This is what we’re really proud of, and what you’ll be talking about over breakfast, lunch, and dinner–and for days after you’re back at home! We offer two rides a day, in small groups, with each ride lasting around 2 hours. Each group of riders is accompanied by a trained wrangler whose job it is to make your horseback experience as safe and fun as possible.
There’s a lot of information here, but that’s because we’ve put a lot of thought into having a well-organized program, so all you have to do is ride!
We use the information you provide to select the best rider for each horse, and if both you and the horse are happy, that is generally your horse for the duration of your stay, taking necessary rest days into account for your four-legged friend.
There is an orientation session at the corral 15 minutes prior to mount-up for each ride. Guests are given introductory information and tips, rules of the trail, etc and some basic demonstration. This is a great chance for you to ask questions about the experience. All first-time riders at Sundance, regardless of riding level, are required to attend at least the first orientation prior to their first ride with us.
Riders will gather at the corral for mount-up, and as horses are led up from the hitching rail, a wrangler will call out the guests’ names for those horses. You will be directed as to which horse is yours, and you head over to where a wrangler will be holding your horse beside a mounting block. The wrangler will introduce you to your horse and hold the bridle while you mount, using a mounting block to stand on in order to make mounting easier. The mounting blocks are not only for guests’ convenience, but for the comfort and ease of the horse, so we require that everyone use the mounting block even if they don’t think they need to. Even wranglers use them!
The wrangler will check your gear and make sure you are comfortable in the saddle, then release your horse to quietly walk up to the secure, fenced-in arena where your fellow riders are waiting. You will be told what ride group you are in. There are numbered signs posted on the arena fence indicating ride groups, so if you can ride over to your group, that’s great, but if you can’t quite get your horse over to your group on your own, don’t fret. The wranglers will continue helping everyone get mounted, and then get on their own horses and make sure everyone is sorted out!
How Ride Groups are Organized:
Level 1 rides are walking-only. First-time riders at Sundance are required to select this option for their first ride at least. This option is also for anyone who just wants a gentle experience on horseback.
Level 2 rides are walk/trot and one lope. (Note: a lope is essentially a “slow run” as opposed to a gallop, which is must faster) This will be plenty of riding for most guests, and is especially recommended for beginners who want to try going faster to see if they like it. There will be no more than one lope on a Level 2 ride. Guests will be taught how to “post” a trot, which is a way to ride a sometimes bumpy gait in a way that is more comfortable for the rider and much easier on the horse’s back! If you can get the hang of a trot, a lope is child’s play! Lopes are conducted in a small group, led by your wrangler, who will control the pace for everyone’s safety and enjoyment. Before going for a lope, your wrangler will stop for a chat, to check tack (equipment) and see if everyone wants to go for a lope, or has any questions or hesitation. We never want you to do anything you’re not completely comfortable with!
Level 3 rides will also feature walk/trot, and up to three lopes. Please do not sign up for a Level 3 ride unless you have previously done a Level 2 and are certain you will be happy to do all the lopes. On Level 3 rides, the wrangler may occasionally give you an exhilarating treat and move from a lope to a faster, controlled gallop for a short distance. The wrangler will only do this if they are sure that all riders (and horses!) will be safe and comfortable at this pace, so please don’t pester the wrangler to go faster, as they will use their own judgement. Our horses are trained to not pass the wrangler, so please be respectful of that, as it is a hard and fast rule at Sundance!
If you are arriving in time for the afternoon ride on check-in day, the wranglers will have your horse ready and waiting for you. After the first ride, we ask that you sign up on the sheet by the main ranch entrance for all subsequent rides. You are asked to print your full name, and mark Level 1, 2 or 3 Ride. There is also a spot to indicate whom you’d like to ride with, so the head wrangler knows who would like to ride together. For example, if you are a group of three who want to ride together, just mark all three names with any unique number, letter or symbol. Of course, groups of friends and family will ride together as requested, but please note that sometimes the wranglers need to arrange ride groups a certain way for reasons of safety and compatibility of not only riders but horses, so please be respectful of your ride assignment and don’t switch groups on your own. Remember also that we strive to keep groups to no more than seven riders (including the wrangler) whenever possible. Larger groups wanting to ride together will be restricted to a Level 1 ride. Guests of differing riding ability may of course choose to ride together, but must go on a ride level suited to the least experienced rider in the group.
You’ve heard about our warm, sunny climate – but are you worried the summer weather might be too hot for riding? No worries! If it really starts to cook, we skip the afternoon ride and have a beautiful evening ride instead. These are the long days of summer that Canadians wait for all year, and after an afternoon spent by our big beautiful pool, maybe with that book you’ve been meaning to read – and maybe an afternoon nap in your air-conditioned room – we mount up after dinner and head out for a truly magical experience! Our desert climate cools off quickly when the sun starts to go down, making for prime riding time – and there are few things more romantic than watching the sun go down from the back of a good horse! You’ll return in the cool twilight to a spread of refreshments served at the home ranch.
Comfort and Safety:
The well-being of our guests and our horses are our top priorities, and we are dedicated to preserving our excellent safety record.
Helmets are strongly recommended for riding, and are mandatory for riders under 19 years of age. Pretty much everyone wears one these days, including many of the wranglers. Cowboy gear is all about protection, and you can bet, back in the old days, they’d have worn helmets if they were invented! CSA-approved riding helmets are provided free of charge. If you wish to wear a cowboy hat instead, it must be secured by a “stampede string” to keep it from flying off your head!
Please note that posting at the trot is mandatory, even if you feel that you can comfortably sit a trot without bouncing on the horse’s back. Not everyone can, not all horses are smooth enough for it, and this policy has been put in place for the comfort, health and well-being of the horses. We are making the effort to ensure that all riders, including wranglers, are taught to post at trot, which when done properly is easier on the rider as well as the horse, and will enable us to cover more ground in the time allotted, by ensuring that trotting is both comfortable and fun!
The idea that “western riders don’t post” stems from the tradition that old-time cow horses were trained to move at a gentle “jog trot,” calmly and on a loose rein. This is a slow, easy gait that is comfortable for both horse and rider, but is very different from a full trot. You can even see old-time cowboys post in the saddle when moving at a full trot. It’s all about not only their own comfort with long days in the saddle, but about sparing the weight on their horse’s back. And that’s something everyone can agree on!
Our trained wranglers all have their first aid certificates and carry a cell phone and a first aid kit on all rides, with good cell phone coverage across our riding area. The Ashcroft Hospital and ambulance station are just 10 minutes from the home ranch.
Now it’s time to hit the trail, through some of that spectacular scenery we mentioned earlier–you’ll see what we mean. Some of us have lived here for over 40 years and when the light is just right, the view still stops us in our tracks!
Whether you’re eager to lope across the countryside on a spirited, responsive mount – or are quite content taking it easy and soaking up the scenery…. it doesn’t matter; relax, you’re going to love it here. Eight years old or eighty, single or bringing the whole family, we’re with you every step of the way!
Please note that weight restrictions are in place for horseback riding.
Click hereto review our Riding and Cancellation policies.
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Things to Not Forget
Sunscreen, bathing suit (we provide pool towels) and some sandals or “flip-flops”. Our wooden boardwalks are worn smooth but splinters can happen!
We rent cowboy boots for $3.00 a day. If you bring your own footwear for riding, it must feature a stout heel and firm sole. No running shoes allowed. Hiking boots generally have too thick of a sole for our liking, as they can get caught in the stirrup.
Jeans or other comfortable long pants for riding. Sweatpants are not allowed as they are slippery on the saddle. Shorts are also not allowed for riding. Don’t forget a jacket just in case.
In the summer months, be sure to bring a hat of some kind to keep the sun off, for when you’re poolside.
Our adults-only bar lounge is BYOB. Beer and wine may be purchased from the ranch, and there is a pop machine. There is a well-stocked liquor store in Ashcroft.