A visit to Southfork Ranch isn’t complete until you saddle up. Horses were an integral part of the long-running TV series Dallas, which branded the iconic image of a Stetson-wearing cowboy into the collective mind. In truth, late actor Larry Hagman – who portrayed patriarch slash villain J.R. Ewing in the original and the 2012 reboot – didn’t trust horses. Hagman got back in the saddle, figuratively and literally, when he sold off part of his extensive memorabilia collection in 2011. Longtime Dallas fans watched as the actor paraded down Beverly Hills on horseback three days prior to the auction, accompanied by TV wife Linda Gray on her own ride. Today, fans can capture the spirit of Dallas with a horseback riding package at Dallas’ exterior filming location, Southfork Ranch.
If you’re new to horseback riding, don’t worry. The day starts with a riding class, followed by a full tour of the 41-acre property on horseback. To help you prepare, we’ve provided five tips to help you feel comfortable in the saddle.
1. Dress the Part: You don’t have to toss on chaps and a ten-gallon hat to be suitably dressed for the trail. Long pants and closed-toe shoes are the main requirements. Dress for comfort and mobility your first time in the saddle. Avoid baggy clothing, slippery shoes and loose items such as scarves that can get caught during your ride. Wear minimal jewelry and shoes or boots that won’t slip in the stirrups.
2. Take the Help: Now isn’t the time to be macho and prove your self-reliance. Use a mounting block or stool to mount, and don’t be afraid to lean on your wrangler for assistance. Put your left foot in the left stirrup and slowly swing your leg over the horse, keeping your weight in your feet until you feel settled. Then slowly ease down into the saddle.
3. Steer Clear: Trail horses are accustomed to being guided. Think of your rein as a joystick. Move the rein to the left if you want your ride to veer left. Direct the rein to the right and your horse’s head will follow. When it’s time to slow down or stop, pull back on the reins while pushing your heels down. Remember, this isn’t your stick-shift – be clear but gentle with your motions.
4. Speak Up: Tell your guide if you ever feel nervous or hesitant. Horses easily pick up human emotions, so keeping a relaxed composure makes for the smoothest ride.
5. Listen Well: Like most native Texans, the wranglers at Southfork Ranch were riding horses long before they ever put their hands on a steering wheel. Pay close attention to the riding course at the beginning of your trail experience. It’s also important to follow your guide’s instructions as you traverse the trail.
Horseback riding is a rewarding experience. According to a Texas A&M study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science, riding a horse for about 45 minutes burns up to 200 calories. The activity can also improve your coordination, core muscle strength and balance – not to mention helping you relax and enjoy the scenery. Whether you remember watching Sue Ellen ride a horse for the first time or you’re a new Dallas fan, spending a Day on the Ranch is the next best thing to having been on the show yourself. CLICK HERE to book a horseback excursion at the iconic Southfork Ranch.