If you are a horse lover, then you completely understand the need to be around them as much as possible. A family vacation is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of equine friends.
I can't remember my kindergarten teacher's name but I can vividly remember the summer vacation my family took when I was 5. We took a road trip to Mt. Snow Ski Resort in Vermont. My parents were looking for a long weekend of peace and quiet. As we drove up to our hotel, I immediately spotted a white pony roaming freely around the grounds. The bellman noticed my fascination and introduced me to "Snowshoes". It was Snowshoe's job to pull the children's sleds in winter but he was given the summers off for good behavior.
That was it, I was in love!
I guess the feeling was mutual because that sweet creature followed me everywhere I went that weekend. Like I said, can't remember the name of the teacher I spent that entire year with at school but I will never forget my weekend with Snowshoes! To this day, if I visit a new destination and get the opportunity to ride, I immediately turn back into that five year old kid all over again.
So for those of you who are horse lovers or perhaps have someone in your family who is also smitten with equines, I thought I'd share some vacation ideas to help inspire your next family vacation....
Day Trips and Excursions
Family vacations are all about balance. Perhaps not everyone in the family is a huge horse lover - that's okay. Strike a balance with a horse back sightseeing tour. Local riding tours are popular at many resort destinations, parks and are even offered in many cruise ship ports of call. This may be a great compromise for the horse loving member of your family and it's a fun option that may win over the hearts of other family members. Just do your homework or ask your travel agent for help checking children's age requirements so that no one is disappointed. Also you may need to pack boots or closed shoes for the occasion so that you're prepared.
Dude Ranch Vacations
If your family would enjoy some old time western hospitality in the great outdoors, then there's nothing like a dude ranch vacation. Warning - once you experience this type of a family vacation, you might just find yourselves going back year after year because it's so much fun.
Not all dude ranches are created equal so it's important to choose the one that the best fit for your family, the season and everyone's riding skills:
- WORKING DUDE RANCH
Your family will be immersed in working cattle operations. Your horseback riding experiences will be determined by the ranch's livestock and the work necessary.
- DUDE RANCH
Horseback riding is central to these ranches. The focus here is on Western riding and a variety of fun outdoor activities.
- RESORT DUDE RANCH
Offer an array of diverse activities and onsite facilities with horseback riding as one of these features. Great option for families who again are looking for horse and non horse fun.
PS...most of the resort and dude ranches offer rides based on riding skills and offer lessons for beginners. In the top picture is from our recent visit to Flathead Lake Lodge. My husband Brian had never been on a horse before. Amanda told him by the end of the week she would have him galloping - sure enough promise kept! My husband turned into John Wayne galloping into the sunset!
In recent years, Iceland has become a very popular vacation destination for families. Adventure seekers love it's unusual landscapes, waterfalls and black beaches....and one of the best ways to experience Iceland is on horseback.
Icelandic horses are the legendary breed of the Vikings. They are a squat and stout animal that have adapted brilliantly to the rocky landscape. Most horses have 3 -4 gaits....walk, trot, canter, gallop. Icelandic horses have a "5th gear" called Tölt, which is their version of power walking and they are the only breed that can do it. Also their gallop is called skeið, or "flying pace". Skeið is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach up to 50 km/hr.
Pony Trekking in Ireland
When most visitors think of Connemara Ireland they often think of the scenic cliffs of Moher. Horse lovers think of Conneara Ponies. Ireland is known for it's stories and the legends say these horses swam to shore in the 16th century after the sinking of the Spanish Armada. Since that time this breed has called this windswept, northern Atlantic Irish coastline home. English riders will love the opportunity to explore Irish trails, tales, traditions and history. Actually there are many fun horse adventures to be found all throughout Ireland.
Spanish Riding School Vienna
If you're into dressage, then a visit to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna with it's ballet of white Lipizzaner stallions is a must see. The Spanish Riding School is oldest riding academy in the world, it is also the only one where the High School of Classical Horsemanship has been cherished and maintained for over 430 years. Guided tours of of practice facilities and stables are availableThis allows you to get up close and also meet riders. Tickets are also available to view of daily practices and of course, those magnificent performances. Children must be over age 3 to attend. These performance are the culmination of centuries of careful breeding and training methods and horse lovers will be amazed. (Not to mention the famed Vienna Boys Choir).
Gauchos & Glaciers
Passionate equestrians have no doubt heard tales of the gauchos who ride the lush pampas of Chilean Patagonia. These vast rugged landscapes are best experienced on horseback. There are many different types of tours available to suit the needs of every rider and family. Multi- day treks are available for the adventure lovers. Patagonia ranches are called "estancias" and guests are welcome to stay and immerse themselves in Patagonia culture and traditions. Similar to U.S. dude ranches, these experiences can range from basic, working ranches to luxury lodges. Trekking tours can also be arranged between remote, luxury lodges so you can experience all the breath taking beauty on horseback while enjoying all your treasured creature comforts.
A visit to Hawaii usually conjures up thoughts of Waikiki, luaus and hula dancers but horse lovers might think a bit differently. The paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) culture is a big part of the lifestyle and history of the island. the islands of Hawaii offer many unique ways to "saddle up"....from horse-drawn wagon story telling tours to upcountry pasture rides to waterfalls and rainbows to full on cattle drives. In addition, many of the Hawaiian ranches make perfect venues for family reunions, celebration vacations and even destination weddings.
Aussie Equine Adventures
Australia is so diverse and it offers so many different kinds of amaze equine adventures. You can canter the coast and take your horse for a swim. Take a ride through the outback with an Aboriginal cowboy and learn about the wisdom of the ancients. Head to the mountains where you can take a ride on a tamed "brumby", on of Australia's wild horses. Take a family trail ride through southern wine country visiting organic vineyards (kids welcome - not to drink of course). On rides along the sunshine coast you may spot wallabies, koalas, kangaroos and colorful parrots and visit historic gold rush towns and rainforests.
Mongolia, Turkey, National parks, Morocco, Canada, Chincoteague....this blog post can go on, and on...and on. Bottom line - chances are there are horses where you're headed and our team here at Vacationkids can include some adventures with them on your next family vacation.