For some, horseback riding through the Rocky Mountains surrounded by breathtaking views is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For Royce Olsen (Business Administration 2019), it’s just another day, but it’s another day of living out his dream.
Royce owns and operates Waterton River Trail Rides, located on the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park. Visitors travel from around the world to experience this slice of Alberta for themselves in the only way it can truly be appreciated – from the back of a horse. Royce’s horses are experts in their own right and quietly carry riders through wildflower gardens in the open prairies, splash through the Waterton River and wander along the Elk Ridge Summit. And, although guests are now led by one of six guides on one of more than 30 horses, Waterton River Trail Rides originally began with just Royce and seven horses.
Royce grew up on a ranch near Waterton and has ridden horses his entire life, so the idea of riding horses for a living made perfect sense. And so, eight years ago, he started his business.
“When I started, I already had a herd of horses I had trained, so I thought ‘well, I’ve got the horses, I’ve got the location and I’ve got the desire to do this – so let’s do it,’” says Royce. He jumped headfirst into the business, which quickly gained clientele through word of mouth. But it was when he started in the Business Administration program at Lethbridge College that his business began to quickly grow. Royce attended college during the school year and would run trail rides throughout the summer months, taking what he’d learned in class and applying it first-hand to his business. His marketing classes helped him get the word out about Waterton River Trail Rides, and his accounting classes were able to show him exactly how successful his business was.
“It was nice to be able to go to Lethbridge College while running my business,” he says. “I was able to put everything that I was learning right into my business, and that went a long way in building a strong foundation.”
He explains how understanding the many aspects of starting and running a business were supported by his instructors who were always willing to answer questions, whether it was for a school assignment or for Waterton River Trail Rides.
“The connections that I made at the college are priceless,” says Royce. “There are even a couple of instructors who I would consider close friends and mentors that I can go to on occasion for guidance.”
With several rides running every weekend from May to October, a full team of staff, a herd of horses and repeat customers making up at least 50 per cent of his client base, it’s clear Royce’s business is thriving.
“At the end of the day, I’m doing what I love – riding horses and meeting new people,” he says. And, despite riding the same routes every day, he notes that it’s the people who keep every day interesting and unique. “It makes my day when I see other people enjoying the rides and what I’m offering,” he says. “When I see that they had a good time and created memories that will last a lifetime, it makes it all very fulfilling in the end.”
To learn more about Waterton River Trail Rides, or to book your next vacation, visit www.watertonrivertrailrides.com.