I can’t be everywhere to discover new things to do with my kids, no matter how much I wish I could. I’ve asked a few friends to jump in with what they love to do in their cities. Tamara Gruber from We3Travel.com is sharing her favorite trips for horse lovers.
“A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves — strong, powerful, beautiful — and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence” –Pam Brown, Australian Poet
Could this be why we are so drawn to horses? Long after cars replaced horses as a primary method of transportation, their beauty, grace, intelligence and power continue to captivate people. Chances are you know a little girl or boy that dreams of galloping across the sand, wind whipping through their hair, or imagines rustling the herd or riding in the rodeo on the back of their loyal steed. It is no mistake that children’s literature is rife with stories of kids and their horses. Children especially seem to have a special fascination with these magnificent creatures.
If you have a horse lover in your family, you’ve probably imagined making their dreams come true with a chance to see, touch or ride their beloved animals. Here are a few ideas of how to enthrall and delight those little ones with a horse-centered family trip.
1. Chincoteague, VA & Assateague, MD
If you’ve ever read Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry, you are familiar with the wild ponies of Chincoteague and the annual pony swim. Each July, a group of wild ponies on Assateague Island are rounded up and forced to swim to Chincoteague Island, where they are auctioned off, affording a great opportunity to see the wild ponies in action and bring a storybook to life. If you want to visit during the annual swim, expect crowds and book a charter boat months in advance for the best viewing opportunities. But you don’t need to visit in July to see the ponies. They roam wild throughout the Assateague Island National Seashore and can be observed from a distance within the park. To get a closer look, you can also take a “guaranteed ponies” boat tour from outfitters like Captain Dan’s in Chincoteague. You can also enjoy the beautiful beach, biking, hiking, bird watching, fishing, crabbing, kayaking and other outdoor fun.
2. Outer Banks, NC
Another way to experience the raw beauty of wild horses is in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Corolla Wild Horses have inhabited the remote stretch of beach in Corolla and Carova for centuries. These wild beasts can’t be ridden or touched, but if you want to enjoy the freedom and majesty of the horses from a distance, you can explore on your own if you have an off-road vehicle, or take a 4×4 tour from a company like Wild Horse Adventure Tours. The Outer Banks offer something for everyone with gorgeous beaches, dolphin tours, hang gliding and water sports.
3. Lexington, KY
Located in the heart of horse country, Kentucky Horse Park bills itself as “the leading tourist attraction for all things horse.” So if you want to get up close to horses, this is where you can do it. At the Kentucky Horse Park you can visit the International Museum of the Horse and the American Saddlebred Museum, tour the horse barn, enjoy horse shows, take a horse-drawn carriage tour and, of course, try a trail or pony ride. You can also visit the Kneeland Race Course, tour a working horse farm, or visit one of the area’s bourbon distilleries.
4. Saratoga Springs, NY
If your child is a fan of The Black Stallion, they might have an interest in horse racing. While there are plenty of racetracks around, a classic summer destination for horse and race lovers is Saratoga Springs. Here the whole family can enjoy the races and also watch the morning workouts, stand in the paddock while the horses parade by on their way to the track, or visit the backyard where kids can touch an outrider horse and learn more about their daily routines. Nearby, families can enjoy Six Flags Great Escape amusement park, Ausable Chasm sandstone gorge, or take a riding lesson at Old Saratoga Farms.
5. Greenough, MT
If your family craves luxury but still wants a taste of the ranch experience, perhaps “glamping” at the Resort at Paws Up is the way to go. Situated on 37,000 acres, there is plenty of room for the resort’s 250 guests who occupy its 28 vacation homes and 30 luxurious tents. Paws Up offers an extensive children’s program and the largest privately owned equestrian centers in the state. In addition to horseback riding and junior wrangler programs, they offer fly fishing, river rafting, rappelling, paint ball, wilderness workshops and chuck wagon rides.
6. Florence, AZ
Aspiring cowboys and cowgirls will be awed by the oldest Junior Rodeo in the United States. In November, kids from 5-18 years of age compete at the Florence Junior Parada in rodeo events including team roping, breakaway roping, chute dogging, goat tying, barrel racing, sheep riding and even bull riding.
7. Waimea, Hawaii, the Big Island
Hawaii may be the last place you expect to find cowboys, yet paniolo (Hawaiian Cowboys) have a tradition on the Big Island of Hawaii that goes back to 1832. Today, beef production is still a booming industry on the beautiful upcountry pastures of Waimea and the paniolo still use horses (and ATVs) to wrangle steer. If you visit, you can try your hand at the paniolo craft or just enjoy a scenic ride through the tropical Waipio Valley, alongside streams and waterfalls. Nearby, you can enjoy all that Hawaii has to offer: swimming, snorkeling, surfing, hiking, star gazing and the amazing Volcanoes National Park.
Thoughts of Iceland may conjure up images of northern lights and blue lagoons, but actually, a trip to Iceland is a great way to see and ride horses. The Icelandic Horse is a pure breed, first brought over by the Vikings in the 9th or 10th century, and kept pure by prohibiting any other breed of horse from entering the country. With more than 80,000 horses in Iceland, you don’t need to travel far on the popular Ring Road to see them. But instead of driving to see horses, how about riding horses to see Iceland? Many tour companies, including Hestasport, offer short or long rides for beginners or experienced riders.
9. Jerez, Spain
Jerez de la Frontera may be best known for its sherry, but it is also famous for its Andalusian horses. If you visit in May, you may be there for the Jerez Horse Fair (Feira de Caballo), which shows off the finest horses in a gathering that dates back centuries. If you miss the fair, you may still get to visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. There you’ll see an equestrian ballet performed by the dancing Andalusian horses accompanied by traditional Spanish music and featuring 18th century styled costumes.
10. Vienna, Austria
The Spanish Riding School and its famous Lipizzaner horses are one of the most iconic attractions in Vienna. Watching the pirouettes, quadrilles, stylized jumps and other movements that can only be described as “dancing,” your horse lover will be mesmerized by the movement and control of these graceful horses.
Do you have a favorite horse-related holiday destination?
Tamara Gruber writes about her family’s travels at We3Travel in her attempt to inspire families to never take the same trip twice. You can follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or find inspiration on her Pinterest boards.