Elkhorn Ranch Arizona
If you’re looking to ride under sunny skies this winter, head 50 miles southwest of Tucson to historic Elkhorn Ranch, a family run dude ranch that’s been welcoming guests since 1946. Travelers rave about the attention to detail and small group setting provided by the owners, the Miller Family. Trail rides are kept small, so you can more intimately enjoy the craggy mountains, canyons and desert landscapes teeming with cactus, mesquite bushes and colourful birds. You’ll eat hearty ranch meals and stay in rustic, clean casitas at this southwestern dude ranch. Recently voted one of Equitrekking’s Top 20 Ranches, this is a great place for true horse lovers to unplug from modern life, relax and ride.
More info: www.top20ranches.com/best-dude-ranches/elkhorn-arizona-dude-ranch
Half Moon Resort Jamaica
Ever wanted to swim with your horse in the ocean? Having done it myself, I know it can be an awesome experience. At Half Moon Resort in Jamaica, you can mix riding lessons in basic dressage, more advanced jumping or polo with a beach ride and hit the waves on horseback. Half Moon is a luxury resort with a heftier vacation price tag, but if you’re looking to mix a Caribbean island experience with horses, this is a good splurge. For non-riders, there are plenty of resort activities and amenities, including the spa, several pools, golf, a Dolphin Lagoon, fitness center and more. With a high percentage of repeat guests and tropical setting, this luxury riding retreat stands out.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/jamaica_horse_riding_resort/
Double E Ranch New Mexico
I was able to saddle up at this Southwestern working ranch for Cowgirl Camp, an all women’s adventure where you can barrel race, drive cattle, rope and ride, ride, ride. This ranch is remote, located by the rugged Gila National Forest. There’s no pool or spa here. This is a place to discover a working ranch experience and best for people with some riding experience. In addition to Cowgirl Camps, there are also round-ups, rides to Native ruins, colt starting, mounted shooting and more. An added benefit, your hosts, Debbie and Alan Eggleston may inspire you with their own story of leaving their corporate jobs to fulfill their dream of owning a ranch.
More info: www.top20ranches.com/best-dude-ranches/double-e-ranch-new-mexico-dude-ranch
Rancho Las Cascadas Mexico
Another great destination with sunny skies and the added benefit of serving great margaritas is Rancho Las Cascadas, an Equitrekking Top 20 Ranch located in San Agustin Buenavista, Mexico. About 1-1/2 hours from the Mexico International Airport, this Mexican country-style ranch has sure-footed horses to take you galloping to colonial towns, colourful markets, rugged mountains, waterfalls, sprawling farmland and countryside. You could stay weeks and not cover all of the trails available to equestrians here. The ranch boasts an infinity pool and hot tub for soaking after a long day on the trails. Non-riding friends will have plenty of non-horsey things to do at the ranch and nearby, including excursions to Teotihuacan ruins, local swimming holes and festive markets.
More info: www.top20ranches.com/best-dude-ranches/rancho-las-cascadas-mexico-ranch-vacation
Southern Cross Guest Ranch Georgia
Oozing with Southern charm and around 200 Paint and Quarter horses, Southern Cross Guest Ranch is another great horse lover’s winter vacation destination. This dude ranch is located about an hour from the Atlanta Airport in the historic town of Madison, known for its antebellum homes. You can get as involved with the horses as you wish while staying here. They’ll let you catch and groom your horse or do it for you. This ranch offers something unique to North American dude ranches, the opportunity to ride your horse unguided. They’ve only had one guest get really lost in the years that they’ve been entrusting riders with their horses, but he worked hard to get off the trail and was eventually found and led back to the ranch. The food here is also a standout with dishes like peach-puff pancakes and fresh baked Swiss rolls. There’s also a pool, Jacuzzi and game room for time out of the saddle.
More info: www.equitrekking.com/equestrian_vacations/destination/southern_cross_guest_ranch/
Costa Rica Horse Riding Vacations Costa Rica
Hot springs, beaches, rainforests, cloud forests, wildlife and warm temperatures lure many horse enthusiasts to ride in Costa Rica. On my travels there to film for Equitrekking, I was surprised at just how many howler monkeys, colourful birds and even frogs that I was able to see, causing me to recommend Costa Rica as a must visit destination for riders who want to view wildlife from on horseback. There are a variety of riding vacation options in Costa Rica including a Coast to Coast Riding Vacation for intermediate to advanced level riders, a Costa Rica Explorer vacation to Arenal Volcano, stunning river canyons, and volcanic sand beaches. You’ll want to be in riding shape for many of these adventures as you average four to six hours in the saddle each day, but with so much to see, you’ll probably want to extend your stay.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/costa_rica_equestrian_adventures/
Uruguay Beach & Coastal Trail Uruguay
If you love beach riding, this trip is a great option, as the Rocha Coast by the border of Brazil in Uruguay, has wide, sandy tracks that are great for horse riding. I was able to gallop these shores on this trip with gauchos (Uruguay’s cowboys) while filming for Equitrekking. Along this trip, you stay in a variety of estancias and hotels. By staying in the estancias, you get a great feel for life in this small, South American country and get to meet the locals, something I love about traveling on horseback. You’ll likely ride Criollo or Criollo mix horses, a South American breed, which are adept at conquering the beaches, woodlands, wetlands and palm groves through which you’ll ride. I liked the variety that this riding holiday offers, as you see a lot of the country, including the capital city, Montevideo. If you like meat, you will really like the grass fed beef that is popular throughout Uruguay. Don’t miss trying Chivito, a decadent meal of French Fries, beef, mozzarella, hard boiled eggs and more. You’ll definitely need to work it off with lots of horse riding.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/uruguays_beach_coastal_trail/
Wadi Rum Desert Jordan
Jordan is a good pick if you are an adventurous rider who wants to experience history, Bedouin culture and desert scenery. I was a little intimidated at first to ride Arabian horses in the vast Wadi Rum Desert with the Bedouin, but after a few hours, was confidently cantering and galloping where the footing allowed. This is a varied desert with beautiful canyons, petroglyphs, and surprising wildlife. If you’ve seen the film “Lawrence of Arabia,” you may be familiar with some of the scenery in the Wadi Rum, as much of it was filmed in the desert. This is a progressive camping trip, where the scenery changes daily, as you are actually moving through the desert. On my trip, I also ventured to the Dead Sea for a float and magical Petra, an option for the Jordan riding holidays. For more ambitious riders, you can actually ride from Petra to the Wadi Rum Desert, a 10 day trek.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/jordan_bedouin_trek_classic_tour/
Spain Dressage Training & Trails Spain
If you want to canter on the beach or have ever dreamt of riding through a field of sunflowers, head to Southern Spain. I’ve been twice to ride in Donana National Park and take lessons in dressage at this British Horse Society approved riding centre right outside of Seville. The horses are well trained, having worked with equestrian Olympian Rafael Soto and Vivi Garcia, who studied at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. There are also good facilities for riders who want brush up on their skills, including an Olympic-sized dressage arena, two additional rings, a jumping arena, a cross country course, and beautiful countryside and trails. As someone who craves Spanish food and culture, I also really liked the tapas on this trip and the side trips to see the dancing horses at the Royal School in Jerez and flamenco dancing in Seville.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/spain_training_trail_riding/
Maui and the Big Island Equestrian Escapes Hawaii
The great part of horse riding Hawaii is that you can incorporate a short ride into your vacation or ride at different destinations daily both on Maui and the Big Island. Maui has one of my favourite horse rides into stunning Haleakala Volcano and organized rides on a ranch in the Upcountry at Piiholo Ranch. On the Big Island, you can gallop up hills with the Pacific Ocean at your back at historic Kahua Ranch or head deep into remote Waipi’o Valley, the Valley of the Kings, where waterfalls and green fields of taro are abundant. If you are seeking varied rides, both islands have great picks. Just be prepared to do a little driving to get from ranch to ranch. I put together a self-drive vacation for horse lovers on these islands, but you can also book each ride yourself and enjoy luaus, great resorts and awesome seafood.
More info: www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/hawaiis_big_island_equestrian_vacation/ http://www.equitrekkingtravel.com/destinations/view/maui_equestrian_vacation_self_drive/
Cold Canadian winters making you want to head south for fun in the sun? There are a variety of choices for winter horse riding vacations, ranging from Southwestern ranches to Caribbean resorts to Jordanian desert camps. As I continue to ride the world and talk to travelers who are seeking places where they can travel as a single person, in a group or with their children, I catalog great destinations for people of all riding abilities with a multitude of tastes.
Check out these 10 great, varied places to saddle up on vacation this winter and giddy-up the winter blues away.