50 Great Escapes: Riding Vacations

When you're ready for memorable R&R, a vacation that involves horses can be just what the fun-doctor ordered.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Zzzzzz.

That sound you hear is that of time passing by and of you, worn out by the daily grind and put to sleep by the notion of yet another “stay-cation” spent at home catching up on chores. Is that going to put snapshots in your scrapbook or be something the kids remember fondly for life? Not likely!

Before another year gets away with no getaway, why not rekindle life’s fun factor by going on a vacation trip based on your love for horses? There are lots of ways to make that happen and plenty of price-point options.

As proof, we rounded up details on 50 great escapes that range from across the country and around the world to just down the road a piece. Tip: Many of the vacations presented here will allow you to bring your own horse, so if that interests you, be sure to inquire about it when you find a listing that sounds like it’s up your alley.

With eight categories to pick from in this article and multiple locales named within each, you can go on 50 vicarious vacations right now. Send us a postcard from the one you pick!

Cattle Drive/Cowboy Work
Help real ranch hands drive and sort cattle, plus perform other ranch chores. Don’t forget to bring your chaps.

Appeal: If you’ve always wanted to cowboy up, here’s your chance to try your hand at traditional ranch chores?up to and including cattle drives?on veteran, well-behaved cow ponies. Tip: Inquire about seasonal opportunities; cattle drives typically take place in the spring and fall.

Offered by: McGinnis Meadows Cattle & Guest Ranch in Libby, northwest Montana. Polish your skills with Buck Brannaman-influenced horsemanship coaching, then practice cattle sorting, cutting, and ranch penning on talented horses. You can also ride trails, plus help with colt gentling in the spring.

More info: mmgranch.net; (406) 293-5000.

CALIFORNIA. Hunewill Guest Ranch, Bridgeport. Try the Big Fall Cattle Gather; the Hunewill (pronounced “honeywell”) was established in 1861 by Napoleon Bonaparte Hunewill. hunewillranch.com; (760) 932-7710.

COLORADO. Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, Loveland. Learn about low-impact rotational grazing as you help ranch hands move and work Red Saler cows and calves. sylvandale.com; (877) 667-3999.

MISSOURI. RS Ranch Gaited Getaways, Bourbon. Ride one of the ranch’s Missouri Fox Trotters or bring your own horse to help out on a 500-acre ranch that still uses draft horses to perform heavy work. rsranchtrailrides.com; (573) 732-4590.

OHIO. Smoke Rise Ranch, Glouster. Participate in cattle drives, team penning, cutting, and guided trail rides, plus enjoy pool parties, music, and dancing deep in the Hocking Hills. smokeriseranch.com; (800) 292-1732.

TEXAS. Running-R Guest Ranch, Bandera. Play cowhand in the Texas Hill Country; the Running-R adjoins a 5,500-acre state natural area with over 40 miles of trails. rrranch.com; (830) 796-3984.

Resort Luxury With Horses
Pamper yourself at a handsome facility offering multiple actives, deluxe accommodations, and fine dining.

Appeal: Vacation at a multi-purpose resort, and the non- riding members of your family will have plenty to do, such as fish, swim, play golf, go touring?or spend a relaxing after- noon at the spa. Tip: Be prepared to open your wallet; resorts, especially the most luxurious ones, can be pricey.

Offered by: Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa, Lajitas, Texas. This full-service resort’s equestrian center offers riding lessons and trail rides through the desert mountains bordering Mexico. Its extracurricular activities include 18-hole championship golf; fossil explorations and bird-watching expeditions; and historical tours of Lajitas, where Comanche Indians and Pancho Villa once roamed.

More info: lajitasgolfresort.com; (432) 424-5000.

ARIZONA. Rancho de los Caballeros, Wickenburg. Ride all week and never see the same trail twice, or try your hand at team penning; other activities include tennis, golf, and trap/ skeet shooting. sunc.com; (928) 684-5484.

CALIFORNIA. Alisal Guest Ranch, Solvang. Trail ride over 10,000 acres in the heart of Santa Barbara wine country, or play golf on a course designed in 1956 by the legendary Billy Bell, Jr. alisal.com; (805) 688-4215.

COLORADO. Devil’s Thumb Ranch, Tabernash. Explore trails on 5,000 acres of privately owned wilderness, then luxuriate at the nature-based spa and in a lavish private cabin or cozy lodge room. devilsthumbranch.com; (800) 933-4339. NEW YORK. Rocking Horse Ranch, Highland. Ride with confidence on a trail ride matched to your ability; kids will love the indoor water park?with 250-foot water slide. rhranch.com; (800) 647-2624.

NORTH CAROLINA. Pisgah View Ranch, Candler. See the Blue Ridge Mountains on horseback, mountain bike, or foot; enjoy nightly entertainment and games from horseshoes to volleyball. pisgahviewranch.net; (866) 252-8361.

WYOMING. Red Reflet Guest Ranch, Ten Sleep. Help with the working-ranch chores or ride out on the range, then retreat to a deluxe chalet with private hot tub and stocked wine cooler. red-reflet-ranch.net; (866) 766-2340.

Equine Events With Extras
For competitors and spectators, equine events have stepped outside the arena for supplemental fun.

Appeal: Whether you’re a competitor, a family member of a competitor, or a hard-core fan, you can partake of activities outside the arena and enjoy some horse action, too. Tip: If you’re a competitor, get your entries in early to these events, leaving adequate time for your family or friends to make their arrangements to join you.

Offered by: The Painted Pony Championship Rodeo, Lake Luzerne, New York. This historic outdoor summer rodeo runs three nights a week, July through Labor Day weekend. Treat yourself to Texas-style barbecue before the performance, and then dance your boots off at the Longhorn Saloon afterward. Nearby Lake George offers numerous horse-centric vacation spots to round out the rest of your trip.

More info: paintedponyrodeo.com; (518) 696-2421.

MASSACHUSETTS. Equine Affaire Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield. November 10-13, 2011. Clinics by the top educators in the business, unbelievable shopping, and more learning opportunities than you can imagine make this event (and its brethren in California and Ohio) a great event for the entire family. equineaffaire.com/massachusetts; (740) 845-0085.

NEVADA. High-Roller Reining Classic, Las Vegas. September 11-17, 2011. On top of seeing the top horse-and-rider pairs compete in futurity and derby classes (and maybe even competing yourself), enjoy all the nightlife Las Vegas offers?family-style or not. highrollerreiningclassic.com; (623) 465-1571.

OHIO. The All American Quarter Horse Congress, Columbus. October 7-30, 2011. The shopping alone makes this event a must-see, and special lectures, high-stakes futurity classes, and other showcases will fill your itinerary. oqha.com; (740) 943-2346.

OREGON. Northwest Reined Cow Horse Association Summer Showdown, Bend. July 12-18, 2011. Set at a five-star resort, this horse show includes a pre-futurity and derby, a full slate of NRCHA classes, a cow horse leadline class, a golf tournament (exhibitors/sponsors only), and numerous after-show activities?including a waterpark, a spa, and shopping. nwrcha.com, brasada.com; (206) 390-0715 (show information), (888) 701-2987 (lodging).

Easy-Does-It Horse Camping
Take your horse on an overnight getaway with amenities that cut the hassle and discomfort of having to rough it.

Appeal: By staying in a cabin or bringing your own living-quarters rig and hooking up, you can get a change of scenery and fresh trails to ride without going fully primitive. Tip: Get specifics about corrals or other horse accommodations offered, to be sure they’re a good match for your horse’s needs.

Offered by: Lakeview Plantation Equestrian Escapes, Fairfax, South Carolina. Rent a lodge room or full-service RV site, then ride to your heart’s content on 3,000 private acres. Catered meals are available.

More info: lakeviewplantation.com; (803) 584-0689.

INDIANA. Midwest Trail Ride, Norman. Options range from campsites with electricity to deluxe log cabins with air-conditioning and heat. midwestrailride.com; (812) 834-6686.

ILLINOIS. Hayes Canyon Campground, Shawnee National Forest, Eddyville. Pay just $28/night for a full-hookup RV site and pens for up to four horses, and ride a 180,000-acre national forest known for its rock formations. hayescanyon .com; (618) 672-4651.

NORTH CAROLINA. Turkey Creek Cove Cabins & Horse Camp, Clyde. Savor the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains with a cozy, fully equipped log cabin as your base. turkeycreekcabins.com; (770) 862-4833.

OKLAHOMA. Horse Heaven Ranch, Talihina. Stay at a modern RV campsite or in a luxury cabin with its own barn, then cruise trails in the Ouachita National Forest or ride in the ranch’s arena. horseheavenresort.com; (800) 514-6773.

SOUTH DAKOTA. Broken Arrow Horse Camp, Custer. Ride the famed Black Hills from a new horse camp that features full RV hookups, covered horse pens, chuckwagon meals, and nightly ice cream socials. brokenarrowhorse camp.com; (605) 673-4471.

VIRGINIA. High Country Horse Camp, LLC, Troutdale. Camp at Virginia’s highest peak, Mt. Rogers, with a covered stall or tie line for your horse; indulge in a staff-cooked breakfast or steak dinner. campingfriend.com/high countryhorsecamp; (276) 388-3982.

Family vacations, from those close to home to road-trip travel destinations, are the things childhood memories are made of.

Appeal: Whether it’s Grandma and Grandpa taking the kids for a long weekend trip or a lengthy family road trip or a large family reunion, kid-friendly vacations involving horses can be fun for the entire group. And they don’t have to cost a fortune. Non-horse activities are often easily accessible to keep the non-riders busy, too. Tip: Many of these require bringing your own horse, so be sure to inquire about rental horses if you’d rather leave the trailer, feed, and tack at home.

Offered by: Spur of the Moment Ranch, Mountain, Wisconsin. You’ll find almost every camping situation possible here, from rustic cabins with a bathhouse to living-quarters plug-ins to modern cabins with satellite TV. 60 miles of multipurpose trails and the 600,000-acre Nicolet National Forest offer plenty of area to explore horseback (or otherwise). Fifteen paddock areas and 19 box stalls ensure that your horse is comfy, too. Plan your trip around one of the specialty weekends that include cooking lessons and meals prepared by a local chef.

More info: spurofthemomentranch.org; (800) 644-8783.

INDIANA. Rawhide Ranch, Nashville. Make this a family trip, or send the kids to one of the camps?horse, photography, and art camps are tailored to the younger set. rawhideranchusa.com; (888) 947-2624.

MISSOURI. Brushy Creek Lodge and Resort, Black. Explore Mark Twain National Forest in the eastern Ozarks, enjoy a meal at the Trail’s End Restaurant, and then rest in a furnished cabin or your own camper. brushycreeklodge.com; (573) 269-4743.

NEW YORK. The Crosspatch, Salamanca. Explore Cattaraugus County across miles of trails, and enjoy family-style activities like wagon rides, chuckwagon supper shows, and more. thecrosspatch.com; (716) 938-6313.

OHIO. Ben’s Happy Trails Riding Stable and Campground, Otway. Schedule your visit over a weekend featuring a pig roast or an event sponsored by the American Competitive Trail Horse Association. benshappytrails.com; (740) 372-2702.

OKLAHOMA. A to Z Guest Ranch, Smithville. Bring your own horse or use one of theirs to enjoy 150 miles of trails in the Kiamichi Mountains. atozguestranch.com; (580) 244-3729.

International Adventure
Grab your passport and seize the chance to ride in a country and culture other than your own.

Appeal: Whether over a border or over an ocean, a trip to ride on foreign soil (and sample another horse culture) generates memories to last a lifetime. Tip: Bring an open mind, because the way horse things are done in another country might very well be quite different from what you’re used to.

Offered by: Travel By Carmen, to the eastern coast of Australia. Join an Olympic equestrian and his fun-loving Aussie guides to explore the sights, sounds, and wildlife to be found in the land Down Under.

More info: travelbycarmen.com; (800) 780-8841.

ARGENTINA. Patagonia Pioneers Ride. Book a seven-day trip into pristine wilderness, and challenge yourself by riding and camping in the Andes. highpointetours.com; (561) 350-1230.

CANADA. Saddle Peak Trail Rides, Alberta, between Calgary and Banff. See the splendor of the Canadian Rockies with horseback riding by the hour, day, or week. saddlepeak.com; (403) 932-3299.

IRELAND. Equitrekking’s Kerry Mountains and Beaches Ride, Killarney. Southwestern Ireland’s Ring of Kerry is famous for its mountains, lakes, and golden beaches; reach them by horseback and stay at bed-and-breakfasts or small hotels. equitrekkingtravel.com; (877) 490-7786.

MEXICO. Equitour’s Relaxed Cavalcade Ride, Valle de Bravo, 21?2 hours from Mexico City. Go on guided scenic rides in the mornings (afternoons, too, if you like), then kick back to shop local markets, go on a boat ride, get a massage, take a salsa dance lesson, or feast on authentic Mexican cuisine. ridingtours.com; (800) 545-0019.

Guided Pack Trip
Travel by horse or mule with pack animals to set up camp somewhere in the heart of Mother Nature.

Appeal: A pack trip with guide and wranglers mixes roughing it with essential comforts, creates camaraderie, and remains one of the only means to experience wilderness and other remote (often restricted) areas in a firsthand way. Tip: Book early, as this is a small-group sort of vacation and openings fill up fast.

Offered by: Bitterroot Ranch, Dubois, Wyoming. Like most places with wilderness access, this ranch is far off the beaten track, sitting in a valley south of Yellowstone National Park. The ranch’s Fox family has been taking guests into untamed parts of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for nearly 40 years.

More info: bitterrootranch.com; (800) 545-0019.

ALBERTA. Anchor D Guiding & Outfitting, Black Diamond. Spend up to seven days riding and camping in the Canadian Rockies, with wilderness wranglers, a camp cook, and experienced mountain horses at your disposal. anchord.com; (403) 933-2867.

CALIFORNIA. Red’s Meadow Pack Station, Mammoth Lakes. Ride and camp in the eastern high Sierra, and see such wonders as Yosemite and the Ansel Adams Wilderness. redsmeadow.com; (800) 292-7758.

COLORADO. OutWest Guides, LLC, Marble. See amazing wildlife and stay in a wall-tent camp on a trip into the past. outwestguides.com; (970) 963-5525.

IDAHO. Triple “O” Outfitters, Inc., operations based about 65 miles west of Missoula, Montana. Traverse part of the ancient Nez Perce trail also used by explorers Lewis and Clark, or create a custom trip elsewhere in the Bitterroot National Forest. tripleooutfitters.com; (208) 610-1492.

MONTANA. Swan Mountain Outfitters, Swan Lake. See the magnificent Bob Marshall Wilderness (near Glacier National Park) with Montana’s largest horse-based outfitter. swanmountainoutfitters.com; (800) 919-4416.

OREGON. Del Sol Wilderness Adventures, Lostine. Ride and marvel at the high-country splendor of the Eagle Cap and Hell’s Canyon Wilderness areas, often called “the American Alps.” delsolwildernessadventures.com; (541) 398-0340.

UTAH. Hondoo Rivers & Trails, Capitol Reef National Park, Torrey. Customize a small-group trip into the pastel limestone canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau. hondoo.com; (800) 332-2696.

Historical Rides
Experience history on horseback in some of the most picturesque scenery in the U.S.

Appeal: Pair a look into a turning point in U.S. history with scenic landscapes and hours in the saddle, and you’re sure to get an unforgettable trip. Whether you ride a provided horse or bring your own, you get important historical perspective with a knowledgeable local guide. Tip: Get familiar with an area’s seasonal weather patterns so you aren’t caught unprepared with inappropriate clothing.

Offered by: Artillery Ridge, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. With the closest campground to the battlefield, stalls and turnout for horses, and a trusty team of their own mounts, Artillery Ridge’s guides will show you Gettysburg’s battlefields from the vantage point of the cavalry who fought there.

More info: artilleryridge.com;(717)334-1288.

ARIZONA. Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Ride, Tombstone. This five-day historic ride shadows Wyatt Earp and his posse’s trail of retribution against the cowboy faction, concluding with the annual “Helldorado Days” event. great-american-adventures.com; (505) 286-4585.

IDAHO. Lewis and Clark Trail, Kamiah. Ride 12 miles of trail accessible only by livestock, where camping includes such luxuries as hot showers and tasty backcountry cooking. idahooutfitter.com; (888) 983-9378.

MICHIGAN. Mackinac Island, Lake Huron. Enjoy carriage rides around the island as the main mode of transportation while soaking up 19th-century architecture; trail ride through the scenic state park. cindysridingstable.com; (906) 847-3572.

MISSOURI to CALIFORNIA. Pony Express National Historic Trail Re-Ride, St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. Apply to ride a portion of the famous trail aboard your own mount on the non-stop, 10-day relay ride across the West. xphomestation.com; (530) 644-7439.

NEW MEXICO. Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Gila National Forest. Ride through Ponderosa forests and deep-walled canyons to Geronimo’s birthplace and ancient cliff dwellings. geronimoranch.com; (575) 772-5157.

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