Horse Riding Vacations Planning Tips

What to consider when planning riding holidays, ranch vacations and equestrian escapes

by Darley NewmanDarley Newman

If you are planning an equestrian vacation, whether it’s in India, New Mexico or the next town over, you’ll want to do your research and be prepared. It’s your time to ride free and enjoy it.

To make your time in the saddle as stress free and pleasurable as possible, take the time before you leave to study up on your upcoming adventure. Here are six tips to plan a great equestrian escape.

1. Do, do your research - The world is your riding oyster and there are a lot of choices for riding vacations. Enjoy perusing ALL of them before you narrow it down. Researching your dream vacation or even a vacation that you would never dream of taking any time soon can be half the fun.

Use the internet to get current information on destinations, read traveler reviews, watch videos and check out photographs. You definitely can't judge a place by its website, so don't stop there. 

2. Ask around - No matter how much research you do, no one can give you better advice than fellow riders, especially if they have visited the ranch or riding vacation destination themselves. They will be able to tell you the details that you can only gain from experience.

Reach out to friends and family. Use your social media outlets to ask questions or get ideas for places to travel. Post questions and see what response you get. You may find out more about your friends' travels than you knew before or discover a horse riding adventure that you didn't know existed. 

3. Check it out - Check to see if the riding stables or ranch is a member of an association or equestrian organization, such as the A.I.R.E. (Association of Irish Riding Establishments), British Horse Society or Dude Ranchers Association. Destinations allied with these organizations must meet certain guidelines to be members.

If you are unsure or can’t find this information or the ranch or outfitter is not a member of any organizations, the destination’s local or regional tourism bureau or CVB may be able to give you guidance. State and country tourism boards and convention and visitors bureaus can be helpful in finding out if a destination is an upstanding business, and I always ask them to let me know if they know of someone personally who's ridden there before too.

Horsey associations and resources, like the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association, the Arizona Dude Ranchers Association, the Equitrekking Vacation Guide, and our team here at are other good outlets for asking about riding destinations, reading about other folks' experiences and getting suggestions for where to go. 

Once you've pinpointed a place or two, find out about its history, facilities, horses and amenities.

4. Make sure it's a good fit - If you are looking for trail riding, you don’t want to end up at a center that focuses on dressage or vice versa. Many establishments focus on many different activities, but may be stronger in one area than another. Getting matched with the right riding vacation to fit your skill level and the requirements of the rest of your group members is important.

Whether you are working with a travel agent, booking agency or talking directly to the destination, make sure to convey to them your wants and needs to ensure that your trip is everything you want it to be. 

5. Be true to yourself - You know your riding ability, and if you don’t, ask your instructor. If you aren't taken riding lessons or haven't ever been in the saddle, convey that information accurately. Fudging your abilities is not advised, as riding is a risk sport and riding vacations and horses require different skill and fitness levels. 

Ask about the skill requirements and convey your riding history at the time of your booking. If you are an occasional rider or are traveling with a non-rider, you may want to pick a vacation that mixes riding with other activities, such as sightseeing, golf or lying out on the beach. Advanced riders may want to plan more time in the saddle. 

6. Get fit- Ride, ride, ride - If you are a beginner, definitely take a few lessons or add in more riding time before you travel. This will help you gain the confidence that you need and the muscles that you'll want for riding. It never hurts for anyone to brush up on their skills and get fit both in the ring and on trails.

Remember, you will be riding on a horse that is new to you, which is part of the fun of traveling and riding!

Darley Newman is the five-time Emmy nominated host, writer and producer of Equitrekking and an equestrian travel expert. Learn more about riding vacations by surfing and checking out dude ranches, guest ranches and riding holidays in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.