Riding holidays in North America's West are often life changing. For Tony Daly, managing director of Ranch Rider, a week spent at Arizona’s Tanque Verde Resort Ranch fostered a switch of careers from accountant to tour operator. Still very much set in the West and offering over 60 handpicked ranches in North America, the riding holiday specialist recently celebrated 20 years on the trail.
Commented Daly, "When you ride out West, you have the chance to experience a completely different lifestyle and it’s not hard to understand why some guests make the decision to live and work on the range. Experience a riding holiday at one of these six ranches, and who knows, you might well decide to spend longer than a week in the saddle!”
A keen English rider for most of her life, Laura True from Stroud in England's Gloucestershire met and fell in love with ranch owner Russell True while on holiday at Arizona’s White Stallion Guest Ranch. Proof that saddling up Western style is highly addictive, Laura swapped horse jumping for breakaway roping and barrel racing and now she competes at the ranch’s weekly rodeo. She is also the proud owner of four horses and spends her time improving the corral and riding program at the family friendly White Stallion and its sister property, the Tombstone Monument Ranch. Laura says, “I would much rather be out on the trail than lazing on a tropical beach. Watching guests get to grips with riding western and bonding with their horses is very rewarding.” The 3,000 acre White Stallion Guest Ranch is situated adjacent to the Saguaro National Park. The ideal time to visit, as this year America's National Park Service will celebrate its centenary. An oasis in the desert the facilities include tennis courts, a petting zoo for the little ones, an arena for team penning and barrel racing, a movie theatre, swimming pool, indoor hot tub and Happy Hour Saloon. Seven nights from £1,133pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities. Excludes return flight from £839pp. Year round departures.
British Columbia conjures up a vibrant tapestry of images: the landscape composed of wide open ranges, moss-carpeted rainforests and pristine rivers and lakes. Born in Hornchurch in the UK and raised in Essex, Norm Dove came to Canada in 1965, and he made the shift from engineer to owner of Echo Valley Ranch & Spa in 1995. When first visiting the land that is now their home, Norm and his wife Nan knew they had found something very special. “We were awed by its serenity and beauty and the overwhelming sense of spirituality and reverence.” Offering a unique Canadian Signature Experience, the ranch and wellness resort features the Baan Thai Spa. Conceived by Norm’s wife Nan, who hails from Thailand, its signature treatments take their cue from traditional Thai medicine. As multicultural as Canada itself, First Nations art is brought to life on the property by resident Gitxsan artist Michael Blackstock, his creative works showcased in the ranch’s cabins and etched into the surrounding trees. When on-site, Michael conducts tree carving tours where guests can learn about this traditional practice, the spiritual journey ending with a ceremony to thank the tree for guarding the precious water in the nearby spring. The ranch features a variety of activities to taste the Canadian lifestyle, including fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and guided rides, which range from two to six hours. Off ranch, enjoy a gold panning excursion on the original gold rush trail or a white water rafting trip on the Thompson River. Six nights from £1,209pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, half-day's riding each day, unlimited fly fishing, nature hikes and much more, taxes and gratuities. Excludes car hire from £245 and return flight from £899pp. Departures May through October.
It doesn’t get more romantic than Montana’s Lonesome Spur Working Guest Ranch, as the property is known as the ‘home of the Horse Whisperer’ (Nicholas Evans is said to have penned his bestseller on this very same terrain). Scottish-born Elaine Schwend also fell in love with the West and then with ranch owner Lonnie Schwend. Offering riding holidays with a Native American twist, there is an annual horseback adventure across Indian reservation land, the overnight campout including a reenactment of the Battle of Little Big Horn by the Crow Tribe (departing 19 June). In May, June, September and October, you will be able to drive the herd over the ranch’s 400 acres and cattle branding is available in the spring. Alternative activities include riding across the famous Weatherman Draw, home to ancient petroglyphs, and over the summer there are regular visits to the Cody Nite Rodeo (1 June - 31 August). If you decide to tie the knot on horseback, the Schwends will have the perfect setting in mind, and taking only ten guests per week, this is the ideal ranch for an exclusive, celebratory barn hoedown. SAVE OVER £200pp: Six nights from £1,255pp (two sharing) including, accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes, transfers and gratuities. Excludes return flight from £859pp and Native American ride/reenactment $400pp supplement. Deal valid on all departures from May through October. Book before 31 May.
Lisa White started saddling up western style when she was 27, and after 20 lessons at Devon's Oxenways Western Riding School in the UK and her first riding holiday at Arizona’s White Stallion Guest Ranch, she was hooked. Her next trip took her to Oklahoma’s 5,000 acre Island Guest Ranch. Lisa’s passion for riding brought her together with ranch hand Rylan and after a further three-month sabbatical in the Sooner state to further her colt starting skills, Rylan proposed - a beautiful diamond engagement ring left hanging on a pair of handmade spur straps. On leaving her native Cornwall behind, Lisa stepped into her cowgirl boots for good and now she looks after the horses, 300 head of cattle and doubles as ranch wedding photographer. Saddle up for cattle gathers and wildlife rides; deer, coyote and raccoons roaming across this remote wilderness. Alternative activities include, roping, fishing, hiking, nature walks, and scheduled in advance, even rides just for two. Seven nights from £1,023pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities and taxes. Excludes car hire from £235 and gratuities left to guests' discretion. Return flight from £859pp. Departing April through November.
Andrea and Claudia are both horse riding instructors and owners of New Mexico’s Creek Working Cattle & Guest Ranch. The two friends have been around horses their entire life, and after staying on several ranches in Australia and the USA, they decided to pursue their passion. Claudia comments, “Being a cowgirl is more than just a job. It is a way of life!” Located on 8,200 acres in the Pecos River Valley, the red desert landscape is said to have been a regular hang out for outlaw, Billy the Kid, and the neighbouring town of Puerto De Luna was once recognised as one of the wildest spots in the west. Activities include trail riding and checking the cattle for health, driving the ranch’s Angus cattle, and over the course of the season, there are opportunities to saddle up with real cowboys and gather cattle for branding. Carefully chosen Quarter Horses, Appaloosa and paint horses are available to ride, the horseback journeys covering the ruins of the very first homesteaders and historic Native American settlements where you might be lucky enough to find an arrowhead or precious gemstone. Seven nights from £1,200pp (no single supplement) including, accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes and gratuities. Excludes transfers from £75pp and return flight from £859pp. Departing 01 April through 30 October.
Initially David Leishman chose a riding holiday to fend off the 9-to-5 burnout, but after several years he made the ultimate decision to escape from the rat race and set up Montana’s Bar W Guest Ranch. Leishman says “It turned out to be a vacation for the ages – one of those life-changing, priority-altering experiences many people wait a lifetime for.” Situated beside Spencer Lake, his 3,000-acre ranch caters to beginners and serious riders. In addition to scenic horseback journeys, there are opportunities to watch the horse trainers in action, help with ranch chores, fish for big pike and participate in archery and clay pigeon shooting. The ranch also offers 'Cowboying on the Great Divide,' the cattle drives covering 50,000 acres. Seven nights from £2,436pp (two sharing) departing 04 June & 17 September. In May and September the ranch goes Cowgirl Up; team penning, barrel racing, a cocktail reception and a honey and hot cream rock foot massage included in the six night women only weeks. From £1,749pp (two sharing) departing 22 May and 25 September. Lodge, cabin and "glamping" accommodation is available, the ranch's two canvas tents nestling in a pasture filled with wildflowers and horses. Six nights from £1,437pp (two sharing) including accommodation, meals, most ranch activities, taxes and gratuities. Excludes transfers of £60 (group of four) from Glacier Park International Airport and return flight from £859pp. Departing 15 April to 31 October.
Ranch Rider also offers riding holidays in Argentina, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania ‘NEW for 2016’. For further information, please contact Ranch Rider (01509 618811; ranchrider.com). ATOL PROTECTED No 4660 ABTA 96395/V9150.