Horse vacations have evolved from dusty guided trail rides on sleepy horses to a wide array of rides, drives, and equine-themed experiences and adventures. There have never been so many options for every budget.
Horse Vacation Destinations
The Resort at Paws Up
If horses and Montana sound like your dream come true, this is the place for you. Paws Up is an all-around deluxe resort with a rustic flair, and horses are right at the center of it.
Your family or friends will find plenty to do, but the horse enthusiasts in the group will have a tough time choosing between all the equine activities. You may want to soak up quiet time in your luxury safari-style “glamping” tent, if you choose to stay in one. You can also take a mini course in horse whispering, since Montana is where the film The Horse Whisperer was shot.
The horse crew at Paws Up may also have a few adopted Mustangs for you to meet. But your ultimate selfie moment just might be participating in moving cattle on the ranch. This is not your typical dude ranch—you may never want to leave!
Let’s move east to North Carolina’s storied 8,000-acre resort, once the home of the Vanderbilt family: the Biltmore. Elegance is everywhere, but horses have not been forgotten, and you’re welcome to bring your own. You can even camp on the grounds.
More than 80 miles of trails are open to independent riders. Guided trail rides on the estate’s horses are offered to day visitors, as well. If luxury is on your list, you can choose to stay in the middle of it or pitch your tent near your horse. Either way, it’s an unforgettable experience.
Big Cedar Lodge
One of America’s new favorites in the category of family resorts, Big Cedar Lodge is high above Branson, Mo. Created by Johnny Morris, the founder of Bass Pro Shops, this 4,600-acre resort has not left any detail out.
It has invented nature activities found nowhere else, and the site includes museums and a Jack Nicklaus golf course, Top of the Rock. The landscape of the Ozarks and Table Rock Lake create a stunning setting that is even more special when seen between the ears of a horse, which you can rent in the resort’s Dogwood Canyon zone.
You can take a boat, a bus or your own car onto Assateague to see the horses in their natural beach habitat, but the island is 30 miles long, so a guide might be helpful. There are a number of hotels in Chincoteague.
If you’re ready to plan the full experience, the famed pony swim and auction takes place every year at the end of July, with related activities filling a full week.
Rocking Horse Ranch
A dude ranch just a few hours from New York City? You bet! Rocking Horse Ranch began as a trail riding stable, and a full resort grew up around it. It’s accessible to millions of Americans who might want the feel of a ranch vacation with horses but need to stay close to home.
Rocking Horse offers so much to do that you may be too tired to go riding, but it allows you to experience barn time out of the saddle, plus the road crossing of the 100-head herd between pastures each day. The ponies are a great way to introduce younger family members to horses, and the draft horses are big buddies guaranteed to make friends with every member of your own herd.
If you prefer a more luxurious experience, head to Middleburg, Va., and the Salamander Resort and Spa, owned by horsewoman and entrepreneur Sheila Johnson. Mascot Mini Horse Cupcake hosts a cocktail party on the terrace by the Grand Lawn two evenings per week. Having some laughs and taking selfies with this character will soften the heart of anyone in your family toward horses.
Meanwhile, you can take advantage of the resort’s equestrian center, with trail rides and equestrian options galore, whether you bring your own horse or partner up with one of theirs. A great family activity is equine communication—no riding required, and you might get to know each other better, as well as the horses!
Vermont in the Fall
Crisp air and colorful vistas are standard fare each fall in the state of Vermont. Horses are popular in the state, and most of the local fairs have a horse show, draft horse pulling contest, and harness racing for local owners.
If you can bring your own horse, the ultimate fall foliage viewing is at the Green Mountain Horse Association’s (GMHA) Fall Foliage Ride in South Woodstock, which offers pleasure riding events in other months, as well. GMHA is in the center of many, many miles of trails and dirt roads, and the ride managers plan carefully to offer pleasure riders optimal views and photo opportunities. Stabling is provided at the GMHA showgrounds, the site of shows and events all summer long.
If you can’t bring your horse to Vermont, a charming alternative is to get immersed in a wonderful breed at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm. With a bed and breakfast inn on the farm, you can stay right next to the horses.
The farm offers short trail rides or longer treks, and can tailor your adventure to your interests and abilities. If riding a smooth and speedy tölt without leaving the country is on your bucket list, then this is the place for you!
The U.S. tourism industry offers adventures and experiences with horses from coast to coast. See you out there!
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