Family holiday ideas: riding and ranches

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Riding holidays are becoming more popular with families. There are riding holidays available to cater for all standards of rider and indeed, those family members who do not wish to ride at all.

In the UK, there is plenty of choice: from improving your riding in the heart of picturesque and tranquil countryside, to taking in the sea air from the back of your horse as you explore miles of unspoilt coastal paths and sandy beaches.

Travel to the US and the experience is altogether different – you might find yourself staying on a ranch and rounding up cattle, spotting game by horseback or riding a mountain trail to enjoy.

Whether you stick to the UK or travel further afield, a riding holiday with the kids is sure to be very memorable.

Types of Riding Holiday

There are 2 main types of riding holiday – centre based or trail rides/progressive rides where you move on each day.

Centre based

Centre based riding holidays include Inns and Castles in Scotland, Country estates in The Brecon Beacons, game lodges in South Africa, ranches in USA and Canada, estancias in Argentina and farmhouses in Europe. You really are spoilt for choice. This is often the perfect solution for a family of mixed riding abilities as riding hours can be tailored to suit and non-riders can take part in other activities.

Ranch stay

Over in the US, Ranch stay holidays are categorised in to 3 main types to help you choose the best option:

1. Working Ranches: For the real cowboy experience and for experienced riders only. Help out with the daily cattle work including branding, cattle driving and cow camps. Accommodation is usually fairly basic in bunkhouses, log cabins or tents.

2. Guest Ranches: Ranches which specialise in hosting guests – accommodation is usually in separate log cabins with private bathrooms.

3. Resort Ranches: Hotel standard accommodation with additional resort facilities and programmes. Many resort ranches have swimming pools and offer additional activities such as hiking and white water rafting. Some even run a children’s activity programme.

Progressive rides

Progressive rides are common in the UK. They take you from village to village with you staying at different accommodation each night, although quite often you’ll spend a couple of nights at a base getting used to your horse. There is usually a fixed distance to ride each day so you need to be sure that both you and your children can cope with the riding hours.

Age Ranges

Children under the age of 8 years (even proficient riders) will probably find a progressive ride exhausting as the hours in the saddle are quite long. For this age group, it is best to stick to centre based riding holidays such as an American ‘resort ranch’ with lots of other activities going on.

If you’re travelling to the US, many American resort ranches offer a children’s activity programme as well as lessons for children and adults alike.

Older children of 8 years or more who are proficient riders would probably manage a progressive ride or a centre based holiday with short trail rides out each day.

In the US, working ranch holidays are only suitable for families with children over 16 years.

Riding Ability

It hopefully goes without saying that you should only choose a riding holiday that is suited to the riding ability of all members of the family. Therefore, don’t go booking a working ranch or a progressive riding holiday if you have young children. By far the best thing to do is to phone the holiday company concerned and talk through your requirements with them.

Riding Equipment

You may wish to take along your own riding hat as these are usually not provided. Also take clothes and boots that you are comfortable riding in.

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