Just a short drive from Calgary, you can live out your cowboy (or cowgirl) dreams at the Rafter Six Ranch and saddle up on a beautiful steed to take a ride on the shadows of the Rockies. Seeing as how I haven’t been on horseback since I was eight years old, I booked to go on an easy two hour trail ride, but more experienced riders can do rides that take them deep into the mountains and across rivers.

The Rafter Six Ranch is gorgeous. It is set in Kananaskis country, at the foot of the Rockies, along the banks of the crystal clear Kananaskis River. Although obviously built to cater for tourists rather than just be a working ranch, it is authentic enough that various movies and TV shows have been filmed there: Many of the wilderness scenes from Brokeback Mountain were filmed in the area and the ranch itself has been used in many movies over the years – including the River of No Return, Marilyn Monroe’s first movie.

In fact, so many Disney movies were filmed there in the 40s that a cabin was specially built for Walt (it is still there).

The Ranch is super family friendly, there are miniature ponies wandering freely around the property and lots of fun things for kids to do even if they are too young to hit the trails (although there were some very small kids on some of the rides I saw heading out before I did). The Rafter Six Ranch is also home to a white buffalo – a rare thing indeed and apparently one of only two in the world. He is a huge beast, housed in a back field, that I assumed friendly and gave a good scratch between the eyes. I was later told that he’d tried to gore a ranch hand the day before, and shouldn’t have been approached. I like to think he was just misunderstood, rather than waiting for the chance to attack.

We’d booked a two-hour ride that took us across prairies and along the Red Deer River, with the Rocky Mountains always visible in the distance. When my trusty steed, Sunday, was brought over I was a little freaked out by how huge she was but once I was up on her back I felt more relaxed as she seemed like a very mellow horse. There were just two us on the ride, with the guide Madi, who was knowledgeable and great company on the trails. The ride was easy enough, and absolutely beautiful.

We passed through prairies, along the river and climbed some minor hills (which was thrilling to this inexperienced rider). There was a brief moment where the wind whistled through the canyon and a helicopter flew overhead and Sunday got spooked. She darted off the path and I screamed, which spooked her more (and my companion’s horses) but it was all over in a few seconds and there was no harm done. I probably created way more drama with my actions than was warranted by the event!

About an hour into the ride, I began to truly understand what being saddle-sore was. My inner thighs hurt like hell and I had to keep taking my feet out of the stirrups to stretch my legs. A cowgirl I was not, despite the fact I was wearing a kick-ass pair of cowboy boots that I’ve had for years (but had never actually so much as seen a horse until now). If, like me, you aren’t exactly at one with horses you might want to consider taking a shorter ride.