Horseback Riding Near Zion National Park – Best Birthday Present Ever

For the longest time, all I have been dreaming about was to go horseback riding with a beautiful scenic setting. When Joseph and I went to Napa, I was so excited to try and go horseback riding in vineyards but whenever I asked about it, people just laughed at me! As if the idea is so out of this world, which makes no sense to me, hah.

Anyway, my sweet sweet boyfriend, knowing how much I wanted this, surprised me with horseback riding for my birthday! He found the only place around that seemed to be open during the winter season and on our third morning in Zion, we headed up to Jacob’s Ranch. Instantly at the gate, we were greeted by beautiful roaming horses and my excitement just continued to increase.

We then met up with Jackson, our wrangler for the day. He introduced us to the Ranch’s philosophy on horses and riders, how they’re different from other horseback riding experience, and what we will be doing on the trail. Two hours later (yes, haha, he was a talker), the roaming horses were gathered up and put into stables so we could meet them one-on-one and see which horses liked us enough to let us ride them. Jackson told us various signals horses give to let you know that they like you, and after about an hour of courting each horse, I finally found my horse.

Her name Jesse. She is the alpha horse in this herd which scared me a bit, but it was said that she has a protective quality about her so I was hoping if I ever felt like falling or whatever, she’d realize that and somehow.. protect me, haha.

Next came Cowboy Bootcamp. I brought Jesse to the roundpen and was told various sounds that would make her stop, go, slow down, etc. Part of the ranch’s philosophy is that the horse will be following you like a puppy before we go out to ride. This was so true. By the end of our session in the roundpen (took about 20 minutes), Jesse followed me wherever I went without any rope or bribery, as if I had known her for ages and she was my own. It was incredible. I felt so safe and comfortable with her.

Because of that safeness, when she was finally saddled up and we started moving on the road, I trusted Jesse without a doubt and my fears of falling off a horse went away.

Soon enough, we were out riding in the wilderness, canyons on all surrounding sides.

When our wrangler was talking about what we would do in our horseback riding experience, he said we would be running, climbing up canyon hills, going down, and eventually make into through the ‘gauntlet’ and ‘the devil’s backbone’. Holy crow, was this man crazy? I was quite taken aback when mentioned this, as we had zero riding experience. How in the world would we manage all that?!

Sure enough, we managed, and I loved every second.

Before long, I was running with Jesse, wind beneath our wings, climbing steep hills like they were nothing, galloping the tiny trails on the sides canyons like a pro, and being fully immersed in nature. It was just all so refreshing. And seriously, how cool do I look?!

We took a break after a 2-hour ride (seriously, it didn’t feel that long!) and wow, our horses were sweating like crazy! I didn’t even know horses sweat! Btw, sorry for the many posts of her you’ll be seeing as you scroll. I can’t get over how much I adore her!

After this point, we were on our way up canyon hills and riding on thin trails on the side of the canyon walls. I SO wish I could have taken pictures of this part because this was it… the part we’ve been ‘training’ for, that will eventually lead us onto the Devil’s Backbone. But I needed to be completely focused and not fiddling with my camera and trying to manually focus (the autofocus on my lens broke! If it wasn’t, I might have been able to!) and alas, no photos.

Anyway, the photos below are from the top of our final destination. We rode up the steep hill of the Devil’s Backbone and through the Gauntlet, and finally made it on a very high (and rather small) plateau where all five horses sat atop. The view was just amazing.

At the end of it all, we spent nearly ten hours doing this activity, and spent roughly seven hours with the horses. I LOVE my horse Jesse. This was SUCH a great birthday present. These photos seriously do not do justice what we were actually surrounded by. Not only was I able to be a real cowgirl – riding horses in the wilderness – but I was able to run with Jesse, ride her into the sunset, and eventually through the beautiful twinkling night sky.

If you ever get a chance to do some horseback riding in Zion, do it, and go to Jacob’s Ranch for that horseback riding experience.

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