Holidays

Arizona’s Circle Z Ranch, horse riding arizona equestrian vacations holiday with horses in arizona

Since 1926, the Circle Z Ranch has welcomed guests to the traditions and beauty of our pristine Arizona property. We create unique, all-inclusive horseback riding vacations for visitors of all ages and riding abilities.

Our group of 17 horses and riders had taken shelter from the brutal midday sun beneath a massive overhang created thousands of years ago when water roared through the valley, and our chosen lunch spot was also home to several rattlesnakes.

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Click. Nothing. I pressed the button on top of my headlamp again. Click. Still nothing. Oh crap. My headlamp batteries had just died, and on the worst morning possible. Today was the day I would be riding Chocolate through 912-metre long Bulldog Tunnel as part of our 550 kilometre solo journey along the Trans Canada Trail (TCT).

My favourite aspects of a riding vacation anywhere in the world are experiencing the spectacular scenery of a new country from the back of a native horse, and glimpsing the true culture and everyday life of the local people. The Wild Andes Expedition Ride with host Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda La Alegria, which I found through Unicorn Trails, offered a close-up view of life in the mountains at all elevations in the Ecuadorian Andes.

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“Whoa up,” I called. One of the pack horses had broken loose and was causing havoc in our seven horse string. It was the first day of a three-week pack trip and all the horses were antsy, particularly my Spanish Mustang, Chocolate. He wasn’t happy being tucked in behind horses he didn’t know, leading one he didn’t like. I hopped off Chocolate and foolishly left him loose, breaking one of the golden rules of backcountry travel: always hang on to your horses.

My colleagues sometimes ask about my commitment to overseas riding holidays. Why would someone who rides horses all day travel overseas to do more of the same? Why not go sit on a beach in Cancun and sip fruity beverages? Let me answer that, but first I should confess that as I write this, the buttery evening light slants across the trellised hillsides of a classical riding school in Tuscany wrapping up a good day in the saddle.

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The Flying U Guest Ranch, one of North America’s only unsupervised riding ranches, is a horse lovers’ dream. Over 100 horses graze on the expansive Cariboo pastures that extend from the large barn, which was constructed 150 years ago. The barn stands central to the hustle and bustle of the stockyard, paying homage to the region’s rich history.

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