These days, we look to horses to fulfill us in other ways, such as riding for pleasure or sport, or cheering them on as fans at professional competitions. Horse lovers and road trips are a match as natural as Secretariat and Churchill Downs: countless exciting equestrian events exist around the country, and you can also plan trips with your equine friends along as companions to explore the country’s parks and trails.
Let’s start with some world-class competitions to attend as spectators such as the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, held the last weekend of April at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Rolex draws competitors from around the world to compete in the triathlon of equine sports. For the horse lover, Rolex is also a shopping mecca, featuring everything from boots to saddles. The Kentucky Horse Park’s campground is RV-friendly, with a range of price options. Also in spring (April 18-May 5, 2013) is the famous Del Mar National Horse Show on the ocean in southern California. One of the oldest horse shows in the country, it features western, dressage, and hunter/jumper competitions. RV accommodations can be found right across from the fairgrounds; for details: surfandturfrvpark.com
Meanwhile, rodeo fans can find their joy at the annual Rodeo of Ozarks in Springdale, Arkansas (June 29-July 2, 2011), featuring bronc riding, barrel racing and team roping. The area features various RV accommodations, such as Pilgrim’s Rest RV Park (pilgrimsrestrvpark.com)
But say you want to take your horses on vacation with you. Various national parks allow trail riding with your own horses. Head to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park and traipse around the hoodoos, the dramatic rock pinnacles. You can also explore the bridle paths of the Ozarks National Scenic Riverways in Missouri. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, has more than 500 riding trails, as well as peaceful backcountry sites where you can camp with your horse. National parks have a range of accommodations for the RV traveler, as well as different rules for bringing your own horses, everything from requiring weed-free hay to barring grazing on parkland, all in order to protect natural habitats. For more information on specific national parks, go to nps.gov.
When traveling with horses, various precautions must be kept in mind …
On long road trips, horses need to stretch their legs every two to four hours. Also, make sure the trailer is well ventilated, that horses have had the appropriate vaccinations, and that you bring along an emergency kit.
If you’re traveling in a vehicle that combines living quarters with equine transport, you must always be on guard for fire. Never leave anything on the stove and refrain from smoking inside. When hauling a horse trailer, make sure that your vehicle is heavy enough to pull it, that you drive at a safe speed, and that your tire pressure is adequate all-around. Check with your RV dealer for the correct specs.
You can register your horse trailer with the National Plant and Register Equipment Database (ner.net). That way, if your trailer is stolen, the serial number can be traced back to you.
Meanwhile, Web sites that list RV Parks, campsites, and stables with horse-friendly accommodations across the country include:
Roaming Times: tinyurl.com/roamingtimescampsites
Horse Motels International: horsemotel.com.
However, not everyone can afford the expense of owning their own horses and taking vacations with them. Fortunately, the country is full of other kinds of destinations for the horse-crazy RV owner. Fulfill your inner cowboy by visiting a dude ranch like Marble Mountain Ranch in Northern California on the Klamath River, which offers things like pack trips and hay rides. For a complete listing of dude ranches across the country, go to duderanches.com. Perhaps you’d just like to hit the road with only your whims as your guide and find riding stables along the way. Check out horseandtravel.com, and click on the Riding Stables link.
For the traveler who wants to combine horses and culture, you might consider planning a trip around museums that honor the horse’s legacy to the United States. For example, in Saratoga Springs, New York, the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame traces the history of thoroughbred racing. Out in Oklahoma, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museumww contains an internationally respected collection of Western art. Finally, back at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, the International Museum of the Horse’s collections and exhibits explore the relationship between human and horse, without which modern society would not have occurred, including today’s open roads.
Leslie Guttman is the author of Equine ER: Stories From A Year in the Life of an Equine Veterinary Hospital (Eclipse Press, 2009).
A History of the World Equestrian Games
At least eight hundred athletes from 58 countries and their horses descended on the Kentucky Horse Park September 25 through October 10, 2010. It was called the largest airlift of horses since World War II. Highlights of the Games included Team USA’s Steffen Peters and his rock-star horse, Ravel, winning a bronze individual dressage medal, the first time in history America had won an individual medal in the dressage World Championships. Spain’s Maria Alvarez Ponton won the 100-mile endurance race just seven weeks after having a baby. And taciturn U.S. cowboy Tom McCutcheon won the gold in individual reining, a sport that has exploded around the world.
Attendance reportedly topped 500,000 and furthered the Kentucky Horse Park’s reputation as both a national and international tourist destination. The horse park’s regular attractions include the Hall of Champions, where horses such as thoroughbred legend Cigar and champion American Saddlebred CH Gypsy Supreme receive visitors daily. The Parade of Breeds educates the public on 24 kinds of equines, and the park also features horsedrawn tours, trail rides and pony rides.
The Kentucky Horse Park’s resort campground is a full-service operation for the RV traveler, with a grocery store, gift shop, dump stations and bathhouses. The campground also has basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, along with a swimming pool. Pets are welcome, and special events are held on the campground throughout the year.
For more information, go to kyhorsepark.com.