One of the things I wanted to do while we were in Texas because we were in cowboy country was to go to a dude ranch and be a cowgirl! Sorta like in the movie, City Slickers, except I didn’t want to do the cattle driving part. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’m not an outdoorsy person however I am open to doing what is required of me if it appeals to my sense of adventure. If it is a success, I’m more than happy to take a step deeper.
I didn’t want to do the full cattle rustling and herding bit. I didn’t want to camp outdoors and rough it in the plains or desert (I already did that in Morocco, more on that in a future post), and yet I wanted to be a cowgirl. Luckily, there are dude ranches that offer the basic minimum “cowboy” activity for a novice like myself. I’ve never rode on a horse that wasn’t harnessed and tethered to a wheel, which I do not consider equestrian experience. Although I did ride a camel in the Sahara of Morocco (more on that in a future post).
Instead, I found a working guest ranch (not to be confused as a dude ranch) in Smiley, Texas, which is a little more than an hour outside of Austin. Our host’s name was Clay, a very interesting man with a varied past. There was also one other guest who was staying at the dude ranch. His name was Allister (spelling?) and he was from Scotland. He was an older gentleman, and has returned to the dude ranch for 3 years back then. He was an experienced cowboy, caring for the horses, saddling up, and partaking in other related ranch work.
When we arrived, we saddled up almost immediately. We had to sign waiver forms which basically said the owner was not responsible should something bad happen on our horse riding expedition. After the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed, our host showed us to our horses. Being that I was inexperienced, I was given the “older” horse as it would be less likely to get spooked. On the other hand, I also had less control because it didn’t like to be ridden.
We rode in a group plus a pack of ranch dogs. We crossed through varying of landscapes, which I enjoyed seeing from a higher elevation. Clay talked about his past lives as a teacher, town judge, and working for the government. Some of the things he told us about his life with the government sounded incredible. We also talked about the 9/11 attacks. Our host also talked about the local Texas environs and pointed out some notable natural resources and wildlife. I saw an armadillo, which the dogs chased. It rolled up into a leathery looking ball. There was a moment where we had to cross a stream which required the horse to climb down. That was a bit nerve-wrecking for me as it put me in an awkward riding position with the horse. We crossed the stream without incident.
I did not realize how exhausting riding a horse was. It’s more than just sitting on top of an animal and letting it carry you around. My buttocks ached the next day. It was an odd sensation to wake up to. We enjoyed our stay at the ranch. Our cowboy host was an interesting man with lots of great stories he shared with us.
I returned to his website while drafting up this post and noticed some disclaimers that were added, or maybe they were always there and I hadn’t noticed at the time. He’s not a man to be trifled with; he’s a real Texan, and has served in the military as well as local law enforcer. I am a little surprised that anyone who had booked a stay at his ranch would confuse it for one of those dude ranch and spa deals. It’s an authentic ranch, nothing pretentious about it.
We certainly enjoyed his company and his stories. It’s not everyday we get to meet someone with such an interesting past even though we’re from New York.
If you’re looking for a no thrills authentic working ranch experience, then visit the Lazy F Ranch (not a dude ranch) for more information. I highly recommend you read through all areas of the website. Should you have any concerns and questions not addressed on the website, Clay is more than happy to answer them.