There’s no feeling in the world quite as liberating and blissful as a ride on a fine horse. The feeling of communicating with another species and being understood, the heart-pounding joy of a good gallop—there’s a reason why horses have been praised to the skies for centuries. Their awe-inspiring power and kind hearts make it easy to understand why Winston Churchill observed: “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.” When you experience that exhilarating ride in our Hudson Valley scenery, you’ve got yourself a lifetime memory. And don’t worry if you never rode as a kid. Good
stable operators know how to teach a novice the rudiments of the human/equine code in minutes; you’ll feel safe and have enough of a vocabulary, so to speak, to establish a basic connection to the creature carrying you. The Hudson Valley is home to numerous stables that cater to all interest levels, with lovingly tended and patient herds who’ll be happy to make your acquaintance, and friendly, experienced wranglers to guide the introduction and ensure a good experience. Here is just a small sampling of stables that will scratch any itch to ride, whether it’s for a few minutes or a full weekend.
a nibble of the carrot
At Goodnow Family Farm in Gardiner, you can try out a low-impact, no-commitment taste of the saddle, or get your pony-crazed child a major thrill: for just $3, you can hop on and be led around a bit. “It’s just a little pony ride, really, and it’s the only kind of riding we offer besides hayrides,” says a Goodnow family member. “But we do have all izes, from ponies to large horses, so adults can ride too.” The horses and ponies aren’t the whole show, by a long shot; you and your companions can pet and get to know pigs, goats, llamas, and cows of all ages, pick up some fresh eggs and hormone and antibiotic-free meat, and ask a million questions.
Goodnow Family Farm
2769 Route 44/55, Gardiner
There used to be several places in the Hudson Valley where you could go to take a trail ride; they’re rare now, but Juckas Stables in Bullville is still going strong, offering trail rides and riding lessons by the hour on 117 acres of gorgeous Orange County countryside.
They’ve got a well-tended, good-natured herd to suit every skill level, from absolute novice to old hand—just call to reserve yourself a worthy steed. “Riding is the most incredible therapy,” says owner Karen Juckas. “Got a worry? Ride into the woods and it’s gone.”
At 81, Karen still loves every horse in the herd of 15 (the family is committed to giving them “forever homes”) and everything about the business. “I’m careful and my wranglers are careful to pick you the right horse and be meticulous about the tack,” she says.
“And we give everybody a three-minute lesson; we take their hands and show them how to turn, how to stop without hurting the horse’s mouth. Heels down, toes up—it’s much more comfortable and fun when you do it right.” You can take an hour ride at Juckas Stables for $45, or spend two hours in the saddle for $80.
They also host parties and special events. Call for reservations. “By the time we left we loved horses!” reads one of many five-star reviews on TripAdvisor. “We will definitely be back.”
1204 Route 302, Bullville
Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland is an award-winning, all-inclusive resort; only overnight guests can go riding there. That said, to experience the full menu of equine adventures would probably take a few days anyway, and unlimited riding is part of the package. Trail rides are offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, so you can try out a gentle walk, then increase the pace as your confidence grows.
There are daily horsemanship demonstrations, barn tours to take you behind the scenes, and Certified Horsemanship Association wranglers on every ride. For kids younger than seven there are pony rides, and if you’d like to experience horsepower without having to get astride one, there are horse-drawn wagon rides. Head wrangler Scott Pett says
great care is taken to keep everyone having fun, horses very much included. “We take amazing care of our 110 horses; they’re well-fed, well-groomed, and most importantly, well-loved.... The herd is turned out every evening so that they can just be ‘horses’ and roam, play, and graze amongst their horse friends in a 40-acre pasture.” No wonder they don’t mind carrying visitors over miles of scenic trails.
Being an all-inclusive resort also means you can soothe your saddle-soreness with some bodywork at the spa, cool off in indoor and outdoor water features of all sorts, or park the kids at the Little Tykes Nursery or the Wild Buckaroos Club while you revel in a gallop, then get back together for dinner and an evening of board games or karaoke.
Rocking Horse Ranch
600 Route 44/55, Highland
800-647-2624 or 845-691-2927