The central activity at Elk Creek Ranch summer camp is western horseback riding. Our idea of teaching western horsemanship attempts to avoid the limitations of a dude ranch operation. Each teenager is given his or her own horse and riding gear for the entire summer camp experience. We assign horses according to riding backgrounds to ensure that each person has a challenging yet safe riding experience. Generally, almost half of the new Ranchers are novice or beginner riders.
After an introduction to the requirements of horse care, each teenager becomes responsible for grooming and saddling his or her horse. Riders quickly graduate to more demanding work with the horses, including such tasks as wrangling in the morning and helping with the training of young horses.
Once horse and rider have become acquainted, we start traveling the many mountain trails near the ranch. The country is rugged wilderness. Our rides cover over 100 square miles of this area and expose our riders to the Rocky Mountains at their primitive best. We also devote several days to barrel riding in order to develop riding skills to prepare for our gymkhana, a festive day of agility competitions for horse and rider.
The climax of the riding program comes at the end of each camp session with a four-day pack-trip. This trip embodies the essence of western horsemanship. We travel into the most remote portions of the Northern Absaroka Wilderness Area. All of the props of civilization are left miles behind. The relationship between horse and rider takes on an entirely new dimension, for each is suddenly dependent on the other. In surroundings and in substance, that brief trip takes us back more than a century in the western experience.