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Why You’ll Want to Ride a Horse in Waterton

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Horseback riding will never be my first choice of adventures probably because of some deep-seated fear of galloping off and holding on for dear life until the horse either tires or bucks me off. So it was with some reluctance I agreed to go horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park.

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

Big sky country

It turned out to be far more fun than I anticipated. As a bonus, I wasn’t on edge except for the first few minutes.

That’s probably a function of the horse, Patches which Deb Watson, the owner of Alpine Staples chose for me. She also gave me some good advice before heading out. “Hold the reins in your right hand like you would an ice cream cone.”

It’s not like I’ve never ridden a horse before. Growing up my mother had a horse – Gemini, an Arabian with a temper. I never rode him but still I spent a lot of time in the barn feeding him oats and trying to bond. Over the years since that horse I have done loads of horseback riding – but primarily for an hour here or there and never enough to really get the hang of it and feel comfortable.

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

Heading out from Alpine Stables – and I’m near the back of the pack so I can get pictures

For whatever reason, my ride in Waterton was as close to relaxed as I’ve ever felt on a horse. I didn’t panic the minute we moved from a walk to a trot – like I did on a truly adventurous four hour ride done in the mountains and mud of Costa Rica years ago.

In fact, I learned to lean back as we went down a hill and lean forward as we went up – small things but they made a big difference in my comfort level.

The scenery on the ride was so breathtaking that you couldn’t help but be swept along in the moment. Although the original plan had been to head to the mountains on a longer ride, the weather wasn’t cooperating. It had rained heavily over the weekend so trails up high were extremely muddy. The wind was crazy – even at times on our ride and the horses were easily spooked.

The beautiful backcountry of Waterton Lakes National Park

The beautiful backcountry of Waterton Lakes National Park

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

Everyone in awe of the scene before us

So we stayed at lower elevations but I got a taste of scenery like I’d never encountered before in Waterton. In fact, I felt like I was on a movie set.

The woods are coming alive with colour - Waterton Lakes National Park

The woods are coming alive with colour

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

John is having great fun on his horse Jackie

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

First time on a horse and this woman is doing really well

Riding through the woods - Waterton Lakes National Park

There are options to have more of a wooded ride if it’s windy

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

Nice views over to the Prince of Wales Hotel in the distance

Horseback riding in Waterton Lakes National Park

Heading back to the barn

Waterton Lakes National Park

Grand views to the northeast

Alpine Stables offers all sorts of rides depending on your skill level and how much time you have. If you’ve got some experience in the saddle and you don’t mind the thought of an 8 hour ride, head for the Alderson-Carthew Summit, and the top pick of our guide Cole. (I’ve hiked the trail and can attest to its’ beauty.) Other rides that sound fantastic include the ride to Lion’s Head via switchbacks to an overlook and then for those with stamina add an additional four hours in the saddle to get up and back to Vimy Ridge. There are also rides to waterfalls and lakes and more trails depending on your interest.

Alpine Stables offers a variety of rides - including overnight options - Alpine Stables offers a variety of rides - including overnight options

Alpine Stables offers a variety of rides – including overnight options

Before we got going I said this would be my last time on horseback. But I’ve decided otherwise. I’d do it again – even for five or six hours in the saddle as long as I had a horse like Patches.

Have you ever been horseback riding in Waterton?

A big thank you to Travel Alberta for talking me into doing this – and for making it all possible.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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