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Spring Travel

Giddyap!

Five trips to get you into the saddle.

WHAT A RUSH Guests at the Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Cleone, California, get to ride seaside along the Mendocino coastline. WHAT A RUSH Guests at the Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Cleone, California, get to ride seaside along the Mendocino coastline. (Ricochet Ridge Photograph by Harvey Hoechstetter)
By Amy Sutherland
March 27, 2011

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There are many good reasons to spend your vacation atop a horse, as these five trips demonstrate. You can visit hard-to-reach spots, like hidden canyons or coastal jungles. You can learn new skills, such as how to post or, if you dare, gallop. You can return to the clip-clop pace of yesteryear. You can bond with spouses and kids or, at the very least, your new four-hoofed friend. You can even cross an item off your bucket list, whether it’s riding through surf, playing cowboy – or just getting on a horse.

Riding in luxury

A former turnip farm turned plush resort in the not-so-distant shadow of Vermont’s Killington Ski Resort, The Mountain Top Inn & Resort is one of the few spots in New England where you can take a vacation astride a horse. The equestrian center, open May through October, provides classes and rides in Western or English styles for all levels, even pony rides for preschoolers and cross-country jumping for more accomplished horse types. A 12-mile trail skirts the waters of the Chittenden Reservoir and then plunges into the Green Mountain National Forest. You can bring your own horse and house pets. The equestrian center is open to non-guests.

The Mountain Top Inn & Resort, Chittenden, Vermont; http://www.mountaintopinn.com; 802-483-2311; three-night riding package, including six hours of guided trail rides, breakfast, and lodging, $1,150 per person; hourlong group rides, $45 per person, riders must be 8 years or older; hourlong private lesson, $65 per person, no age restriction

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Breaking the waves

Ricochet Ridge Ranch owner Lari Shea has a rule: “Don’t ever turn your back on the ocean.” (This is if you are charging though the surf atop one of her horses.) Best not to let a big wave ruin your beach-riding vacation along Northern California’s Mendocino coast. Shea, a competitive endurance rider, offers multi-day packages that include guided rides and a stay at the nearby Hill House Inn. Shea leads fast-paced tours down the 10 miles of crescent-shaped coastline edged by dunes and mountains, as well as through redwood forests and across cattle ranches. She specializes in experienced riders, but the less accomplished are welcome. Riders can pick between Western or English.

Ricochet Ridge Ranch, Cleone, California; http://www.horse-vacation.com; 888-873-5777 or 707-964-9669; all-inclusive weeklong packages for lodging, dining, and riding start at $2,295 per person

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The Big Island on horseback

Hawaii is not short on horses, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a ranch with accommodations. Equitrekking of PBS fame solves that problem with this package that combines a four-night stay at the oceanfront Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, car rental, and three different rides from the resort. One day you’ll pick your way through the knotty jungle terrain of the coastal Waipi’o Valley, which is ringed by lush cliffs and waterfalls. Your other rides will be on cattle ranches teeming with Hawaiian cowboy culture – one features open fields and views of the Pacific Ocean, the other a rain forest. The package is aimed at intermediate to advanced riders, but beginners can also partake. Riders must be 8 years or older; maximum weight is 230 pounds.

Equitrekking, Waikoloa Village, Hawaii; http://www.equitrekkingtravel.com; 877-490-7786; rates for the four-night package start at $971 per person

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The Wild West This trip is for experienced horse lovers who aren’t afraid of six-hour days in the saddle or nights under the stars. The payoff is a weeklong immersion in some of the most stunning country in the United States. On Equitours’ Three Park Spectacular you’ll ride a quarter horse through slot canyons, across desert plateaus, and through stands of ponderosa pines. The ride passes the hallucinatory hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park and slips along the big rock maze of Zion National Park. On day seven you’ll look deep into Grand Canyon National Park from the North Rim. Outfitters haul the gear and prepare breakfast and dinner, but you’ll help with the dishes and the horses. This ride is offered only twice a year, in May and late August, but Equitours has plenty of other Western packages.

Equitours’ Three Park Spectacular, Meet in St. George, Utah; http://www.ridingtours.com; 800-545-0019; seven days and six nights, meals included, $1,785 per person

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Riding family-style With a massive stable of some 180 horses and 390 acres of rolling saguaro-studded desert to ride them through, Arizona’s Tanque Verde Ranch is one of the oldest and biggest dude ranches in the country. That said, you could easily spend a week there and never once throw your leg across a horse – which makes this an especially good choice for families. While Mom and Dad hit the trail, the kids can paint, swim, play tennis, or, of course, take horseback riding lessons. The whole clan can saddle up for slower-paced walk-rides. The ranch is on the eastern edge of Tucson, if all the horses, cowboys, and cattle roping leave your brood hankering for city life.

Tanque Verde Ranch, Tucson; http://www.tanqueverderanch.com; 800-234-3833; all-inclusive rooms start at $225 per person per night
Amy Sutherland is the author of three books, including What Shamu Taught Me About Life, Love, and Marriage. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.