My horse shifts, the saddle creaks, I stifle a gasp and then we’re off. Our trail ride near Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockies has begun. First time on horseback never looked so good. Chatter fades as the clip-clopping rhythm and sway of the saddle lulls my nerves. I then start to notice Alberta’s stunning mountain scenery.
Trail Riding 101
If you’re like me and just starting out, or exploring new territory, guided horse riding is the way to go. Skilled guides are there to ensure you have the best possible time in the saddle. If you’d rather ease into the cowboy experience, Timberline Tours in Lake Louise even offers 10-minute introductory trail rides. Looking for a little more adventure I booked Timberline’s hour-and-a-half tour, which is the maximum length recommended for new riders. After a quick meet-and-greet with my steed Buddy, I learn the basics – start, stop, right and left. For everything else I place my trust in Buddy and the guides.
An All Age Adventure
Our group ranges in age from five to 85 years young. The common denominator? Wide eyes and big goofy grins. A short while in, I hear the question “Can we run?” At this point I’ve just mastered foot positioning – heels down, toes up – and am now focusing on hugging Buddy with my knees to maintain balance. Thankfully the pace of the group is set to the experience level of the most novice rider (that’s me!), and galloping is quickly dismissed. Besides with scenery like this, who wants to rush?
Wildflowers and Wildlife
Late spring in the Canadian Rockies is a breathtaking canvass of colour, as wild flowers explode in bloom amidst lush alpine meadows. Snow-capped peaks stand sentinel in the distance, an ever-present reminder of just how unique this area is. We’ve already spotted birds, ground squirrel and a young deer, but I’ve been told if we’re lucky a bear sighting is possible.
Best Time to Go
Most trail rides run from mid-May through late September in the Rockies. Early season rides are festooned with wild flowers. In the autumn, aspen and larch trees are in their golden glory. Whatever season you pick, don’t forget your camera. From flora and fauna to horses and heavenly mountains, it’s going to be the ride of a lifetime and you’ll want to show it off to your friends.