Hello, I’m Julie Calder from the JHMR/JHRL Sales and Marketing team and I love horses. This is a serious understatement since I’ve spent most of my life hanging out in barns and riding horses. Growing up in the suburbs of Boston, I took my first riding lesson at age four on a horse named Taxi and never looked back. My parents realized quickly that I had been bitten by the horse bug and despite their efforts, it wasn’t going away. I attended summer camps, took weekly riding lessons, and eventually competed regularly in hunter-jumper competitions around the East Coast throughout my teenage and college years. It makes sense that I moved to Jackson, WY, in 1997, an area discovered and founded by horsemen and ranchers. My first days in Jackson Hole were a quick-study in western riders and riding: rodeos, trail rides, and pack trips. The cowboy style was foreign to me and I wondered how I could find a partnership with horses in Wyoming. Happily, one afternoon, by accident, I discovered a ranch where I could fit in and unpacked my English boots.
One afternoon, 13 years ago, I was biking down Fish Creek Road in Wilson, WY and I passed the Flying W Stables. Colorful jumps, logs, and banks in a large grassy field caught my eye. I knew these were my people and this was my place. Flying W is where I eventually introduced my two daughters, Avery and Hannah, to riding. The Flying W Stables offers a professional and fun English equestrian operation for locals in the heart of cowboy country. Since founders, Wendy and Wanda Webb, are great granddaughters of a homesteading family, western tradition runs deep in their Wyoming ways. The girls and I not only take riding lessons and compete under the instruction of Heather Haubrich, our onsite teacher and coach, but we also enjoy trail riding on adjacent trails in the National Forest. This experience has introduced me to an activity that every horse-loving visitor should experience when visiting Jackson Hole-trail riding in the mountains.
A few weeks ago, our JHMR Sales and marketing team was lucky enough to go on a mountain trail ride with Mill Iron Ranch. My seven-year old daughter Avery was thrilled when I told her that she could skip school for the afternoon to come with us. We arrived at Mill Iron Ranch, just north of Hoback Junction, on a spectacular spring day and immediately felt the history and tradition of this 160-acre working ranch. We met at the corral and prior to heading out, Sadee Wheeldon, a 5th generation Wyoming Rancher and our guide, briefed us about how we would spend our afternoon. We would ride on mountain trails for two hours and gain 2000 feet in elevation for some “pretty nice views,” she said. In fact, “this ride is rated as the most scenic horseback ride in the country,” chimed in Kim, Sadee’s mother. Avery and I looked at each other with wide eyes. “Wow,” we thought, “This was going to be good.”
Sadee and her cowboy wranglers matched us up with horses, stout yet fit quarter/draft crosses, and tacked our mounts with western saddles and bridles. We started out of the corral and headed up a trail, meandering through quaking aspen trees and colorful wildflowers. Sadee knows her ranch and these trails like the back of her hand. For an hour we climbed up a hill to the summit to discover a view more than “pretty nice.” Wide-open and wild, the vista was stunning. Many of our team members, who have lived in Jackson for years, could not believe the views. Avery, who thought that this adventure was not only better than the math class she had missed, commented that this was “the coolest ride of her life!”
As we headed down the hill we continued to enjoy the scenery and history of the ranch. Beautiful original ranch buildings at the base of the trail welcomed us to the end of the ride and signaled to the horses to pick up their pace as they approached the corrals back at Mill Iron Ranch. Everyone was smiling and agreed that this was indeed one of the most scenic trail rides in the country. The horses were fit, healthy and happy, and the wranglers, charismatic, funny, and helpful. We had various experience levels in our group, but the Mill Iron team made our trip easy and comfortable for everyone. The day was perfect. We were only disappointed that we hadn’t booked the ranch’s evening ride with a BBQ and live music, a Mill Iron tradition.
If you are looking for a great local activity in Jackson Hole, make reservations for your vacation rental at Jackson Hole Resort Lodging and book a trail ride with Mill Iron Ranch. If you too are a transplant or have the English riding bug, bring your horse to the Flying W Stables in Wilson. Or, if you have never seen a rodeo, visit the JH Rodeo every Wednesday and Saturday night. Horse lovers can find their fix and families can experience a ride with mountain and Teton views not found in other places. I feel lucky to ride here in Jackson Hole and I hope you too can get out there on the trail. Maybe I will see you out there, as I drove home from our ride I found myself humming, “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again!”
“The essential joy of being with a horse is that it brings us in contact with rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom.” (-Author Unknown)