I dare you to... go horseback riding

When you close your eyes and drum up images of quintessential San Diego, it's usually the beaches and ocean breezes that come to mind.

Certainly not horses. Definitely not dirt trails and cavernous valleys.

The Ranch at Bandy Canyon is not a place that I knew of before embarking on this story, but it's a place that I'm so glad to know now.

Driving 40 minutes from downtown San Diego into Escondido , The Ranch isn't far, but it feels worlds away from our congested city streets. This charming destination was where my next dare in this series of ongoing adventures took me, and where I fell in love with a new man: Romeo, a four-legged, chocolate-colored horse.

The Ranch at Bandy Canyon features a full-service equestrian facility with 30 horses. Group or private lessons are available, as well as standard trail rides through Bandy Canyon.

I walked onto the ranch sporting the closest thing I own to cowboy boots to meet the equestrian team leaders. Brittney Emmel, whose official title is "wrangler," would be my guide for the day. She led me over to Romeo, a brown beauty of a beast.

The one thing that the team wants each guest to leave with is that riding and owning a horse isn't all just leisurely strolls through flower-covered meadows. There's work involved. So with the smell of horse droppings overwhelming my senses, Brittney handed me a brush and told me to get started.

She showed me the grooming methods they use to beautify the horses. Much like a spa day, I first exfoliated Romeo ("You're welcome," I whispered), then brushed his little coarse hairs down in one direction. While I was working away, she taught me some other equestrian keys: Always stand on the left side of the horse, never go directly behind them, and hooves need serious cleaning, too.

The Ranch at Bandy Canyon

Address: 16251 Bandy Canyon Rd., Escondido
Phone: (760) 871-6494
Online: bandycanyon.com
Price: Trail rides: $75 per person. Lessons: $35 group or $70 private.

After tacking on the saddle and making sure Romeo was suited up properly, we walked over to the arena where I hopped (well ... flung) on.

We were off! Romeo and I trotted around the enclosed arena as Brittney had us cross a few obstacles to test my steering abilities and improve our communication. We were one; the riding felt easy and relaxed.

After a few more rounds of trotting in the arena, Brittney led us around The Ranch, circling past the 15 quaint cabins that outline the property's perimeter, where guests can stay the night. I toured the charming lawns where brides and grooms frequently tie the knot and families celebrate milestones. All in all, The Ranch spans over 144 acres in the heart of the San Pasqual Valley.

Guests interested in riding can enjoy 60-minute trail rides through Bandy Canyon, where a seemingly endless web of trails provide ample possibilities for exploration. Group lessons are also available for beginner to intermediate-level riders, ages 6 or older. You can also board horses at The Ranch or lease them, which means you care for and work the horse three to four days per week at their facility.

ICYMI:

Do you have a dare for me? Send an email to michelle.dederko@... with subject line "I dare you"

Or dare me in a Tweet! @michelledederko

Source: DiscoverSD

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