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Horsing Around

Saddle up for a day—or more—on a rollickin' dude ranch.


We’ve got him cornered. Shifting with irritation, a 325-pound steer kicks up dirt as he peers at me warily, plotting his escape. I’m atop Handy, a towering chestnut stallion with a wavy mane; my teammates, two young girls on their own trusty steeds, are helping me surround the animal. He’s crotchety and ugly—even the rest of the herd avoids him—but he’s smart. With a glance to the left, he swiftly darts behind Handy, and I feel an unexpected jolt. I’ve been head-butted by a steer.

Rasslin’ cattle, I’m learning, isn’t easy, but the folks at King Mountain Ranch, just outside of Granby, are patient. It’s my first time team-penning, a task that requires crews on horseback to maneuver steers into a pen. Professionals can wrangle them in less than a minute, but not this troop of novices. We’re bested by the crabby creature for close to half an hour before, finally, we succeed.


It’s one of a handful of activities I’m attempting during my day at the ranch. Situated on 350 acres, King Mountain is a tranquil place to relax and bring those John Wayne Westerns to life. I started my day peacefully cantering through the surrounding woods, my guide and I passing by clumps of columbines and stands of aspen rising 30 feet into the azure sky.

But tranquility isn’t all I’m aiming for. This city gal wants to be a real cowpoke for a day, and that means I need to shoot a gun. I head up a rutted, grassy path to the skeet-shooting range to try my hand at target practice. With some pointers from my instructor, I aim for the small orange disk that flies out of the machine and pull the trigger. A mild kickback jars my shoulder. Then, as if by magic, the disk explodes. I’ve hit my first target.

Now I can call myself a cowgirl.

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