By Abbie Digel
It was a perfect summer day in Big Sky. The rains had cleared and blue skies abounded. My sister was visiting Montana for the first time, and she wanted to see tumbleweed dancing on an orange evening, fields of livestock with a horizon dotted by jagged mountains, and most of all, she wanted to go horseback riding.
I took her to Lone Mountain Ranch, just up the street from my house in Big Sky. We met the wranglers by the corral at the edge of the guest ranch’s winter Nordic ski trails. Neither of us had been on a horse since our birthday party pony days, and we listened intently to our guide’s safety briefing, then stepped into the stirrups.
I rode an American quarter horse, and my sister a handsome Arabian. The animals followed our guide, Molly, also on horseback, in a single file line. We spent two hours trekking through LMR’s beautiful trail system, then ventured further into the North Fork on single-track trails through which our horses maneuvered, always taking the path of least resistance.
Fresh out of college, Molly had spent her life on horseback, and told stories of her equestrian days and polo matches. She pointed out wildflowers and large estates. My horse moved as if I had been riding her for years. She had a competitive edge, and shook her head in protest when I pulled up on the reigns, telling her to stay in her place.
Molly explained her team takes most experienced riders to the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, the Gallatin National Forest or Yellowstone National Park. The Ranch is one of few operations that
allows guests to lope and run, she said.
The wranglers, a team of eager, knowledgeable folks, also give private lessons and provide all day rides with picnic lunches made by the Ranch’s kitchen staff. All the equipment is provided, even the stylin’ cowboy boots every cowboy and cowgirl dreams of.