I have visited this ranch over 18 times since 1999 so
you can tell how much I like it! I'd been put off going
to the States originally, having been told that they will
only let you walk and trot. At Lost Valley the rides are
divided according to ability so there are plenty of opportunities
to lope (canter) here. The area surrounding the ranch, but
not the ranch itself, was devastated by the Hayman fire
of June 2002 which burnt 137,760 acres but despite black
trees it still retains the unique beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
What stands out, however, is the carefully chosen staff.
They are multi-talented - offering the best of American
hospitality and service. They cannot do enough to make your
stay enjoyable, know all the guests by name and in the evening
demonstrate their skills in dancing, musicianship and entertaining.
You will have your own log cabin, some with
spa baths and three hearty meals a day. There is a square
dance once or twice a week and often a programme of music,
sketches and entertainment. More
ROMANIA - EQUUS SYVANIA
Imagine cantering for minutes on end, seeing mystical scenery, exploring history, flora and fauna and not ever having to open a gate. This was a riders' paradise. I'd always fancied a riding holiday in Eastern Europe lured by the talk of wild, unspoilt terrain and good horses. We stayed at an eco-lodge run by Christophe and Barbara Promberger - biologists studying the carnivores of the area. They try to take advantage of local produce, organic if possible and the accommodation and food were first class, including Romanian specialities and the most wonderful homemade bread, yoghurt and lemonade.
We rode for five days exploring the virgin forests and meadows filled with orchids, seeing bear tracks on our way. We rode out for 5-6 hours each day, on spirited, endurance trained Arabian and Hungarian horses.
Even before you land you can see the mediaeval type field strip systems and villages in the countryside of Romania. I expected an unspoilt rural landscape and apart from the amount of roadside litter I was not disappointed. As we drove out of Bucharest the problem did abate somewhat but I didn't let it put me off, as Romania is a wonderful place. It should suit walkers, historians, conservationists, sightseers and horse riders alike. The farms running along the main road in the village, which claims to be the first Ecological village in Romania, all have gates to keep the animals in but if you look over there is a small farmyard with barns and more often horses and carts instead of tractors. Each landowner has a few acres and there is common land for grazing with very few fences. Ragged robin and other flowers brighten the hay meadows along with all kinds of orchids. Hoopoe, cuckoos, honey buzzards and lesser spotted eagles roamed above us whilst we knew, although they would be hidden from us, bear, wolves and possibly lynx were lurking in the woods. Our accommodation and food were excellent and we were treated to a visit to a bear hide where thirteen bears were seen, encouraged by regular feeding. Romania also has a very healthy wolf population.
This year I am taking the trail ride option, which means a 150km round trip exploring even more spectacular scenery and for invited guests only there is the two week trail. Quite an adventure!
We flew from Leeds/Bradford airport via Amsterdam (they are quite strict as to what time you need to arrive in Bucharest) They only take experienced riders and you need to be prepared to lead your horse downhill so it is a good excuse to get fit!
Lying in bed in the early morning listening to the bells on the cows as they made their way up the lane to graze is an enduring memory that I will not forget. Do go, before it changes even more!
I booked via the excellent team at "In The Saddle"
ARGYLL TRAIL RIDING and CASTLE
RIDING CENTRE, Ardrishaig, Argyll West of Scotland
This is another venue I have visited many times
and it is distinguished by the wonderful Scottish scenery,
brilliant horses, many of which are of competition standard,
and great Scottish hospitality. It is run by Tove Grey-Stephens
and her son David Hay-Thorburn. Tove is Norwegian, a knowledgeable
horsewoman who expresses her Norwegian heritage by being
very forthright. The accommodation can vary from Stonefield
Castle to cosy bed and breakfast. They run several trail
rides, which can include jumping walls, and ditches and
incorporate many historical and prehistoric sites, beloved
by Americans. You can also take riding clinics and the speciality
is TREC training (see www.bhs.org.uk/Content/Evt-BHS-Trec.asp)
David was 2000 World TREC Champion and Tove is an international
judge. The horses range from Irish Draught crosses to the
rare Eriskay pony. They have a cross country course and
the speciality is swimming on horseback in the sea. More
LOS ALAMOS, Barbate, Andalucia,
Andrew and Rachel moved from England to set up in Andalucia.
They are yet another group of people that do their utmost
to make your holiday as enjoyable as possible. I stayed
in the attractive villa, Los Alamos (the Poplars) which
has a swimming pool. The accommodation is well cared for,
the cooking superb with plenty of wine flowing! Breakfasts
are on a DIY basis and you can make drinks and have a snack
any-time. The rides are mainly through the forest of umbrella
pine, eucalyptus trees and on sandy tracks and although
canters and gallops are at designated places each one has
a name and often a surprise element which all adds to the
tremendous sense of fun here. We usually had a break at
a small bar for drinks, and riding was followed by a late
lunch with the rest of the day to ourselves. The evening
meal was quite late. Sunday is a rest day for the horse
and on Thursday there is a trip to Jerez to see the Royal
Spanish Riding School. This is a great display of riding
although I felt that most of the horses would have loved
a gallop through the pines as we had done. The highlight
of the whole week was the beach ride. The length and number
of beach rides varies according to the tides but if the
sand is right this is the essence of fun. Riding with the
waves as backdrop with the historic Trafalgar lighthouse
in the distance has to be experienced - go for that alone!
Guests can be picked up from Gibraltar or Malaga.
2007 - this outfit is shortly moving to a nearby village
so minor details will be different - please refer to their
WYOMING, Brush Creek
read ‘Green Grass of Wyoming' by Mary O'Hara as a child
I just had to experience it for myself. In October 2004
as part of a special birthday celebration my third week
in the States was set aside for Wyoming. I was met in Fort
Collins for the three hour drive to the ranch. The scenery
gradually changed from the foothills of the mountains to
grassy plains and back again. There was quite a lot of snow
and wild antelope grazing in the grassland – a big hunting
was greeted on my arrival by the larger than life Kinta
and shown to my room in the lodge. Having come from a 4
diamond ranch this was much more basic and traditional but
comfortable and warm.
following day I was introduced to Zoë my riding guide
from Scotland. As I was the only guest, after the first
day, I ate breakfast alone with only the magnificent view
for company. All the food was simple but beautifully prepared.
Kinta was very keen for me to try out all her best horses
and I really enjoyed this opportunity. The riding was fairly
steady whilst in the meadows, as Kinta pointed out – this
is prairie dog country, but the pace hotted up on the tracks
and all the horses were forward going yet very controllable.
though I was the only guest Kinta and her staff made me
feel at home and they even took me out for a breakfast cookout
ride, but it's not quite the same when part of the holiday
experience is meeting other riders. However, I did eat one
evening with 6 hunting men which was different!
were intending to trailer the horses out and do a day ride
but the weather rather spoilt our plans. After thunder,
lighting and torrential rain the weather turned cold and
the tracks were too slippery to canter so we were limited
to walking. However the highlight of the whole trip was
seeing a moose, which made my day. To make up for the bad
weather I was taken to lunch in Saratoga – a really great
western experience and looked around all the western tack
stores and the local grocery store, which had stuffed animal
heads on its walls!
scenery at that time of the year was truly spectacular with
the aspens in all their autumn glory. This was a good introduction
toWyoming and there are plenty of outdoor actives for non-riders.
Update March 2009 - Sorry Brush Creek Ranch has now closed down.
corresponded with Rob Stanley by e-mail to book this trip
and never actually met him as he was away guiding another
group. As I prefer a bit more comfortable accommodation
to sheep-shearers’ quarters they arranged for me to
stay in farmhouses along the way, which was a great experience.
I got to meet the station owners and have some great meals
and conversations. As I was a confident rider we did a 4
day trail ride in 3 days with just me and a guide, Jenny,
which added to the special nature of this ride. The riding
was generally slow and we got off to walk down hills (do
take comfortable boots which you can walk in, as well as
ride) but the scenery was unspoilt and beautiful.
Hurunui can be booked by most of the riding holiday agents.
I visited Hurunui in 1998 and it has now been taken over
by Liam and Heather Naden. Their website features an article
from Horse and Hound which you can download and so obviously
the standard is just as high. www.horseback.co.nz
This is a company run by Nelly Gellich from Sydney.
On my "big trip" to Australia and New Zealand
I was lucky enough to meet and become friends with Nelly.
She organises riding in Australia and New Zealand and in
other places worldwide, notably Iran! Her trip through Iran
was filmed for Australian TV. Much of the riding in Australia
has been curtailed by very high insurance costs but Nelly
can advise on the best places to go. www.equitrek.com.au/equiFrameAbout.html
DALES TREKKING CENTRE, Malham, North Yorkshire, England.
Jackson and her mother Angela run this enterprise specialising
in the Dales pony. To those who know their geography, the
Dales pony is obviously the local breed and is known for
its steadiness and weight carrying ability. Not only do
they have the most beautiful limestone countryside but Zana
is an inspiring teacher and dressage rider. There is always
laughter and fun at the stables but watch out for Freddie
the wolf on dark nights. They are also developing their
network of trail rides which can take in the racing town
of Middleham. Do visit their web-site, if only for some
of the zany comments on the message board!!
As well as 1 to 3 hour rides do try the Friday Night Flyer.
This is an hour ride with lots of cantering using routes
and fields not on the bridleway network. Zana has negotiated
with local landowners, who had a hard time during foot and
mouth, to use these fields for a "per rider" fee.
This is a great way to end the week and often we end up
in the local pub for a fantastic meal. More
Now with a more detailed web site you can choose
a ranch to suit yourself. As there are so many ranches in
the States it's great to know that Tony has visited each
one and can advise on the difference between guest, resort
and working ranches, as well as the individual differences.
He can also arrange travel and hotels if necessary. www.ranchrider.com/
IRELAND, County Kerry
visited Ireland in the Spring of 2006. I found the smaller,
less formal stables much more fun than the others! I took
my teenage niece with me and she seemed to enjoy herself
too although she didn’t say so!!! I visited Dingle
Horse Riding, just outside this town made famous by Fungie
the dolphin. We had a two hour ride with a short canter
on the beach and then couldn't resist a whole day ride so
we could ride on the beach again. The horses were very sensible
and the ride leaders friendly. We had lunch in a unique
pub visited by all sorts of famous people before our beach
gallop. They also do trail rides which I am keen to try.
Dingle Horse Riding Ltd. The Stables, Baile na Buaile,
Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Telephone +353 (0)66 915 2199 www.dinglehorseriding.com/
Then I found, almost by accident, Burke's Activity Centre
at Glenbeigh. This is a very low key enterprise but as there
were just two experienced riders, myself and a New Zealand
song writer, we were able to enjoy the beach and the dunes
whilst being educated about the local area and its history
by Mr Burke. Non riders can also enjoy this new centre offering
a willow hedge maze, animal farm, and crazy golf.
Burkes Horse Riding & Activity Centre.