Dream Rides: Horse Vacations

Planning your next vacation? For the trip of a lifetime, consider a destination where horses are one of the attractions.

Your dream vacation could be a cattle drive, City Slickers style. Or following the outlaw trail of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Wyoming. Or a stay at a dude ranch with your very own horse-for-a-week. It could be learning to jump fences at a Club Med in St. Lucia or Mexico. Or an inn-to-inn ride in Europe. The possibilities are endless, and there are rides to fit every budget.

When it comes to equestrian vacations the possibilities are endless. (Adobe Stock)

For spectators

For those in interested in a different kind of adventure, there are spectator trips to major events. These include racing classics like Australia’s Melbourne Cup, France’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and England’s Grand National. Horse shows like the Dublin Horse Show, England’s Badminton Horse Trials and the World Equestrian Games. There are also polo’s United States Open or Argentine Open championships, or the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. It’s even possible to arrange an escorted “behind the scenes” visit to stud farms, training yards and racetracks in the U.S. and United Kingdom.

Amenities

If you like to end your day with a hot tub and gourmet meal, you’re not alone, says Coloradan Dave Wiggins. He spent more than 20 years building his American Wilderness Experience into a major booking agency, then merged it with the online adventure travel giant, GORP.com, www.gorp.com.

“In the 1970s, adventure travel was considered an Outward Bound kind of thing, eating bugs and bark and climbing a peak-really roughing it,” says Wiggins. “In the mid-1980s we adopted an A.W.E. trademark, “The civilized way to rough it.’ That helped us focus on the kind of adventure travel people want today, vacations with some luxuries and amenities.”

Riding vacation companies

Bayard and Mel Fox offer a variety of equestrian adventures for all levels of riders through Equitour, www.ridingtours.com, which is based at their Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming. The couple has been organizing riding trips for about 30 years. They started by taking ranch guests to Kenya. Equitour now offers seven different rides in Africa, as well as more than 50 other areas of the world.

Ron Warner of Warner Guiding and Outfitting, www.horseback.com, confines his trips to one corner of Canada, but what a corner it is-the Canadian Rockies. Warner grew up on a ranch near Calgary and has been introducing guests to the glories of Banff National Park for nearly 40 years. He bought out other outfitters so that he has an exclusive on the park. The scenery on all the trips is extraordinary. Creature comforts vary from lodge-to-lodge rides to “Adventure Expeditions” that involve camping.

Island style

If you want a beach vacation, you can leave hoofprints in the sand in places like California, Bermuda, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Ireland or Greece.

Club Med, www.clubmed.com, offers horseback riding in 19 of its villages around the world. It has developed instructional programs in several locations, including the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

Resorts

Many resorts offer horseback riding. West Virginia’s Greenbrier Hotel, www.greenbrier.com has horses for lessons and trail riding on 18 miles of paths through 6,500 acres. The 200-year-old hotel has a full range of activities for non-riders. And a world-famous spa sure to soothe the pain of tired riders.

Virginia’s The Homestead, www.thehomestead.com, has 100 miles of trails, instruction at all levels, and competitive trail riding. There are also accommodations for guests’ horses.

El Encanto allows you to experience the beauty of Costa Rica on horseback. And you can stay at El Encanto’s sister resort El Lugar for even more luxury.

Personal mounts welcome

Personal mounts are also welcome at Vermont’s Mountain Top Inn, www.mountaintopinn.com, which offers instruction and more than 80 miles of scenic trails, plus a full complement of resort activities.

California’s San Ysidro Ranch, www.sanysidroranch.com, in the hills above Santa Barbara, has 540 acres of canyon riding and accommodations for guests and their horses.

In Florida, the Grand Cypress Resort, www.grandcypress.com, hosts shows and clinics at its extensive equestrian center, and offers instruction in dressage, hunt seat and Western riding.

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