Tips for saddling up with the kids – Family Ranch Riding Holidays
A Family Ranch Riding Holiday – just spend a couple of weeks being a cowboy. One of my absolute top dream holidays. Not that I’ve ever really told anyone before – I’m the only one in the family who rides, so I always presumed that it was a simple no-go as a family holiday. But i have a thing for cowboy movies (it was always about the horses a s a child), and to be able to try the life… oh, what an amazing adventure that would be.
And thanks to a chat with Ranch Rider, the whole idea is back on the table. You totally do NOT have to be an experienced rider, and they welcome children from far younger than I thought. *excited face*
Riding holidays cater to a wide range of tastes from luxury to rustic, and vastly differing levels of experience from novices to expert riders. In North America, there is plenty of cross-over as many authentic ranches are a split between guest and working operations. This makes them ideal for equestrians who have children who don’t yet ride, and for families who are new to saddling up. Roping steers, driving the herd (some offer mini cattle drives for riders from eight years) and weekly guest gymkhanas including fun games on horseback give kids a chance to see how far they’ve come as western riders. Aside from the sense of accomplishment and new found confidence, experts also claim horsing around can reduce stress levels, a recent study focusing on 130 teenagers taking part in an after school horsemanship course.
So we asked the fab people at Ranch Rider to give us a few tips on family riding holidays, and here they’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions to get you thinking;
Here are some key questions you might want to ask when choosing your family riding holiday…
- My husband and teenage children don’t ride, will they enjoy a working ranch experience?
We would suggest opting for a working/guest ranch where the family will be able to enjoy a greater variety of pursuits, the horseback activities still offering up challenges to those who already ride.
- Are my children too young to take a ranch holiday?
We have ranches that will allow children under five to be led around the ranch’s arena by guides. Pony rides are often available for little ones, along with petting zoos and a wide range of activities central to the locations nature, history and wildlife. Children of five and upwards will have the opportunity to ride off ranch, but there are kids clubs catering to children from three years and some ranches offer babysitting services with advanced notice.
- My wife and I want to book a riding holiday, but we’re worried our teens will be bored especially on a week without WIFI?
Many ranches will have WIFI hot spots, but due to their remote locations it may not be a fast connection and is likely to be shared. However, this is often a bonus for older children, many of whom rekindle a love for the outdoors and nature on the stay. Some ranches offer “teen focused” kids counsellors and activities covering overnight camp outs, survival activities, geo caching and age related pursuits where they can hang out with their peers.
- Our kids want to visit the rodeo, when should we travel?
Rodeos generally tend to happen throughout the summer months, and are often integrated into a week long ranch stay. June through July is the best time to go.
- What about more exotic riding holiday destinations?
The malaria free Waterberg region in South Africa offers great wildlife viewing year round. Ant’s Hill and Ant’s Nest in South Africa cater to a wide range of travellers, and the luxury lodges are perfect for clients who are bringing their children on safari. From age five and dependent on experience, children can join the outrides and there are ponies suited to all levels. Bug and spoor walks and a chance to encounter giraffe, zebra and rhino out on the trail make this a magical experience for kids.
- I have adventurous kids who will be keen on doing more than riding, where should I book?
Guest and Guest/working ranches will offer a wider range of pursuits – hiking, cycling, kayaking, white water rafting and fly-fishing often offered alongside riding. For the ultimate challenge there are outward bound courses where kids will have access to zip wires, climbing walls and high ropes courses. These ranches are what we would call “adventure centres.” Idaho’s Red Horse Mountain Ranch and Wyoming’s Brush Creek Ranch and Spa really deliver when it comes to keeping adventurous kids entertained.
- Should my kids get acquainted with riding before we go on our riding holiday?
Most guest ranches will offer lessons on the ranch so it isn’t necessary. It’s worth finding out more about the level of instruction offered before you book and what type of lessons are being offered, for example is it more general group instruction, is there the opportunity to learn about horsemanship and are individual lessons on offer?
- Are we adequately covered?
Insurance is key and you need to make sure that your family is covered for riding without a hard hat. This is an optional piece of kit at many ranches in North America. If hard hats are a safety concern, make sure you make your purchase before departing.
Comment from Tony Daly, Managing Director of Ranch Rider