It doesn't matter what weekend it is – if you're seeing cowboys and horse trailers, it's rodeo time in central Alberta. We love the smaller rodeos where the stars of the show can hear us cheer as they try to stay on those bucking broncos and belligerent bulls. Talk about getting into the action – we even jump to the rail to holler as the chuckwagons thunder past!
We like to plan our yearly family ranch holiday with at least one rodeo nearby. With its annual schedule of pro rodeos set early in the year, the Central Alberta Rodeo Association is our best resource for finding small town rodeos in the area.
Live the Cowboy Life
Next up is to find a guest ranch where we can easily slip into the western lifestyle. I imagine waking up to the songs of meadowlarks and sitting down to a wrangler sized breakfast. In the past we've really done the cowboy thing. We learned how to hitch up a team of horses to pull a wagon – making the ride that much more satisfying – and how to saddle a horse, not just how to get up on one.
Everyone is a Hired Hand
Last summer, our kids were thrilled with the Red Lodge Guest Ranch, just 1.5 hours north of Calgary. They were old enough to have their own sleeping cabin, so this became their best vacation ever, before we even arrived. It was fun to watch them prowl with the barn cats and feed a knee-high calf. Seeing them help with the daily chores was a delightful surprise. My son and husband helped move cattle to a high pasture and learned how to rope a steer.
Fishers and Trappers
We all loved Ride the Wind Ranch, located about 1.5 hours west of Red Deer. It was easy to while away the day swimming at Crimson Lake and teaching the kids to fish at nearby Twin Lakes. We also learned to be trappers and fur traders at Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site. Our favourite ranch animals were the cute Texas longhorn calves and the cuddly bunnies – although I couldn't budge my daughter from the horse paddock.
Wake up to Wilderness
We finally decided on Myown River Ranch. From Calgary, it’s a scenic 1.5-hour drive north on the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22.) What's cool is that we get the entire place to ourselves! And if we time it just right, the Sundre Pro Rodeo is nearby, or perhaps the Bowden Daze rodeo later on. Tucked away in the foothills, our bungalow is a stone's throw from the Red Deer River. There will be deer on the doorstep and moose in the meadows, trails to explore on horseback, canoes to paddle, horseshoes to play and tales to share by firelight or in the hot tub under the stars.