Reviews of Ranches
For the English Equestrian Tourist
The places that I have heard recommended the most are: Kedron Valley Stables, in Vermont; Bitterroot Ranch, Wyoming; and Ricochet Ridge Ranch, California. I'll have more to say about them in a minute. But most riding locations in the USA are ranches, which they call "dude ranches". There are two types of dude ranch: a guest ranch, which is really a farm-like resort hotel that incidentally has horses; and a working ranch, which is often spartan, but always keeps cattle. For a serious riding holiday, a working ranch is ideal; but guest ranches can work out very well for family holidays or the less determined rider. I've got another list somewhere of good working ranches, but I have tested few of these so far.
Americans get shorter holidays than us, so a lot of places are best sampled as short breaks for two or three days, rather than a full week or longer.
Kedron Valley Stables
Run by Paul Kendall and his wife (Barbara?), their horses are ridden English style, and they run a series of "Inn to Inn" rides. On these week long holidays, you ride along Vermont's gravel surfaced back roads, between good, small-ish, family-run inns. Food and accomodation is excellent. Vermont is beautiful in the fall (late September to early November), but will be cold and snow covered throughout winter.
I've never been here, but they are highly regarded. The reason I've never been? They have a 200 lb (14 st 4 lb) weight limit. The owners also run an equestrian holiday firm called Equitour.
Ricochet Ridge Ranch
Run by Lari Shea, a competitive endurance racer, who has won the Tevis Cup (100 miles). She keeps quite a few horses in condition for endurance racing, and you're paying to keep her horses fit for her, which will mean that they are keen and excellent rides. Tack is a bastard cross of English, Western and Australian - typical for endurance. Expect an Australian or English type saddle with foam rubber padded stirrups, and a nylon rope riding halter.
Horses are quarter horse, Arab, Orlov and Akhal-Teke.
Outside the ranch is a ten mile long sandy beach - Richochet is about four miles from one end. In all directions is the redwood forest, covering the coastal foothills and beyond. Most trails are in the woods, going through ranchers' land that Lari has permission to ride over. She also runs holidays that involve riding between B&B's with good food. Temperatures are roughly the same year round, rarely higher than mid-seventies, and rarely lower than the fifties. Frost is possible in winter, but uncommon.
More comments here.
Other Ranch Reviews
A few links to ranches and travel companies gleaned from various books, magazines and catalogs. These aren't my recommendations, but they come from places that have been reasonably well tested and at least try to offer what I would consider a good deal.
See my photos from trips mentioned above.