Platte Ranch Riding in Colorado

We went to Colorado to go skiing this weekend. Unfortunately, despite spending hours getting custom boots to fit my messed up feet, my boots still did not fit and I had to stop skiing after about 1/2 a day on Saturday. My husband finished the day without me and then went skiing with his friend on Sunday.

I slept in super late and then read a book relaxing by the fire at his Aunt and Uncle's cabin in South Park (no seriously) CO. Later in the afternoon, his aunt took me into town to browse the very few businesses that were open in the winter. It's a super small town and of what few store exist, a lot close for the winter. It is however, a town dedicated to Burros. They have a pack burro race every year which draws thousands. There's also a historic grave of a famous burro outside the historic hotel. When we were there in the summer one year, they had a mom and baby burro for petting. We all know I'm obsessed with long-eared equines, so it's my kind of town.

South Park City
Historic Town

Then we all went to dinner in Frisco and I made arrangements to go riding at the same ranch we had been to the last time we were in Colorado.

sunset in Frisco
Sunset in Frisco

My husband decided to skip skiing on Monday and go riding with me at Platte Ranch.

Platte Ranch Horseback Riding
Platte Ranch

This is the best place to go on a trail ride for a lot of reasons:

  1. They take great care of their horses and the old ones retire on property when they can't do rides anymore. Every horse is healthy and fit and happy. They don't get grain, but they all show up every morning at the gate to come in to work. All tack actually fits the horses and their feet are in great shape.
    This horse is 23, lives on the open ranch without a blanket and is fuzzy and fat and sound and full of energy
  2. Their horses are not dead-heads. They range from mostly dead-headed horses that the little kids get put on to finished ranch horses that have tons of spirit and are very sensitive.
  3. You don't have to follow in a line.
    Riding side-by-side to take pictures of each other
  4. You get to go faster than a walk. If you don't know how to ride, they'll teach you and help you canter across the plains. If you do know how to ride, they'll let you gallop around and have fun.
  5. The ranch is gorgeous and the views are incredible.
    View down over the Platte River
Seriously, if you're ever a tourist and in any driveable distance to this place - go.

The last time we were there I had ridden Gray Fox (a gray fox trotter) and Black Horse - they specialize in "creative" names. I asked for Gray Fox again when I set up the ride. When we got there the guide asked who was riding "his" horse as he was leading Gray Fox over and I raised my hand. The guide said he'd been using him as his horse all winter - guiding rides and doing ranch work like fixing fences. I was told he's a finished bridle horse and moves more off the leg than the reins and to leave his face alone. I don't have a lot of western skills, but it's fun to ride a sensitive horse that responds to everything you ask. He also has a lot of go in him. We led most of the way back (again it's not a follow the guide sort of place)
Why are we stopping when we could be going?
Because of the snow we weren't able to do much more than walk. The snow was hard packed in a lot of places so that each step was a punch through the top. It would have been dangerous to go galloping about. And it was a lot of work for the lead horses to plow through all the un-disturbed snow. It was still really fun exploring the ranch. No one had been up to the top of the plateau in a long time so we had to find the best trail up. The one guide asked if anyone was in a rush because it was going to take a while. Thankfully, none of us were.

We went up to the plateau by riding along the river for a ways and then climbing up a switch back that only the guides knew was underneath the snow. 

coming around the switch-back

entering the trees before the top
We finally made it up to the top and stopped for photo opportunities:

We did actually canter/trot on top of the plateau. Not for any great distance, but it was still fun. Then we had to head back down to the ranch. 

We soon connected with our original beaten path and the pace got a bit faster. We passed an abandoned Stage Coach building. We were actually riding at some parts along the original stage coach trail. There's such amazing history in Colorado and a lot of it was just left behind when newer, better things came along. On our previous trip, we drove up what used to be a railroad track to an abandoned railroad station. It would have cost money to tear it down, so the railroad just left it all up there in the pass. The only way to find it is to follow a little brochure driving tour you can buy at parks and other stops in CO. 

abandoned stagecoach building
The stagecoach building is on private ranch property so you have to take a ride to see it
We crossed the Platte River going out and back. Most of it is snowed/iced over, but it was really warm when we were there and parts had melted. On the way back, Baxter, the dog who came along with the ride went into the water and scared Gray Fox who jumped about 6 feet sideways in one step. I'm glad I was on him and not a beginner, though it sounds like they never let beginners on him anyway: his favorite trick is running off with people during gallop sessions and trying to jump off the plateau edge and head for home.
frozen platte river
Iced over river
By the time we got back to the barn, our 2 hour ride had taken 3 hours. We didn't get charged any extra even though I would have paid more. It was a great ride. I haven't ridden in the snow in years and I really enjoyed it.

I can see for miles and miles and miles