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Great Excursions has a knack for making the "out-of-the-way" gems...

Great Excursions has a knack for making the "out-of-the-way" gems that one would normally "stumble across" by chance int

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I will definitely be going back - Adventure Trip/Travel

By Tricia, Scotland

2006-10-09

In The Beginning

It was November 2005 when I decided I wanted to go on a horse riding holiday and that's all I was certain of. I searched the website for holidays in America or Canada, I was attracted to western style riding.

I collated a pile, knee deep, of information on various holiday destinations and ranches. I found that most holidays were designed for periods of no more than 7 days and I wanted to ride for the full fortnight, I sent off a few e-mails to different places enquiring on time extensions, replies came back mostly offering some options of doubling up on the holiday's outlined on the web pages but the one that caught my eye was via Responsible Travel. Helen went to great lengths preparing a tailor made summary of my itinerary, she also put my mind at rest with regards travelling alone and gave me lots of information on car rental, the best time of year to come, and background on the places and people I would be staying with, I already felt I knew them a little. I booked my holiday and flights with the help of Helen organising accommodation and car rental.

My Arrival

When I arrived in Regina, Great Excursions (GE) came to pick me up from the Airport and took me to the Hotel Saskatchewan Radisson Plaza where I would spend my first night. The hotel was magnificent, beautifully decorated and extremely comfortable, however the food, which was delicious, really made my stay. The next day Helen and GE met me to discuss the travel route; GE gave me maps, directions and phone numbers of the people I would be staying with in case I needed assistance. Helen and GE made me feel very welcome and ‘at-home', were always contactable at base if I needed anything at all and I met them several times throughout my stay.

Eastview Wilderness Ranch

My first stop was four and a half hours drive north of Regina; the roads were a pleasure to drive and the scenery breathtaking. When I arrived at Eastview I was greeted by Corrina Kapeller who made me very welcome and had my dinner ready for my arrival. All meals were eaten outside on the veranda of Corrina and Larry's house and were homemade by Corrina who is an excellent cook. I learnt a lot about the lifestyles of people who were living in that part of Canada both from the Kapeller's and from the guests who were from the city. I spent my 3 days there moving cattle around pastures and checking the health of newborn calves, the experience was relaxing and I made some new friends. The small ranch house that I stayed in was spotless and decorated with lots of cowboy touches. At night we all sat round the campfire and listened to cowboy songs or we went for a drive around the countryside. I was sad to leave this Corrina and Larry they had a real passion for sharing the experiences of their lifestyle recognising how unique it was and delighted in the environment nature had surrounded them with. Larry took me on a riding tour of part of the Pasquia Provincial forest surrounding the ranch and talked my through the local wild and plant life all this information just added to the enrichment this type of holiday brings.

Cowessess First Nation Territory

I then drove 3 hours south to Hugh Lerats Spotted Horse Outfitters; here I stayed in a TP for 2 nights. I rode an appaloosa horse around a beautiful lake, which ran through the territory. The 3 day annual Pow Wow was colourful and exciting with dancers in various outfits taking part in numerous traditional dances.

Hugh offered myself and Anita (a guest from Newcastle) the opportunity to take part in a Traditional Sweat Lodge Ceremony, GE, Helen and their daughter also came to the camp to participate. It was very mystical. Heated rocks are deposited in a small dug out ditch in the middle of the TP and are added to throughout the ceremony, incantations and prayers are said while water is splashed on the heated rocks, the interior which is pitch dark becomes very hot and the steam adds to the principle of ‘cleansing', the whole event lasts about an hour and a half. I feel very privileged to have been given this experience and the memories will stay with me forever.

Beaver Creek Ranch

My next stop was completely different again. The Beaver Creek Ranch was established as a working cattle ranch and horse training facility. There were more horses than I could count, probably in the region of 50 and 400 head of cattle.

The ranch was situated in some of the most beautiful countryside I had seen so far. I stayed with Brenda and Barry in their home, which is very luxurious and very much the traditional ranch house. After a days riding I would cool down in their swimming pool, which was exactly what I needed.

Brenda and Barry went that extra mile for me after riding all day they would take me to Cowboy cutting competitions and visits to their neighbours ranch to have a drink and watch them all ride and rope cattle, I was also taken for a heavy horse cart ride in the surrounding countryside on the evening of my arrival which was completely unexpected and a wonderful experience. I helped with the mucking out in the morning and was kept busy and entertained over the full 4 days. All the horses were beautifully trained and a pleasure to ride. Barry gave me some lessons in cutting long horns and buffalo, which was the most exciting experience I've had on a horse. I enjoyed some fantastic food with the family at meal times, which were great fun. I found it very difficult to move on from Brenda and Barry's but it was made a little easier when we arranged to meet for a night of ‘two stepping' before I left to come home.

La Reata Ranch

My next stop was spent at a ranch which was situated within sprawling landscape with views for miles. Although this ranch had some cattle its activities were centred on its guests. It had its own saloon where we met at night and had a couple of drinks, played pool and discussed the riding of the day. Next to the saloon was an outside hot tub, which was wonderful; I felt I was surrounded by miles and miles of hills and space. The horses were free to roam around the area and it was very pleasant to wake up in the morning to watch the herd roam freely amongst the guest's accommodation. Meals were taken in the communal cook house and were very social events. We rode to the form of trails in the morning, ate a packed lunch then rode back to the ranch because guests were at differing levels of expertise and the rides were adapted to suit this.

Back to Regina

On my return to the city I was once again surprised at the high level of accommodation that had been arranged for me. In Regina I stayed in a bed & breakfast with a difference, the house had an historic but homely feel about it. My room looked out onto a very leafy park and the banks of Wascana Creek. Again I was made to feel extremely welcome and on arrival shared a bottle of red wine with my host Edith before taking her dog a walk along the banks of Wascana Creek. Edith equipped me with her push bike to make travelling through the city easier and did everything she could to make my stay comfortable and fun.

On my last night I was invited to Helens house for a meal with friends before some of us went onto meeting Barry and Brenda for some ‘two stepping'.

Overall my holiday exceeded all of my expectations and I did expect it to be amazing. Travel, accommodation, riding requirements were organised to perfection, no detail was overlooked, Helen did everything in their power to ensure I had an informative, fun, and safe holiday I would never forget.

The weather was sunny and warm but not too hot to ride in and the Saskatchewan scenery was some of the most magnificent I had ever seen. The people I had the pleasure to meet were open and friendly and I will be keeping contact with many of them.

All the horses were treated extremely well looked in good health and were very well trained. This was a very important feature of my holiday and left a lasting impression on me. I will definitely be going back.



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