Blessed with a bounty of wide-open spaces and weaned on our forefathers’ don’t-fence-me-in attitude, Colorado has long been a haven for horse lovers.
And, whether you’re an accomplished equestrian or a weekend wrangler, there’s no denying this fact: Even Colorado’s most celebrated vistas look just a little bit better with a horse in the frame. These five unforgettable ways to kick up your heels are just the start.
1. Buck Up
Even if you’ve never set foot in a stirrup, you can still experience Colorado’s thriving cowboy culture from a safe spot in the bleachers — at one of our many small-town rodeos. The award-winning Elizabeth Stampede Rodeo (June 5–7, 2020) is a favorite of locals and visitors alike; despite a potentially distracting view of the Rockies to the west, all eyes will be on the thrilling action in the arena. The Brush Rodeo (July TBA, 2020) draws more than 2,500 spectators and includes a giant parade and Fourth of July fireworks. More rodeos >>
2. Horse Sense
Don’t let our rugged exterior fool you — Colorado is a great place to be a greenhorn, and a scenic trail ride is a wonderful way to learn some basic horsemanship. Bach’lers Stable near Ouray takes leisurely all-levels rides across Gold Hill, as well as pack trips along the Dallas Trail and San Juan Hut system. Pagosa Springs’ Diamond Hitch Stables offers everything from kids’ pony rides to cowboy cookouts to cattle drives. And for multi-sport types, there’s the Rusty Spurr Ranch in Kremmling; their all-day Saddle & Paddle adventure pairs a trail ride with whitewater rafting. More riding stables >>
3. Corral Kindness
Colorado is home to dozens of equine rescue centers and sanctuaries, and virtually all of them welcome volunteers. Springfield’s Blue Rose Ranch rescues and rehabilitates unwanted horses — including ex-racehorses and neglected pets — and helps to find them forever homes. Ruby Ranch Horse Rescue in Ramah handles dire neglect cases as well as horses relinquished by owners; animals considered unadoptable are given a loving, permanent home at the ranch. And at Edwards Foundation in Parker, horses with heart-wrenching pasts find love and room to roam. Call in advance to match your skill set with a center’s needs.
4. Creative Canter
Horses are inspiring creatures, and you don’t have be astride a saddle to feel the spark of creativity. At the sixth annual Painting Horses Retreat with acclaimed artist Jill Soukup, held TBA, 2019, at Zapata Ranch in Mosca, curriculum includes equine anatomy, composition and sketching. Crafty types can learn from saddle maker Jesse Smith, in Pritchett. His intensive five-week Saddle School delivers detailed one-on-one instruction — and sends students home with one heck of a souvenir.
5. Move 'Em Out!
Advanced riders can get a truly next-level equine experience with the Great American Horse Drive, which typically takes place late April to early May. A Colorado tradition for more than four decades, the drive gives participants the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move a herd from Sombrero Stables in Craig across 60 miles of breathtaking open range.