Recently I was watching a re-run of an old television series that I remember my parents watching avidly when I was a child. It was set in the Wild West and every week the heroes had to deal with hold-ups by bandits, Indian attacks or rescuing damsels in distress, with the odd gold-rush thrown in for good measure. With only two TV channels to choose from during my English childhood we tended to get hooked into these great escapades from the wide open spaces of America.

It got me thinking back to the time when almost every day there was a programme on television that had something to do with the Wild West and the cowboys that inhabited these distant lands. Who can forget the adventures of the Cartwright family in the long-running series Bonanza, problems of the cattle drovers (Clint Eastwood included) in Rawhide, pioneers in Wagon Train and the inhabitants of the Shiloh Ranch in The Virginian.

Due to the popularity of these programmes producers began to recognise other markets and with the concept of tea-time programmes aimed specifically at children, the TV western for children was born. Every week we would settle down into a landscape that was alien to us and we became immersed in the characters portrayed on the screen.

One of my favourites was Casey Jones, he was the engine driver of the ‘Cannonball Express’ working on the Midwest and Central Railroad, encountering (and outwitting) the usual troublemakers of bandits and Indians to get his passengers through.

I never missed an episode of The Lone Ranger, the eponymous hero and his sidekick Native American, Tonto, showed that injustice could be fought under a united front of native and settler. The programme always ended with the cry, from the Lone Ranger to his horse of, ‘Hi-yo, Silver away’ and of course the unforgettable strains of the William Tell Overture.

One boy’s devotion to his horse in My Friend Flicka captured the imaginations of all the kids who only had pretend horses in their childhood games of ‘Cowboys and Indians’. We used to ‘gallop’ up and down, holding imaginary reins and spurring on our steeds by slapping our thighs with the hand ‘not holding the reins’.

Of course there have been many westerns on film as well, making stars of people like John Wayne, Yul Brynner, Gary Cooper and the aforementioned Clint Eastwood.

Cowboy adventures are all well and good in fiction but what about experiencing the day-to-day life of a cowboy in real life. There was even a film about this where inexperienced drovers had to contend with all sorts of humorous events in City Slickers.

I don’t watch much television these days but I would imagine that such innocent adventures, in which good always overcame evil, would have little appeal for today’s sophisticated children. However I did discover that kids can see what it is like to live like a cowboy for a day by receiving a gift of an experience day covering exactly this area.

At the start of the day the kids join a small group of other wannabe cowboys and are introduced to the ponies thy will spend the rest of the day with, helping to tack-up will be the first task of the day.

A full-on shoot-out cannot be guaranteed but they will learn how to handle the pony ‘Western-style’ – this way of riding was developed by people who had to spend long hours in the saddle. From the saddle the kids can try their hands at roping a steer, in reality a stationary set of horns, but nevertheless requiring a certain amount of skill and coordination.

Lunch will be the good old cowboy standby of bangers and beans or something from the barbecue but not until the mounts have something to eat and drink in true cowboy style. Then maybe off on a trek into the surrounding countryside.

The day ends back at the ranch with the un-tacking of the ponies before giving them a thank you rub-down and turning them back into their field for the night. It’s possible the children are treated to a well-earned doughnut and hot-chocolate before heading off home into the proverbial sunset.

A kid’s cowboy experience is just one of the hundreds of interesting things to do at the weekend that can be purchased as a gift or for yourself from My Outdoor Store. Follow the link to discover our vast selection of days out ideas.

Author's Bio: 

Bruno Blackstone is a freelance writer interested in all things to do with the outdoors and helping others get the most from the outdoors. Starting with a psychology degree his early career was as a social worker and family therapist working with families to help them achieve more positive and stable relationships. In his more recent career he has coached many senior executives in both small and large organisations in areas such as strategy, human resources, organisational design and performance improvement. He now continues his work in the business world but he is also co-owner of My Outdoor Store a price comparison site for outdoor enthusiasts.