By Guest Blogger Darley Newman, host and producer Equitrekking
As I travel the world filming for the PBS TV show Equitrekking, I horseback ride with local people to experience history, culture and adventure. Horseback riding is a great way to get to know the locals and meet new equine friends, while exploring in an active, eco-friendly way.
Each of these five accessible horseback riding picks includes destinations where you can travel and ride with local outfitters who have fit, experienced trail horses for guided rides ranging from one hour, so you won’t get too saddle sore, to multi-day treks. Beginners as well as experienced riders of varying budgets can enjoy each of these diverse U.S. locations.
California Wine Country
Enjoy California Wine Country from the saddle at one of three area state parks with longtime equestrian guides from Triple Creek Horse Outfit, whose owner Erin Ellis grew up riding in the area. Take in the idyllic views of rolling green Wine Country vineyards, golden meadows and on a clear day the Sierra Nevada Mountains and San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. If you’re interested in Redwoods, choose Bothe-Napa Valley State Park or Jack London State Historic Park.
The Baldwin family, longtime ranchers whose legacy on the island dates back six generations, owns Piiholo Ranch in Upcountry, Maui. Outside of the Western town of Makawao, ride through shaded forests of tall Eucalyptus trees, taking in the smell of jasmine flowers. Stop for a break in a tall grassy field dotted with cows overlooking the bright, blue Pacific Ocean. This exotic ranch is in a dream location on the slopes of Haleakala Crater along the edge of a rainforest. Small group rides are appropriate for the whole family.
Antelope Island, Utah
The largest island on the Great Salt Lake, Antelope Island is a lesser-visited state park with stunning views of snow-capped Wasatch Mountain range, surprising wildlife and grand open space. With so many developed areas in the United States, this ride is special, because you can roam through large, grassy fields. You don’t have to stick to the trails here. View the island’s herd of bison and look out for Bighorn Sheep or a pair of Great Horned Owls. Ron Brown of R&G Horse and Wagon is a wrangler with movie star horses. His herd has appeared in such movies as “Far and Away” and “Return to Lonesome Dove.”
Ride sure-footed horses into the mountains of the San Juan National Forest just outside of the Western town of Durango, Colorado with longtime guide and outfitter Anne Rapp of Rapp Corral. Beginners and experienced riders may get matched with horse that suits their equestrian skills or lack thereof. Bring your camera and a sense of adventure, as you ride the Rockies amid mountain wildflowers, pristine lakes, Aspen forests and high altitude views. For these rides, pack layers, because the weather can change quickly. August hailstorms are not uncommon. It’s the dynamic weather and dramatic scenery that make this ride particularly special.
Mad River Valley, Vermont
You don’t have to travel to Iceland to experience the smooth ride of the pony-sized, but mighty Icelandic horse. Besides the walk, trot and canter, Icelandic horses can move in additional ways that feel like you are floating or gliding along, which is great for beginning riders as well as those more experienced riders who want to try something a little different. Icelandic horses are smaller, which makes them less intimidating to many riders. Travel down country lanes, through quiet forests and bright green or snow-covered fields, depending on the season.
Darley Newman is the host and producer of the Emmy-Award winning equestrian travel TV show, Equitrekking, which broadcasts on PBS and on networks in over 65 countries. She is the author of the Equitrekking: Travel Adventures on Horseback book and the founder of EquitrekkingTravel.com, which features exceptional equestrian vacations.