A horseback ride is a great way to experience Idaho’s dramatic scenery and get close to wildlife—and, with more than 30 riding outfitters and guest ranches throughout the state, it’s easy to add a ride to your vacation itinerary. Consider these helpful hints to make sure your cowboy experience is memorable for all the right reasons.

When asked about your riding experience, don’t over-exaggerate. The wranglers need to know your comfort level so they can pair you with a horse of the right temperament.

Be honest about your height and weight so that you can be fitted with the right-sized horse. Some stables have a weight limit, usually around 240 pounds.

Wear long pants. They’ll help prevent scrapes from brush and branches and offer a barrier between you and the saddle, preventing blister-like sores at pressure points. Comfortable jeans are a good choice.

Wear closed-toe shoes. Cowboy boots or riding boots are great, as are shoes or boots with a smooth sole and heel. Hiking boots or shoes with heavy lug soles are not safe for riding, as your foot could get caught in the stirrup. Slip-on boots are encouraged over lace-ups. If you’re on vacation and don’t have appropriate shoes, ask the stable staff if there are boots available for guests to borrow. Outfitters have different rules about footwear, so please check with them before arriving for your adventure.

Most riding operations offer helmets for your safety; some require you to wear them. If you’re riding with children or first-time riders, a helmet might be a wise choice.

If you choose to wear a hat, be sure it fits securely so that it won’t come off while riding. If you’re wearing a cowboy hat or hiking/sun hat, you can use a stampede string (or the cinch string that goes underneath your chin). Some outfitters might require you to use the string, but hats are never required. Nobody wants to lose their favorite hat!

Dress in layers. Days may start off cool and then warm up, so you’ll want to be able to shed layers. Elevation changes can also affect temperature, and you’ll even notice a difference when you’re riding in the trees versus out in the open. If you’re riding on a cooler day, bring gloves. Rain gear is another consideration. Ponchos are great for kids in the summer months and, of course, rain jackets and pants are appropriate.

Ask if you can bring water. Often the horses have saddlebags for packing water, lunch and snacks—or you might be able to wear a daypack.

Most operations have a minimum riding age, usually around six. Please ask about this and address any other specific family needs when making your reservations.

Remember what your mother always told you before a car trip—and visit the restroom before you head out on the trail!

Most important, have a good time. There’s nothing like seeing the country from the back of a horse.

Thanks to Western Pleasure Guest Ranch for these tips.

Laurie McConnell

Published on February 11, 2015