Horseback riding vacation at Chalk Hill Estate, Healdsburg, California

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Nancy Brown and Rafael Hernandez of Wine Country Trail Rides go on a horseback riding vacation at Chalk Hill in Healdsburg, California

Ride a Polo Pony in Sonoma, California Wine Country at Chalk Hill Estate

Those fortunate to have visited California wine country know that good food and wine go together like a horse and carriage. What do the two have in common? California’s rich terroir produces outstanding local fruits and vegetables and our fertile soils support giant Sequoia redwood trees, prolific wildflowers, vibrant fields of yellow mustard, running between rows of neatly spaced grape vines and happy horses.

Wine country trail rides horseback riding vacations

It wasn’t until I booked my room at Hotel Les Mars in Healdsburg, that I learned of the Relais and Chateaux hotels relationship with nearby Chalk Hill Estate.  Professional Polo Player Rafael Hernandez guides guests on a horseback riding vacation through the 1,288 acre estate. While only 350 acres are planted to vineyards, the remaining acreage supports wild California grasslands, heritage oaks and organic culinary and ornamental gardens.

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Chalk Hill Estate Gate photo © Nancy D. Brown

Polo ponies in Healdsburg, California

A pioneer in California vineyard trail rides, Hernandez launched his company, Wine Country Trail Rides, in 1998.  He has partnered with Chalk Hill Estate to offer horse lovers, with varying degrees of riding experience, a unique horseback riding vacation in Sonoma wine country. You won’t be playing polo on your horseback riding vacation, but you might be able to ride a polo pony. I was fortunate to ride Siete, a well mannered horse who knows when to turn on his engine for the polo fields and smart enough to enjoy the laid back wine country pace out on the trails.

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Chalk Hill Estate Polo Mallets

The estate boasts a professional indoor polo field and offers polo events open for public viewing. Check the website for details. Please note that you do not need to be staying at Hotel Les Mars to book a horseback riding vacation with Wine Country Trail Rides.

Hernandez’ mantra is safety first. He takes a maximum of eight horseback riders out on the trail and offers both English and Western equestrian riding experiences.  While ours was a walking trail ride, he said that he is happy to trot and lope with guests once they have clearly demonstrated their equestrian skills.

The trail rides are approximately 1 1/2 hours long, but Hernandez requests two hours of your time to allow for the 1/2 hour, complimentary wine tasting that is included in the $100 cost of the horseback riding vacation.

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Rafael Hernandez with Siete, his polo pony. Photo © Nancy D. Brown

Culinary tour and wine tasting at Chalk Hill Estate

As a guest of Hotel Les Mars, you don’t have to be an equestrian to enjoy Chalk Hill special offers. Hotel Les Mars guests receive complimentary wine tasting and exclusive welcome gift and complimentary delivery of purchased wine to your Hotel Les Mars room. Chalk Hill Estate is located 15 minutes from Hotel Les Mars. To arrange for your estate, culinary or equestrian tour, contact Hotel Les Mars.


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Bridles in the tack room at Wine Country Trail Rides.


Social Media

To find out what’s happening at Chalk Hill Estate, following Chalk Hill Estate on Twitter. For all things travel related, follow Nancy D. Brown on Twitter, as well as Ridinghorseback on Twitter.

If You Go:

Chalk Hill Estate (707) 657-4837

10300 Chalk Hill Rd, Healdsburg, California 95448

Hotel Les Mars (707) 433-4211 or (877) 431-1700

UPDATE: Wine Country Trail Rides has closed. Please see Sonoma County Trail Rides review.

Article, photos and YouTube video courtesy of Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Chalk Hill Estate and Wine Country Trail Rides.

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