Riding program to 'stirrup' the call of the wild

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Blazing Saddles, a program offered through a partnership between the Craig Parks and Recreation Office and Elk Horn Outfitters, offers children older than 7 a chance to spend the day or longer riding horses or mules, playing around in the outdoors and camping.

"I don't think kids get to get out and play in the creeks and stuff like I used to do," said Dick Dodds, owner of Elk Horn Outfitters.

The overnight adventure starts in the parking lot of the Craig Municipal Building. From there, the participants are driven to Elk Horn Outfitters and from there to a place on the ranch that Dodds leases from the Visintiner family.

On this particular day, Micheal Samuelson, 9, and Archie Neil, 13, are the ones getting ready to swing into the saddle.

Two others have backed out, said Pam Brethauer. One called the night before and the other just never showed up.

Neil is participating in Blazing Saddles for his third year.

"It gives me something to do because I am not into sports and I need things to do," Neil said.

Brethauer agrees, "There are tons of kids out there who aren't into sports and we need to offer them something besides that."

But it also works for children who participate in sports.

"I am into a lot of things," Samuelson said, who is taking his first trip with Blazing Saddles. "I like soccer and I like horses."

The day of riding, which was about ten miles, took the boys through fields and tracts of ferns and aspens. There were breaks, which consisted of playing in creeks and eating food.

Dodds, who was the guide for the trip, pointed out a variety of interesting plant and animal life. The boys were able to see an old dragonfly nymph casing where the dragonfly had come out and flown away and a creature, which even baffled Dodds, with a casing made of tiny river stones.

"I get tired of taking things from the land," Dodds said of always guiding hunters. "I get to show people what is out here (during the Blazing Saddles program), it is a neat balance for me."

The program started four years ago when an employee of the city of Craig also was working for Elk Horn Outfitters set it up. There had been a horse trip program that had been ten years ago through the city of Craig.

"We decided to try again," said Brethauer, who said that the previous program had not offered overnight trips and charged a lot of money.

Now the program charges $45 for a day trip and $90 for an overnight trip.

"I don't think he's making anything on this," said Brethauer of Dodds.

"It is for the kids," Dodds said, who has been in the outfitting business for 16 years, "It is fun for me, I am just a big kid myself."

And Samuelson and Neil agree.

"It is a really cool experience if you haven't ridden," said Neil, who plans to come back next year. "And you get to see the land."

"Some people like horses and they can't have them and they really want one," Samuelson said. "This way they can spend time around horses."

The trips have not been very full this summer and Brethauer doesn't know why. She said people have been more than willing to pay for the overnight trip but so few have signed up for the day trips that, so far, they all have been canceled.

Dodds said he would like to start offering similar trips for six adults or couples and envisions it being something like a dinner ride.

"Not very many of these tracts will be left in the next 10 to 15 years," said Dodds, of his wish to establish activities on the 60,000-acre parcel for families.

The first day of the overnight trip ends with dinner, which includes hamburgers, chips and Smores for dessert. The next day, Brethauer, Dodds, Samuelson and Neil will ride back and the boys will be back at the Craig Municipal Building for their parents to pick them up around noon.

"It might just be a small memory -- but it is a memory," said Dodds of getting to go on a Blazing Saddles trip.


Breakout box:

For more information call Pam Brethauer at 826-2004 or Elk Horn Outfitters at 824-7392.

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