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.

If You Go

  • Expert Advice: Trust your horse. Keep your posture straight in the saddle, and don’t let go of the reins.
  • Skills: All abilities welcome, from first-timers to seasoned wranglers.
  • Gear: Worn jeans; sneakers or cowboy boots if you’ve got ’em; sunglasses and that Stetson you never thought you’d wear.
  • Cost: Depends on activities and duration of stay.
  • Time: Half day to a week, June-September
  • Get There: Take I-70 west to Highway 40. About two miles west of Granby, turn right onto Highway 125; continue north for nearly 12 miles. Turn left into the ranch and drive about four miles up the dirt road.
  • Info : 970-887-2511, www.kingmountainranch.com

This article was originally published in 5280 Traveler 2012.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.