It’s the Year of the Horse, so seize the reins and explore our country like a cowboy on horseback.
Suggested tweet: 2014 is the Year of the Horse—saddle up for adventures across Canada http://ow.ly/ujUGB #explorecanada
2014 is the Year of the Horse and Canada has a rich variety of wilderness and wildlife encounters for equine enthusiasts. Outfitters match your experience— from novice to expert—to a horse, then off you’ll ride, experiencing Canada as explorers and cowboys did.
Take riding through Banff National Park, AB, with Holiday on Horseback, for instance. After 52 years in operation, this outfitter knows what horse lovers want. Saddle up for an hour’s ride through Banff amid mountains, rivers and forest. Take an overnight trip to Sundance Lodge, where you’ll tuck into hearty home-cooked meals and sleep in a cozy bed. Or become an explorer and ride over several days on an expedition leading you deep into this park’s wild heart.
Owner Ron Warner realizes experts are vital to authentic learning vacations. So some experiences include guides such as Dr. Mike Gibeau, a carnivore expert who leads trips where you might search for grizzlies—from the saddle. When I rode with him, we spied three of these magnificent bears, with one silverpoint rearing on its hind legs to get a better look at us before melting into the forest.
Hankering for longer rides through remote backcountry? Try Wayne Sawchuk’s rugged expeditions into the Muskwa Kechika, a chunk of wilderness the size of France in northern British Columbia. Recently inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, Sawchuk knows the “M-K” like the back of his hand.
He knows horses, too. Your athletic animal will navigate mountain passes and cross turquoise rivers with you in the saddle on the lookout for elk, grizzlies, eagles and alpine wildflowers. This is real backcountry, so you can (like me) delight in tenting, catching your horse and saddling up, plus helping cook campfire meals.
Over in northern Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park, Gord Vaadeland of Sturgeon River Ranch leads overnight rides for visitors seeking Canada’s only free-roaming bison herd. Even if you don’t spot these now-rare creatures, your cowboy hosts will cook your campfire meals, spin yarns and play guitars well into the night before you fall asleep in a tipi or in a sleeping bag beneath the canopy of stars.
If that’s too intrepid, try La Reata Ranch south of Saskatchewan’s Saskatoon to experience life on George Gaber’s working cattle ranch. Every morning, his horses gallop down from the hills to the ranch, eager to be groomed, fed and saddled up. I was matched to feisty Cheyenne, but novices will get gentle mounts. We rode into coulee country, a grassy landscape where deer shelter in shady gullies. Afterwards, we had a hearty dinner with locals in the bar, before sleeping in bunkhouse beds.
Whether it’s participating in a backcountry ride, visiting an operating ranch, or attending world-class horse shows such as Toronto’s Royal Winter Fair or Calgary’s Spruce Meadows, make 2014 your Year of the Horse.
Looking for more visual inspiration from equine Canada? Browse our Brand Canada Library for thousands of images and videos from all over Canada.
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