Story originally appeared on Diamond Resorts.
Unless you follow the thoroughbred racing circuit or actively train for the sport, casual equestrians don’t necessarily know that Florida – especially the middle of the state – is horse country. Home to countless ranches and barns, Orlando and its neighboring communities offer winding trails through unique ecosystems that you can’t find anywhere else in the country. And because the options are so numerous and varied, you can find one that suits your level of experience or intentions, whether it’s to learn new skills or simply take a relaxing horseback ride on vacation.
Go the Guide d Route
For beginner riders and families, Hidden Palms Ranch is the ideal destination. This ranch offers guided, slow trail rides – no galloping – for groups of five or fewer through the Marl Bed Flats on the north side of the Lake Jesup Conservation Area. The deliberately slow pace allows for peaceful trots through the live oak hammocks that drip with Spanish moss, as well as sightings of raptors such as hawks and osprey. Children under nine aren’t allowed to ride on the trails, but instead are welcome to book a one-on-one horse experience (parents can photograph!), where they learn to groom and handle one of the ranch’s seven horses.
Likewise, Rock Springs Run Trail Rides is terrific for budding equestrians and families who wish to experience bonding time via a shared equestrian experience. While a little farther away from the center of Orlando, it can accommodate large groups, with 48 horses of all different breeds and origins (many rescued, donated, or purchased at auction). Rides take place at Rock Springs Run State Reserve, where the land varies from endangered Florida sand pine scrub to pine flatwoods, and the wildlife spotting is excellent.
Try Something New on a Scenic Trail
For those fully acquainted – or ready to become fully acquainted – with trail mechanics, All Hitched Up features rides ranging from advanced to adventurous. At St. Cloud’s Lake Lizzie Nature Preserve, trot over the land and into the water. Sunset rides are awesome for photo opportunities, and pictures are even included with some of the packages. But don’t fret if children or others in your group can’t handle a canter complete with aqueous spray. Guides cater each ride to your experience level, and barn-side rides or private lessons are also available.
Dare to Care at These Orlando Horse Stables
If you appreciate a picturesque perambulation that’s also charitable, consider booking a one-hour tour or private session with Horse Riding Orlando. Their mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home neglected horses, and they’ve successfully done so for more than 65 equines to date. The funds you spend on your Horse Riding Orlando ramble through the Twin Oaks Conservation Area will benefit another starving or abused horse.
While Freedom Ride isn’t accessible to everyone, it is an organization worth checking out. Freedom Ride specializes in therapeutic horseback riding lessons also called “hippotherapy” – and Equine Facilitated Learning for children, adults and veterans with a variety of physical, emotional and learning disabilities. In addition to more than a dozen donated horses and ponies, this accredited non-profit facility features certified instructors, specialists and trained volunteers who assist clients. Keep in mind that there is generally a waiting list, and potential riders need to be assessed first, so plan ahead if you’d like to explore the options here.
Whether you’re traveling as part of a family of serious equestrians or simply want to spend time communing with nature on a leisurely ride, horseback riding in Orlando is a wonderful activity to plan a trip around. Begin planning your vacation today by checking out the many Diamond properties in the area.