This past weekend, my daughter and I had an opportunity to go horseback riding in nearby Absarokee (pronounced Ab-zor-kee). We have been talking about going since she was little and there was never a chance. When we lived in Texas, she was too young for liability reasons at every place we tried; in Germany, horseback riding places are not quite as common as they are in the states, plus I was worried about the language barrier and her not really understanding what to do. But now we are in Montana. How can you not think of someone on horseback with the mountains in the background, when you think of Montana? They just go together.
We went on a two-hour ride at Paintbrush Adventures since it was only about an hour drive from Billings and we like the view of the mountains as you go west rather than the plains that are east. (They also had a better price for a two-hour ride than the other place I checked.) While the trip started out a bit rocky, once the details were worked out, it was a great day. First off, I tried booking through the website, but after about a week of not hearing back, I called to book. Turns out they are not great at getting to a computer often, but it is a working ranch and they are busy outdoors, so I get it. When I called, I left a message and someone got back to me by the next day. Second, the address on the website and where a GPS will take you to, is not the actual riding location. Turns out, it is where the ranch hands and guides stay, but they are nice when you accidentally go there and tell you where you are supposed to go. For the record, it is back up to the highway where you turned off of and then down a bit further on the right. Once you see the horses and sign for horseback rides, then it is the next right. Obviously I went to the wrong place first.
Third misstep was that they do not accept credit or debit cards. I missed that little detail on the website and it wasn’t mentioned when I called to book the ride. Fortunately the town of Absarokee is only about a mile further down the road and there are a couple of banks with ATMs. The first bank I went to the ATM was out of service, but once I found the second one, their ATM was good, we got cash and were on our way back. We paid, then our guides did a quick safety lesson and we were ready to mount up.
They take the time to ask what kind of experience each rider has, so as to ensure they are matching you with a horse that you can handle. (Such as not putting a kid on a horse that is temperamental.) There were two guides and three of us on the ride and our guides were very engaging. They tell you about the area, the river, a little history, the animals; they ask questions about you and where you’re from. But they are so welcoming and conversational, that it feels like going on a ride with a friend. Our ride seemed to include a lot of conversation about the upcoming hunting season.
I love when we get to do things where we really get to slow down and enjoy the details. We could just enjoy the scenery and nature around us. Miss S loved seeing the small herds of deer, especially the fawns. It’s hard not to ‘ooh’ and ‘awe’ when you see deer that looks like Bambi. However, she also commented that they are someone’s dinner in the coming years. I love how she goes from emotional to realistic in a matter of seconds. We find it important to teach our kids to appreciate the beauty of nature and animals, but also understand where our food comes from.
It was a wonderful opportunity to just talk to my teen daughter- talk about what we were seeing, how she was feeling, what she loves about riding, and anything else she wanted to. It’s easier to open up in a relaxed setting like that. There’s no pressure for anything serious and the conversation flows naturally. There’s not always enough of those opportunities for talking with our kids in the hectic, busyness of every day life.
My only suggestion for improvement would be for them to accept credit/debit cards. In my case, my dad was the one paying for the trip as a gift and sent me with his card, so then I ended up getting cash from my own account so that we could still go. That wasn’t in the budget. Not everyone carries cash anymore and there are plenty of inexpensive options for small businesses to accept credit cards. PayPal offers a free card swipe adapter that works with an app right on your phone or tablet with low fees for each transaction. There are other companies such as Intuit Go Payment and Square that easily do the same. Honestly though, not accepting cards was my only complaint, everything else about the day was great and Miss S and I are looking forward to going again. (Hopefully soon!)
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