Horsemanship vacations offer something very different, and they can be a truly life-changing experience for many guests. This year, why not book onto one and feel the difference for yourself? Horsemanship courses and clinics at a ranch are perfect for singles, couples, friends, the whole family or even corporate retreats. Everyone can get involved and you’ll learn so many new skills and feel like you understand your equine friends so much more.
What is a horsemanship vacation?
The term horsemanship, put simply, means learning to understand, ride and deal with horses in a skilled way. Horsemanship clinics at ranches vary enormously and can be anything from using techniques to improve your riding position and performance to understanding how horses work and think, allowing you to work with them in a more tuned-in way. Here’s what’s on offer at some of the ranches featured at www.top50ranches.com
Please Note: Below with each ranch we have provided a range of pricing – a custom quote will be offered to you based upon group make-up and interests. A customized quote will be provided specific to your needs and wants!
Bitterroot Ranch, Wyoming, USA
• Centered Riding Clinics. Centered Riding provides an insight into how you can improve your riding and enhance communication and cooperation with your horse. The theory behind it is based on a knowledge of human and horse anatomy, balance, movement and on understanding how the mind affects the body and how both affect the horse. It uses centering and grounding techniques from the martial arts, along with body awareness, mental imagery and sports psychology. One guest commented: “I’ve been working hard on the stuff that I learned, and you know what? My horses have never travelled so well, and felt so light! The centering with the breathing and the soft eyes is just incredible. Yesterday I did a five hour ride in the desert and I have never felt so well on a horse; and the horse trotted up afterwards as never before! In summary, I am just happy and amazed about it all, and so are my dear ponies.” Dr. Jaber Bittar, UAE (five-day clinic).
Perfect for: Riders of all levels who want to improve their performance in the saddle and have a better understanding of how their own and their horse’s body works.
Dates: June 2-9 with Donna Snyder-Smith, a world-class clinician and level III Centered Riding Instructor who holds the prestigious Lifetime Award from the American Riding Instructors’ Association.
Price: Contact Ranch
Dates: August 25-September 1 with Sue Faulkner-March, a level III Centered Riding Instructor and Connected Riding Practitioner who studied under Sally Swift.
Price: Contact Ranch
• TTEAM Young Horse Training Clinic. The Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method (TTEAM) is a way of training, healing and overcoming common resistances in horses. Not only does the horse benefit from the TTEAM method, but also a deeper rapport grows between horse and rider because of increased understanding and more effective communication. Linda Tellington-Jones, the founder of the TTEAM method and world-renowned horsewoman, has been teaching clinics at Bitterroot Ranch for more than 20 years. The Bitterroot Ranch setting offers a unique experience to work with untrained, ranch-bred Arabs who will be integrated into the ranch’s exceptional string of saddle horses.
Perfect for: Riders of all levels, especially those with confidence issues or those who simply want to improve their riding.
Dates: June 16-23 with Linda Tellington-Jones.
Price: Contact Ranch
• Reach Out To Horses Clinic. During the Reach Out to Horses Clinic, Bitterroot offers you first-hand experience, through demonstrations, lectures and exercises, on how all contact with your horse, your intentions, your body language, your energy and more, form a communication system. You will also become certified as a Reiki I and II practitioner.
Perfect for: Guests who believe in the benefits of alternative therapies and those wishing to gain another qualification to help others.
Dates: June 9-16 with Anna Twinney, founder of Reach Out To Horses. Anna is an internationally respected Natural Horsemanship Clinician and Trainer, Animal Communicator and Reiki Master.
Price: Contact Ranch
C Lazy U Ranch, Colorado, USA
The C Lazy U, in cooperation with Julie Goodnight, has put together a riding and yoga retreat for women. Take advantage of discounted rates for world-class accommodations with programming, riding and yoga included. Participants can bring their own horses or use one of the great horses at the ranch. The clinic sessions are fun and productive with all riders and horses working at their own pace. Julie is there to make sure you have a good time, stay safe and learn something. She is really good at putting everyone at ease and making you feel confident. From Julie’s point of view, she is there for you - not the other way around. It’s not about egos or impressing people, it’s about you and your horse and making what progress you can, while you have a great time in an incredible setting. “Expect to have fun, learn a lot about your horse, enjoy great company and a have a luxurious stay at one of Colorado’s premier guest ranches,” says Julie.
Perfect for: Female riders who want to maximise their potential in the saddle and have a great time doing it.
Dates: May 17-20 and October 11-14
Price: $970, plus $25 per day for board of your own horse
Beautiful ride at C Lazy U, Colorado
Double Rafter Cattle Drives, Wyoming, USA
Double Rafter ranch is offering a number of trips which will start with a half day natural horsemanship clinic and/or include yoga and Pilates to help riders develop their riding skills further. This includes saddling and bridling as well as the applicable side of horsemanship rather than the showmanship side of it. Chris Ellsworth will be taking the horsemanship clinics. Having studied under all the big time names such as Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance and Buck Brannaman, Chris got his first job out of college on the ranch and stayed for two years. He’s able to add a personal side to his clinics seeing as he knows every inch of the mountain allotment and the string of horses. Gino Carfora, a past guest said: “I don't know what you are paying Chris, but you should double it.”
Perfect for: Guests who wish to be all-round better horsemen.
Dates: June 16-21, June 30-July 6, July 21-26, August 11-16, September 14-21, September 30-October 6.
Price: Contact Ranch
Estancia Los Potreros, Argentina
One-to-one sessions with this ranch’s horse-breaker, Juan Manuel Pizarro (Jumi), during any stay and subject to availability, are on offer. Jumi is an extraordinary horseman. While his methods are loosely based on Monty Roberts, Jumi doesn’t follow just one system of training – he draws on many of the established experts in the field, along with his own extensive experience gained in Argentina, England and Africa. This allows him and his students the flexibility to work with what suits them and their personality, and each particular horse. The ranch, which has been described by many guests as ‘pure heaven’, has been highlighted and acclaimed in several publications including Real Travel, The World’s best riding, The Sunday Times and 100 Best Hotels in the World.
Perfect for: Riders of all levels who want to gain a better insight into equitation and horse behaviour.
Dates: Available on any trip from January-April and June-December.
Price: A one hour private round corral demonstration, where Jumi will explain his background, how he came up with his system of natural horsemanship breaking, and demonstrate some of his techniques in practice, costs $50. A two-hour private round corral clinic, where Jumi will demonstrate some of the techniques he uses and then invite guests to try them out for themselves under his guidance, costs: $100.
Free Rein Ranch, British Columbia, Canada
Daily horsemanship clinics are on offer whenever clients wish to partake. Many guests venture into the round-pens to take part in the riding/handling programme. Most guests are learning new methods every day on the ground since the ranch often begins the days with sessions in the training pens. The Judd family from Vancouver was full of praise following their stay. “Thank you so very much. We had a fantastic time and can’t wait to come back. We will remember you and this experience forever and what you have here is so extremely special. I’m not just talking about the ranch, but everything.”
Perfect for: Guests who want the flexibility to do as they wish on a daily basis and develop their horsemanship skills at the same time.
Price: $200-$275 per person, per night includes all instruction.
Quality horses at Free Rein Ranch
McGinnis Meadows, Montana, USA
There’s the option to participate in Buck Brannaman-style horsemanships every day at McGinnis, where folks can come and work on their horsemanship skills from groundwork to advanced moves. The horsemanship program is McGinnis’ main emphasis of any guest’s stay. Keith from Michigan described his experience as: “I walked away from the week with a much clearer feeling about the work guests are fortunate to participate in. I worked my way up to a level of what there is to understand about horses, interacting more easily with my horse, riding and responding without thinking too much about it and spending some minutes simply enjoying the ranch life.”
Perfect for: Keen riders who want to learn as much as they can about their equine friends.
Price: $308-$335 per person, per night includes all instruction.
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Montana, USA
The Ranch at Rock Creek hosts a whole range of natural horsemanship-type trips. Take your pick from the following…
• Adopt A Horse. Guests who love spending time petting, grooming and tending to the horses will love the Adopt A Horse program. A Wrangler is on hand to help you learn the ins and outs of caring for horses and provide you with the items you’ll need. Adopt A Horse is available by reservation every afternoon at 2pm with a maximum of five participants per class. Sessions last 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Perfect for: Less experienced guests who want to learn the basics in caring for horses.
• Little Grizzlies. Children under the age of eight will delight in spending time with Rock Creek’s Little Grizzlies horses, where they will get the chance to pet, brush and ride under the watchful eyes and expert guidance of the Grizzly Wranglers. Sessions will last 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Perfect for: Pony mad children, allowing parents to do their own thing.
• Arena Games. Experience alternative riding disciplines and improve your skills with some horseback arena games at Rock Creek. Games are offered with advance reservations and a maximum of five participants per class. Choose from Pole Bending, Barrel Racing and Roping. Sessions last 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Perfect for: Guests wishing to add some excitement and adrenaline into their stay.
Dates: Mondays and Thursdays all-year-round
• Equine 101. Equine enthusiasts can spend time with the knowledgeable Wrangle staff at Rock Creek, getting answers to questions about horses, their care and training. This non-mounted class is a fun way to increase your equine knowledge and learn the basics of how to ‘speak horse’. Each participant will have use of a horse for the class, with bookings taken in advance only and a maximum of five participants per class.
Perfect for: Less experienced or nervous riders who want to understand how their horse thinks.
Dates: Saturdays at 2pm all year round.
Vista Verde Ranch, Colorado, USA
Vista Verde offers special horsemanship trips for limited guests each year. With just a few guests at a time, visitors experience that ‘I have the ranch to myself’ feel. There’s no special entertainment on offer - just riding, camaraderie during meal times and plenty of opportunity to chill out, relax and reflect on the day’s events. Ranch Trainer Terry Wegener is a National Reining Horse Association money winner and has an extensive background in reining, ranch versatility horse training, competition and judging. He brings this experience to the Vista Verde riding program and has helped guests learn to far exceed their expectations in regards to how much they can learn in a week. From both demonstrating what he’s teaching the young horses to helping you learn how to better communicate with your own horse, you might find that you never want to leave the arena because you’re having too much fun!
Perfect for: Intermediate level riders.
Dates: March 17-21, but contact the centre for other up-and-coming natural horsemanship trips.
Foals at Vista Verde Ranch
Zapata Ranch, Colorado, USA
For the third year, third-generation rancher and horseman and CEO of Ranchlands, Duke Phillips, and 25-year director of the Thatcher Riding School in California, Cam Schryver, are returning to this excellent clinic. Both Duke and Cam are invited to speak around the country on conservation, horsemanship and what it means to be a modern-day rancher. Days are spent with personal one-on-one horsemanship instruction, educational demonstrations, rides through the surrounding meadows and dunes and working cattle and bison on horseback. Applying working ranch horsemanship and riding by feel, you’ll leave the week feeling a much deeper connection to the magnificence of horses and will understand better how to communicate with them. After the first couple days, the horsemanship clinic takes you out of the corrals and into a herd of cattle, where you apply the skills that you’ve learned. Additionally, day rides into our herd of 2,000 bison and into the Sand Dunes National Park give horse and rider a chance to exercise new lessons in open range, while enjoying the beauty of Zapata.
Perfect for: Guests who enjoy the variety of working in a corral and out in the open.
Dates: August 4-11
Price: $2,700 including all meals, lodging and instruction and space is limited to 15 participants.
For more details about horsemanship clinics available at any of the ranches mentioned above, visit: www.top50ranches.com
- Jody Dahl