a video for examples. There are many other exercises involving weight machines, resistance bands, etc. that can be of great value, as well. Calf raises (and especially lowering using a step), with or without bands help strengthen your legs for applying pressure on the stirrups. And, side-stepping with a squat movement with a resistance band is another great way to work on your hip abduction.
In How to Physically Prepare for Horseback Riding: Step One, we established that exercising your TA (Transverse Abdominis, the deepest core muscles that provide you with the ability to keep your body stable) should be one of the beginning steps in your effort to prepare for horseback riding. And, now that you've learned to target and activate your TA by repeatedly performing the exercises in the last video, you're ready to move forward in your training.
Here are three examples of exercises you can do to improve your abdominal strength (Click on each for a descriptive video). As you perform them, remember to activate your TA throughout the movements. Also, remember to breathe!
1) Plank Exercise
2) Plank Leg lifts (low and high), Plank arm lifts
3) Side Planks
These three exercises are very basic, but the better you get at targeting your TA and other abdominal muscles, the stronger your core will become for horseback riding.
Stay tuned for our next blog about functional leg exercises that will help prepare your lower body for sitting in the saddle.
As we discussed in the previous blog "How to Physically Prepare for Horseback Riding", your core (transverse abdominus, in particular) plays a major role in your ability to balance well while horseback riding. What I did not explain to you is why preparing your body for horseback riding is especially helpful when visiting a Colorado dude ranch.
The answer is pretty easy. When folks come out and visit us, they feel like they're paying for a certain amount of horseback riding since the vacation is all-inclusive (folks are more than welcome just to sit on their porch with coffee and listen to the river, participate in our other activities, explore Steamboat Springs, etc.). Many ride every day of the week during their vacation, morning and afternoon. For our six nights stays, that often means 11 horseback rides in seven days. And, those rides aren't piddly.
We trail ride in the Routt National Forest through meadows, aspen forests, up and down mountains. Whether folks are doing our most beginner rides or our advanced, they get a lot out of the experience. Oftentimes, though, unless our guests are use to riding everyday, those 11 or so rides take a toll on them, and by mid-week, they like a little break for their bodies.
Some believe that unless you're going for that rockin' hot bod for your beach vacation, there's no reason to exercise specifically for vacation. But take it from me, your dude ranch vacation can not only provide you with a benchmark for getting into horseback riding shape, but also can make your stay with us less sore and more happy on the trails.