BY LYNN ARAVE
ANTELOPE ISLAND STATE PARK – This isn’t your standard nose-to-tail horse riding experience. At Antelope Island, the equestrian adventure is more like it was 165 years ago, when the first ranch was established on the largest island in the Great Salt Lake.
Horse riding here doesn’t follow any trail. It’s laid back and goes open range С in small groups С on high desert grasslands, with high odds of spotting wildlife.
Thanks to R & G Horse and Wagon of Ogden, the horse riding experience at Antelope, now in its 20th year, is a sought-after international visitor experience. Some locals too are exploring their backyard and are discovering Antelope Island by horseback.
“We’ll go for as long as people want to go,” said Ron Brown, owner of R &G. “This place is almost prehistoric looking and untouched land. It blows people away.”
All horses are led by expert wranglers and ride by reservation only. Brown said the most popular ride is two hours long and highlights the west side of Antelope Island, a pristine area that rivals the rugged beauty of any national park. Horse rides can be as short as one hour and go year-round, as the weather permits. In summer, because of high daytime temperatures, rides are only offered in the morning. Brown has conducted rides as long at three and a half hours. He’s also taken single riders out, or even just couples, for the ultimate in private experiences.
Riders must have good balance and be age 6 or older. There are no weight limits for riders and groups of eight are the largest offered. Standard prices are $50 an hour per person, and some discounts apply.
Rides begin at the historic Fielding Garr Ranch on the southwest side of the island, about 12 miles from the end of the causeway and the northeast tip of the island. The expanded adobe brick home at the ranch is the oldest pioneer structure in Utah that’s still upon its original foundation. Brown keeps 15 horses at the ranch’s stable.
“My office is 28,000 acres,” Brown said. “We make our rides personable.”
He said some of his foreign riders are stunned by the raw beauty of their experience range riding. Many Park city visitors now also horse ride on Antelope to balance their mountain experience with desert rangeland. The fact that the quiet, open island is only 8 miles from the populous Wasatch Front is also surprising.
Brown’s company is named with the first letters of the first names of himself and his wife, Ginger. If there’s a Roy Rogers horseman in Utah, it’s Brown. He has a horse training and show legacy that dates back to 1974-76, when he and Ginger performed a Roman-style act in a wild west show in a New Jersey theme park. That’s also when they met and worked with some of America’s best horse trainers of Hollywood.
“Horses are my best friends,” Brown said.
The Browns have wrangled horses for various religious movies and for the Hallmark Channel. Their horses have appeared in various commercials and such movies as, “Far and Away,” “Donner Party” and “Stranger of My Land.”
Other roles their horses have had include: Copper in “Far and Away,” “Buck and Blackie in “The Postman,” and Moe and Bob in KBYU’s “The Sacred Stone.”
Smoke, Shilo, Shorty and PJ also appeared in “Return to Lonesome Dove” and “Geronimo.”
Retired Weber County public school teachers, the Browns rely on family for operation of the company. Their sons, Ryan, Lonnie and Michael, Uncle Clyde Hancock, Cousin Sharon and her husband Gary Mahas, and others anchor their team.
“It’s mostly a family business,” Brown said.
For a horseback riding reservation, call 801-774-8200 or 1-888-878-8002.
For more information on R & G Horse and Wagon, call 801-726-9514, or e-mail info@randghorseand wagon.com.
(Note: There is a $9 park entrance/causeway fee per vehicle to access Antelope Island.)