I can’t remember the last time I visited a dude ranch. Wait. I can remember. It was high school, 1984. It was the dead of winter and I didn’t go near the horses or the bunny hill. So imagine my surprise 23 years later when my husband announced he wanted to give the dude ranch circuit a whirl with our good friends Dave and Alicia and their seven year old son, Carter. We loaded the kids up in the car, and off we went to what I have now discovered is nirvana for the the nine and under set…Rocking Horse Ranch.
I had visions of the place being totally dilapidated and reeking of manure and when we arrived, I was pleasantly surprised. The manure scent only permeated my membranes if the wind blew in the wrong direction and the ranch, seemed surprisingly updated. They even had some animatronic bear playing a guitar in the gift shop. Plus an indoor and outdoor pool with a water slide, rock climbing wall – which my daughter couldn’t get enough of, an outdoor bounce house (which Carter used to set a world record – 1000 jumps in under 10 minutes), water skiing, banana boat rides, game room, fishing, shuffleboard, kayaking, corny shows, and best of all…the Fun Barn – which had an indoor bounce house, another rock climbing wall and the craziest climbing structure you’ve ever seen where kids can shoot at each other with foam balls…need I say more?
But the best part of all didn’t take place on the horses – since mine kept on stopping to eat a bush, slosh through some manure scented mud (eew) or swat some flies; it didn’t happen at the pool where I got to read and relax and watch my daughter zip down the water slide at least a dozen times; it wasn’t at the cheesy magic show – it happened when I strapped on a pair of water skis and managed to not only pull myself up but I cruised around the lake for what seemed an eternity. You see, the last time I hopped up on skis, I was 15 and was a CIT at Camp Algonquin. That summer, I learned how to water ski for the first and last time since my momentary blaze of glory around the lake was quickly extinguished when I wiped out and the wake went right up my tush. After that day and the fact that the motor boat crapped out and no one bothered to fix it the rest of the summer, I pretty much hung up my skis and never ventured out again…that is, until this weekend.
My husband was pretty much stunned at my high flying water ski performance and is now ready to rent a lake house so we can spend the summer recapturing our youth. Even my daughter was shocked that I could ski – but not to be outdone, she managed to get up on the skis the first shot and even scaled the rock climbing structure and rang the bell. That’s my girl!
So all in all, while I usually enjoy a nice Cape Cod or Caribbean vacation, our side trip to a dude ranch was actually one of our best trips in years. The kids had a ball and surprisingly, we did too. So from Jamaica, to day camp, to Block Island to the Hamptons, we ended our summer on a high note with a high flyin’ dude ranch adventure. Nothing like a weekend surrounded by nature, good friends and water rides to put everything in perspective and make us realize that it is actually fun to act like a kid again.
To take a peak at the very first video I’ve managed to create from the pix I took with my iPhone, then click on the link below and enjoy! Happy Labor Day!


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