“If you like, you’ll have time to groom your horse before we go out on the trail,” offered my guide as I checked into the Guest Ranch. Having owned several horses in my youth, I considered this horseback riding vacation a chance to skip the brushing. In fact, I didn’t have to saddle or bridle my horse if I didn’t want to. It all comes down to what type of horseback riding vacation you are looking for.
You’ve decided that you would like to take a horseback riding vacation and you have set a budget for your trip. Next steps; how to choose the best horseback riding vacation.
Most ranches categorize horseback riders into three categories; beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Beginner Rider can be a first time rider who has never set foot in a stirrup or someone who has ridden in their youth and hasn’t been on the back of a horse in 10, 20 or 30 years. If you haven’t been around horses, they can be intimidating and sometimes dangerous.
Keep in mind that while mighty in size, the horse’s brain is the size of a walnut. When scared, their first instinct is flight. If you are calm, your horse will be calm. Your guide will instruct you on the basics of mounting the horse from the left side, how to hold the reins and basic neck reining, leg and voice commands for the horse.
Intermediate Riders know how to keep proper spacing of horses when on the trail and don’t let their horses graze while “working” and wearing a bridle. Intermediate riders feel confident in the saddle during a trot, extended trot or lope.
Advanced Rider is considered someone that rides at least once a month and is comfortable mounting and dismounting out on the trail without a mounting block. More often than not, people tend to rate themselves an advanced rider because they have ridden more than a few times in their lifetime. While it is not the guides intention to place an advanced rider on a bucking bronco, an advanced rider typically knows how to handle a spirited or ‘high energy’ horse. Sometimes a horse that is feeling good gives a little buck. Advanced riders also know how to grip with their legs and properly balance their weight in the saddle when climbing or descending steep terrain.
If you like camping and sleeping under the stars, you’ll probably enjoy an overnight pack trip. However, if you prefer five star hotels with infinity swimming pools and spa treatments, you are better off staying at a guest ranch that offers horseback riding vacations, as well as fine dining and shopping. It’s like matching a horse to rider, one option is not better than the other, but the proper match makes for an enjoyable equestrian holiday.
Equestrian stables typically offer one and two hour rides, as well as half day and full day horseback riding options. Stables do not usually provide over night accommodations.
Dude or Guest Ranches usually offer all-inclusive rates that include lodging, meals and horseback riding activities. If this is a solo horseback riding vacation, I have written a specific post that addresses that topic.
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Photos courtesy of Nancy D. Brown