Group trail rides at dude ranches are not my thing. There are a few exceptions of course. My husband and I booked a trail ride in Belize that took us to some Mayan ruins; that was fun. I also took a private trail ride in Scotland; again, fun times. There was also that weeklong, point to point ride I did in Ireland. That was more than fun. But generally, the nose to tail thing just doesn't float my boat.
Being six feet above the ground connected to tree trunk legs kind of changes your outlook on trail rides. Suddenly, nose to (bobbed) tail rides look like a lot of fun.
Over the weekend, my husband and I joined three other couples for a trail ride at the Covell Clydesdale Ranch in Cambria. We booked the trip more than a month ago, not really sure what it entailed. None of us were disappointed.
The Covell ranch covers approximately 2,000 acres of rolling hills above the tiny coastal village of Cambria. The ranch has approximately 50 head of cattle and nearly 70 Clydesdales. The horses range in age from yearlings to old timers living out their retirement years. The working string is currently made up of 10 Clydesdales, mares and geldings, but a few others are being trained to join the team.
After getting all of us checked in, Tara, the ranch owner's daughter, gave everyone a quick tutorial in how to ride the horses. Each Clydesdale is taught to drive, that is their original purpose after all, and they are ridden like driving horses. Tara showed everyone the technique of slide, grab, and pull. We were directed to slide one hand down the rein, grab it, and pull it straight back to ask the horse to turn. To stop, you have to slide both reins through one hand, and then pull straight back with a rein in each hand.
The horses do not work off of the rider's seat or legs which meant no leg yielding or steering with your seat. Turning was also a challenge as an open rein did nothing. It took some concentration to turn left and right, not to mention a lot of room, but once I got the feel for it, I was quite delighted with how responsive my girl was.
After a few minutes of practice, Eileen turned out to be very soft in the bridle and wiling to listen to the quietest of aids; not all dude horses are that sensitive. With only the slightest wiggle of my calves, she broke into an easy trot. To come back down to a walk, I simply picked up both reins. What a lovely mare she was!
In the nearly 30 years that we've been together, my husband has ridden maybe a half a dozen times. Considering that his actual saddle time is pretty limited, he's listened to me long enough that he's picked up a decent skill set. At well over 6 feet tall, it was fun to see him look small on a horse.
The horses were trained to stay more or less in line, but Tara said that we were welcome to ride side by side. Most of the horses were happiest following one after the other. We did do a few trot sets and were even given the go ahead to trot up the final climb to the top of the hill. I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth Eileen was. We were all in western saddles of course, but even so, I was able to do a tiny rising trot and never felt as though Eileen's gait was too big to stay with.
If you live anywhere within a hundred miles of California's central coast, you should look up the Covell Ranch. Tara has done a great job with her Clydesdales. They were all well trained, their feet looked great, and each horse looked healthy and happy in their work. You can find the Covell Clydesdales on Facebook and Instagram.