Family and Group Friendly Riding Holidays

Ideas for Riding Vacations Where You Can Bring Your Horse Husbands, Kids and Non-Riding Friends

by Darley Newman

One of my good friends recently said that when she was growing up, every family vacation revolved around horseback riding.

“It was lots of fun for my dad, the one member of my family who is horse crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I would always have a great time. At least one year though I wanted to just lie on a beach and relax!”

I could understand her sentiment. Like in any family or group, people have different ideas about how they want to spend their time away. You may be traveling with a teen who just wants to lie on the beach, a husband who sees only the green of the golf course in his vacation future or friends who'd rather hike or swim than ride. With many modern riding vacations and ranches, there are choices that the entire family can enjoy, even non-riders.

beach riding sea island

So, if you’ve got a mixed group for your riding vacation, don’t despair. You’ll have plenty of time to ride, but also enjoy many other activities. Want to learn Italian cooking, while your partner rides through Tuscany? No problem. How about golf and scuba diving while your friend explores a rainforest on horseback? You’ve got it. There are countless destinations just waiting to welcome you for a ride and … well, take your pick.

While you may not find a vacation to fit everyone’s exact desires, you can come pretty close. Here are some combo trip options that will please everyone in your travel party.

Dude Ranches, Guest Ranches and Even Luxury Spa Ranches - Great for Families and Groups

If you've ever traveled with a loved one or friend, you may have realized that spending so much time together isn't always a good thing. Maybe those driving directions to your next location were a little trickier than you thought, leaving you and your spouse sitting with arms crossed at yet another intersection. I got a little museum'd out in Paris and left my friends at the Louvre Museum, opting instead to soak in the atmosphere at a cafe and write in my journal. Ranches are a great choice for families with kids, groups and your horse husbands, because there are so many diverse activities and you don't have to do everything together for the whole trip.

Dude ranches, guest ranches and modern luxury ranch vacations offer a variety of activities either onsite or nearby, such as swimming, hiking, cooking classes, golf, tennis, educational seminars, spa treatments, and local sightseeing, so there are lots of choices for you and your family or group. Having so many pre-planned activities can often take some stress out of the trip, because you don't have the pressure of planning everything yourself for you and your group, making for a more relaxing vacation. Being all-inclusive can be a great thing as well, as you can budget your expenses up front.

colorado dude ranch

Many ranches offer special programs for kids, which can give parents the freedom to enjoy some time away from their little ones. Meals are usually together, bringing everyone back to share stories of their adventures. 

A lot of ranches are family owned and offer a casual, relaxed atmosphere. Some still offer a technology free atmosphere, which can be a great thing in our interconnected world and enhance your family or group bonding. While some modern ranches cater to foodies, offering gourmet fare, others deliver cookouts and cowboy singers.

There are lots of ranch vacation choices throughout the United States and world. Check out the Equitrekking Vacation Guide to start your search for your ranch vacation.

Inn-to-Inn and Progressive Equestrian Vacations - Yes, you can bring your horse husband

Friends who can't ride still can be a part of your inn to inn riding vacation. While you are off horse riding for the day, your companions may set off for other adventures. Some vacations, like camping treks in Nambia allow companions to ride in the support jeep to take in the scenery during the day, but even here, I'm told the Fish River riding vacation is perfect for jeep travel, while the Damara Elephant Ride has some hair raising driving segments. You'll want to ask in advance about the driving route, as many times, there's a reason why your friends are horse riding there.

When deciding which trip to take, make sure to ask questions about whether additional activities for the members of your group who are not riding need to be planned in advance or can be worked out on site. Sometimes it's nice to work out excursions in advance, so you can make sure there's space available and can examine the costs so you can budget ahead of time.

cave creek horse riding

Take the Connemara Trail Ride in Ireland. Most people would think that non-riders would not be able to come along on this trail riding vacation, where riders trot from one B&B to the next along the rugged Connemara Coast. Irish horseman and local guide Willie Leahy has set up the trip, so that while riders are exploring the coast by day, non-riders can choose river or deep-sea fishing, golf, cycling, hiking, swimming or shopping, catching up with riders at the inn’s pub that evening to swap stories of their adventures. If you’re not too busy, take a jeep ride to meet up with the riders for a picnic lunch on the trail. 

Self-Drive Riding Vacations - Create your own itinerary and let the road trip begin!

If you've watched Equitrekking, you've seen us take to the open road a lot. We're often riding in one place for a day or two and then setting our GPS, crossing our fingers and hoping we get to the next riding adventure on time. In the state of Utah, we rode in Capital Reef National Park, hopped over to Snow Canyon State Park, then Bryce Canyon and up to Antelope Island and we could have done so much more! The scenic drives were just awesome too. 

So a drawback of this type of self-drive vacation is that it takes a lot of planning and can be time consuming, but if you've got time and energy, this is a rewarding way to take in a lot of diversity on your riding travels. There are outfitters across the United States and world that offer short hour long and longer day rides. Many of these rides are in state or national parks. These shorter excursions can be great for groups with riders who might not be as fit in the saddle and also allow for trip planning flexibility. You can search for suggestions on places to ride and outfitters who will rent you a horse and take you out. We continue to compile this information on our website and many of you email to ask us about where to ride in different areas. We always email back, so keep em coming!

We here at Equitrekking have organized three popular self-drive tours on the Big Island, Maui and Uruguay that allow riders and non-riders to travel together, based on our own experiences. We saw that no one else was offering trips like these, so decided to create the offering. Ireland is another great place for self-drive adventures, though I warn you, you need to be comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road!

Resorts with Horse Riding - A great option for multi-sport families

Many resorts in Ireland and across the United States cater to equestrians with additional activities for their non-rider friends or the companions who want to play golf or fish. You may want to do the same on days you're not riding!

mountain top inn kayaking

Mount Juliet in Ireland and Gleneagles in Scotland are two that come to mind that offer great golf in addition to good riding. Closer to home The Mountain Top Inn & Resort offers diverse riding lessons and trail riding for equestrians, while non-riders can relax at the spa, enjoy kayaking, swimming, tennis or golf amid Vermont Mountain charm.

For more family friendly options, check out the Equitrekking Vacation Guide, where you can search for great dude ranches, guest ranches and equestrian escapes and which features special riding vacations based on our experiences filming for Equitrekking.

Darley Newman is the Emmy nominated host and producer of Equitrekking and an equestrian travel expert. Check out more of Darley's Travel Tips.