Do you like adventure? Do you like horses? An equestrian vacation can run the gamut of experiences. It may include anything from quiet rides and the solitude of shaded mountain trails through old growth native forests in the Smoky Mountains to stepping back in time 125 years to become part of a real cattle drive that crosses the Bozeman Trail and the spot where Crazy Horse surrendered in 1877.
Nearly everyone can enjoy an equestrian vacation. That includes horse owners, horse lovers and people who have never been near a horse. There are vacations geared to every rider experience level. Some vacations provide the horses and teach people how to ride or become better riders. Other vacations are much more do-it-yourself. You bring your own horse and equine supplies and are free to explore the trails and countryside at your leisure.
There are many reasons to choose an equestrian vacation. Adventure is certainly one of them. A vacation centered on riding horses is always exciting. You simply have a different view of the world from the back of a horse.
The outdoors experience draws many equestrian vacationers. Breathtaking scenery, close-up views of wildlife, creaking of saddle leather, birds singing in distant trees and the soft clop-clop of horses’ hooves are all part of the experience.
Types of Equestrian Vacations
There are many types of equestrian vacations. Some are fantastic secluded getaways for couples or entire families. Others are incredible adventures for singles, couples or groups of friends.
Arnold Estates near Sevierville, Tennessee, is an example of the first type. Nestled in the incredible beauty of the Smoky Mountains, only minutes away from Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park, this 500 acre slice of wilderness is cradled in the Smoky Mountain National Park.
Arnold Estates offers its human guests accommodations in one of five rustic cabins. The cabins are two or three bedroom structures with 26 feet high cathedral ceilings, Jacuzzi’s, wraparound porches, stone fireplaces and many other amenities of rustic luxury. Each cabin is screened from the rest by thick stands of trees, offering seclusion that is only minutes away from shopping malls.
Horse guests stay in 50 X 200 feet paddocks with shelters at one end. Hay is available on site at $3 per bale. The facility includes more than three miles of trails on 500 acres. This includes ridge tops and creek side trails. Yet another trail allows riders the opportunity to take their horses a distance in a shallow sandy creek.
Hundreds of miles of additional wilderness trails are available nearby. Only 12 miles away is Cosby Campground with more than 100 miles of wilderness mountain trails. Many of these trails cross tiny creeks and climb majestic ridges, including the 45 feet Henwallow Falls waterfall.
Also nearby is the Big Creek Recreational Area on the Tennessee – North Carolina border with more than 100 miles of wilderness horse trails. Majestic waterfalls, and chuckling streams lined with dense undergrowth and boulders covered with rich green moss are hallmarks of this region.
One of the features of this vacation is the seclusion you can enjoy. It is quiet. You can easily spend the entire week alone or with a loved one and your horses. Ride, read a book, hike or fish. The time is yours.
Many of the guests at Arnold Estates are family groups. This includes parents with children. Others are couples enjoying a week of seclusion.
For more information about Arnold Estates, visit the website at http://www.arnoldestates.com.
On the other end of the spectrum is one of the four weeklong adventures hosted by Double Rafters ranch. This is a real, working cattle ranch in northern Wyoming that invites visiting cowgirls and cowboys four times a year.
Double Rafters was homesteaded by the Kerns family in 1887, only 11 years after the Custer Massacre which took place nearby. Successive generations of the family have continued to raise cattle on the ranch. The operation includes leasing Bureau of Land Management pastures in the Bighorn Mountains some 50 miles away.
Each summer the cattle are split into two herds and driven to the summer pastures. Half of the herd is taken there in June and the other half is taken in July. In August, the mature steers are rounded up and driven back to the ranch headquarters so they can be taken to market. The cows and calves are driven back off the mountain in September. There is only one way to get these cattle to and from these rugged and secluded summer pastures. That is on horseback.
Up to 20 people can schedule a week long adventure and become a part of one of these cattle drives. This is a real, working ranch and these are true life cattle drives. Visitors are counted upon to provide meaningful assistance in moving the cattle.
The grazing rights and cattle drives are closely regulated and monitored by the Bureau of Land Management. Ranchers, such as the Kerns, have certain times when the cattle must be driven to and from these pastures. The cattle drives happen, regardless of whether it is sunny or raining or even snowing. Everything revolves around the cattle and a prescribed schedule for moving them the 50-odd miles.
The adventure is that these cattle drives are done exactly as they were more than a century ago. Vacationers spend six to eight hours each day in the saddle. The day begins at sunrise and ends when the cattle reach a prescribed campsite for the day. A chuck wagon trails along for the first three days. After that, all equipment and supplies are carried up the winding mountain trails on pack mules. The drive crosses the old Bozeman trail at two different spots and one camp is made on the site where Crazy Horse surrendered to Federal authorities nearly a year after he helped Sitting Bull wipe out General Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry.
Double Rafter supplies the horses and helps prepare guests for the ride. On the first day, the ranch brings in a clinician to teach guests horsemanship skills. A careful evaluation of each guest is made and care is given to matching the guest with a suitable mount. The horses are experienced, working ranch horses. They are conditioned to the 9,000 feet altitude, cattle, the terrain and guest riders.
Many of the guests on one of these four cattle drives are couples, although a good number are also single people. About 60 percent of the guests for the summer drives are women. That number is reversed for the autumn drives. Guests range in age from 15 to well into their 70s.
Do you like horses? Are you looking for new adventures? Whether you are vacationing alone or with family or friends, whether you own a horse or just have an interest in horses, an equestrian vacation may prove to be the greatest vacation of your lifetime.