Horse & Hound's Olivia Mulligan explains why she fell in love with Western riding during a visit to California

I have recently returned from an adventurous trip to Mammoth Lakes, California. Although I had planned to spend most of my trip hiking and running, I couldn’t resist trying Western riding up in the mountains.

I was introduced to a bonny looking palomino and eventually found out that his name was ‘Chief’ (pictured below). I say ‘eventually’ because there was a slight misunderstanding due to my terribly British accent.

“What’s he called?” I asked. (The tour guide thought I was asking if he was cold). “Ohhh, what’s his name? Chief. He likes t’take the lead.”

The experience of riding around Convict Lake was incredible. Thanks to Chief, I have fallen in love with the mountains and riding Western style.

Here are six reasons why you should give Western riding a try:

1. Keepin’ it casual11174786_10152832287707003_8922551425494779302_n

You won’t be judged for wearing jeans and trainers – what’s not to love?

2. Great for novices

You can choose a group that sticks to a slow pace. Especially if it is up in the mountains, it will be mostly walking.

3. Unleash the adrenaline

Thrill seekers don’t need to gallop to enjoy it. You and your horse may get pretty close to the edge of the mountain track at times and the paths can be very steep.

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4. Relax for once

Horses that are trained Western-style are often extremely responsive. Chief was the easiest horse that I have ever ridden, even in a bitless bridle.

5. Culture and history

We dismounted our trusty steeds to have a well earned lunch break (including potato chips and beef jerky, of course). Our tour-guide spoke about the history of Convict Lake and we had a little wander on foot. When we returned our untied horses hadn’t moved an inch – just like the movies.

6. A memorable experience for the whole family

In Mammoth, the scenery was breath-taking. Remember to take a camera – the photo opportunities are fantastic.

I experienced my first taste of Western riding in the mountains with my parents (non-horsey people) and they agreed that the experience of riding in the mountains was the highlight of the trip.

For further information and to get an idea of prices, check out the Convict Lake Resort website: www.convictlake.com

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