Snow flies from beneath giant hooves as the draft horses pick up the pace across the frozen landscape. Overhead, the night glitters like a million diamonds. Sleigh rides and nature’s wonder – all part of the winter guest ranch experience in Alberta.
At Anchor D Guiding & Outfitting, located an hour southwest of Calgary on the famed Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22), there’s even more. This weekend I am immersed in the world of horses.
Hay is for Horses
Tugging on my puffy down jacket as I step out onto the porch of my very own log cabin, the brilliant morning sky highlights the high foothills on the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. I can easily imagine the beauty of this place in other seasons.
My host pulls up with Waylon and Willie hitched to the hay sleigh and asks if I want to come feed the horses. I’ve already booked a mountain day ride but this is an extra bonus. Hopping onto the sleigh, we chug along as the Percherons haul the huge round bale out to pasture, where over one 100 horses mill around waiting for breakfast. With the job done, I grab a quick coffee and get ready for my horseback ride.
Winter Trail Riding
I could have chosen a two or three hour ride, but when the snow levels and weather conditions are this good, the full day ride is a must-do. Today we are heading out on a trail up Green Mountain, which will take us above the treeline.
Lunch is spent circled around a cheery campfire, warm drinks in hand and Bavarian sausages sizzling at the end of long roasting sticks. My appetite seems boundless, fuelled by the excitement of the ride and majesty of the views over Sheep River Valley. I don’t want this day to end.
That evening as I snuggle into my bed, I think about the thick clouds rolling in – snow is definitely on the way. How much, I wonder, as I drift off enveloped in perfect silence.
Pulling on my winter boots in the morning, I gasp as I throw open the door – a picture perfect winter wonderland awaits. Grabbing my camera, I get photos of snow-laden evergreens, the cabins tucked snugly under thick white blankets and Cruiser and Doc hauling today’s breakfast out to the hungry gang waiting in the pasture.
After brunch cooked in the cozy cabin kitchen, there’s time for one run down the infamous toboggan hill before packing up to head back to the city. Heck, maybe there’s even time for two. After my western winter weekend on the ranch, I’m hungry for more. Perhaps next summer I’ll book the Adventurer trip, based out of Anchor D’s camp in the Sheep River Valley. Four days of riding, campfire stories and delicious cowboy cooking? Sounds good to me!