People often ask us what sources we recommend for purchasing flights, how we handle long haul flights, should they rent a car for spending extra days and a myriad of other questions.  So with that in mind, I want to share some of the things we recommend (and also personally use) when planning our own travel.

We save for vacation like everyone else – so what we spend matters – it affects if we’ll be able to spend any extra days and if so, what we can see and where we can stay (do we need a rented room in an Airbnb or can we afford a hotel, for example).  Our goal is always to get the most from our vacation fund while maximizing our experiences in as safe a way as possible.  Here’s our basic “go to” list:

  • We plan ahead. When purchasing our airline tickets we never (if we can help it) purchase them under the two month window.  Industry trends are still indicating that the best windows for airfares are 54 days out or longer.  And we use sites like these to check and track (be sure to sign up for fare alerts) airfares prior to purchasing them:

    (and a nice perk – planning ahead gives you more time to look forward to the trip!)

    Travel Tip:  Booking an AM flight gives you a better chance of easily handling any travel delays that pop up without disrupting your entire trip.  Plus, if the delay is a big one (weather related, you are first in line chronologically of folks needing to be re-routed.

 

  • We check the international sites. If you are traveling out of the country, after we checked the above sites, we then go to the international sites.  It’s a good investment of a few minutes of your time as sometimes they have better rates.
    Travel Tip:  If traveling domestically, studies have shown that Tuesday afternoons after 3PM are the best day/time to buy a flight.  And be careful of booking on a Saturday or Sunday as airlines are notorious for pulling discounted fares off the market prior to the weekend when people are home shopping.

 

  • Comfort is King. When flying anywhere over three hours, we don’t skimp on comfort, especially when it comes to our legroom.  But get the facts first.  We use SeatGuru to check the seat sizes on the plane fare we’ve booked.  And Yes We Do go back and buy a premium seat if it means another 3” of space.  If we can’t comfortably extend our legs under the seat in front of us because our knees are hitting the back of the seat (thank you not at all seat pitch of 30”!) we will feel it all the way up to our cramped neck muscles. That’s not how we want to start (or end) our vacation.
    Travel Tip: Check out your airlines annual subscription offers.  For example (and yes, we rare going there as it’s a good example) United’s Economy Plus Annual Subscription is $499 per year and includes unlimited domestic upgrades to United’s extra-legroom seating as long as a seat is available when you book. And if you really want to pull out the travel stops for the year – for $200 more, you get global access to Economy Plus.

 

  • We don’t waste time waiting in line. If you follow us on Facebook (Active Riding Trips – Equestrian Vacations) you’ve likely seen us mention this frequently.  Do yourself a favor and buy (yes buy) Global Entry for $100.00 (for a 5 year subscription).  It’s worth EVERY penny if you fly.But if you really can’t stomach the $100.00 fee go ahead and spring for TSA pre check at $85.00 for the same 5 year subscription.  Why on earth, in today’s airport crowd craziness, would you want to stand for over an hour in a security line when you can just breeze on through and get to your gate (or the lounge)?
    Travel Tip: Buying the Global Entry at $100.00 includes (yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as free) TSA Pre Check – so it’s really a BIGIF and is the total bomb for either domestic or international travel.

 

  • We don’t sweat the small stuff. Travel is by its own nature, stressful.  You can hit unexpected traffic en route to the airport, flights can be delayed (and if you have connecting flights, let your Secret deodorant go to work post haste) and staying connected with folks back home can be EXPENSIVE. Our favorite “go to”: WhatsApp It’s FREE and you can send text, photo of video messages to folks back home without incurring all the data charges.
    Travel Tip: Also download the app for your airline which tends to give you much faster access to any changes/delays, etc. as well as allowing you to check in easily from anywhere.

 

So the next time you are planning a trip, even if it’s not a riding trip (gasp!  Say it isn’t so!) check out some of the resources listed above – they have saved us Money,  Time and allowed us to go on our merry vacation way feeling confident in our plans.

When I was a kid (and even a young adult) you could go meet your out of town relatives and friends at the airport upon arrival – at the gate (gasp!).  Some of you (of a certain age) will recall how easy this was – you just walked into the airport and moseyed on down to the arrival gate and as soon as they emerged from the jetway, it was all hugs and kisses and heading to baggage claim together.

Some of you reading this will simply not be able to picture this – you have no idea what I’m talking about here.  But then again, you would also be the ones that never took a flight that had a smoking section (yes, that’s true – you used to be able to smoke on planes and each seat had an ashtray in the armrest).

But we are decades ahead of that now.  And I want to spend a few minutes chatting about the state of the world, travel and more than that – safety.

The world has evolved and in most ways with marvelous improvements – computers, cell phones, the internet (and for the men out there – TV remote contols, LOL).  And the more we have great advances like these, the ones that make our lives better, the more we look forward to “more” or “faster”.

But one thing some of these advances have impeded, is our ability to be aware of our surroundings.  How often do you see people walking with their nose buried in their phones?  Or walking/jogging with headphones on?

And add to that that the world had changed.  Now, there are truly nefarious people out there that are intent on destruction and causing mass mayhem, damage and instilling fear.

But some things have not changed – we’ve just gotten lulled into a sense of security.  Like working around a horse you’ve owned all it’s life  and that you know intimately – sometimes we can get “casual” in the way we operate, which can open the door for an injury – even by no fault of your reliable horse – things can just “happen”.

So what’s my point about this and how does it relate to the state of the world?

I spend a lot of time speaking to folks about the safety on our rides.  How are we are extremely picky about the horses – that they are healthy, that they have pleasant demeanors, that they are well taken care of, that they are fun to ride (not duds) – but also about the safety of the guides – that they are qualified, that they don’t put you in bad situations, etc.

And even with that – sometimes things happen.  Sometimes even the best, most laid back horses spook, or trip, sometimes the trail has a fallen tree since the last week and riders have to go off trail to get around (or, like the ride I took in Seville a few years back when they had R-A-I-N.  I mean they had 100% of the annual rainfall in one week – so we had to ride through water up to the horses’ chests at times!)  Things happen.  They just do.

And just yesterday, the world saw again how things “happen” – but this time intentionally – and our hearts go out to the people in London.  With the seeming uptick in nefarious activity around the world (has it really increased or does our instant access to news only raise our awareness to these events?  I wonder.), the world looks more and more like a dangerous place.

And we get this question a lot also.  Is it safe to travel to (fill in the blank “city”)?

And my answer is unequivocally YES and I’ll elaborate.

You are absolutely no less safe traveling to any city in our cache than you are in any major city in your home state.  And in fact, on the riding vacations, you are actually a good amount more safe as they are all conducted in the countryside – away from the major tourist attractions.  BUT – and let’s be honest – the main source of travel fear is not so much that you’ll travel to Madrid or London or Paris (all places that have been victimized by terror attacks) and find yourself in the midst of chaos – it’s more that you’ll be far away from home, in a foreign land.  And afraid.

And being afraid does not make for a good vacation or travel experience.

And I know you can’t “reason” your way out of fear (if you want to see this in action just be sure to put the smallest of spiders anywhere in my proximity and just wait for me to notice it.) (this includes Daddy Long Legs)

And facts don’t conquer fear – for example, here are the Top 10 Most Likely Ways to Die (according to Marketwatch):

10.  Suicide
9.    Kidney Disease
8.   Influenza
7.   Diabetes
6.   Alzheimer’s
5.   Stroke
4.   Accident (falls, auto/transport related)
3.   Lower Respiratory Disease
2,   Cancer
1.   Heart Disease

No where on this list are the things that strike terror in us like airplane turbulence or a runaway horse.  In fact, many of the items on the list can be positively impacted (but not completely alleviated given genetics) by lifestyle changes.

So what do you do?

If your horse bolts and runs away with you, do you get back on and try again?  Most folks do, even with trepidation.  But what about travel, that’s how I started this missive, after all.  What do you do when it comes to travel and the crazy people in the world, bent on harming any and all they can?

In the end, you do what ever it is that helps you feel most comfortable and least afraid – that’s just smart.

But it’s a choice.  Just like mounting back up after a fall.

 

 

 

My grandmother used to always bemoan how fast time flies and the passing of the years and I could never understand – until the last few years. I have to laugh now – as both she and my mother are often right (but please don’t tell my mom I actually admitted it out loud). This has been a fleeting year, to be sure.

And like most years, it’s filled with both highs and lows.

We kicked off the year by celebrating Will’s 50th birthday in Ireland and Scotland (and it was news to me that you could actually go to Ireland and not ride a horse – SO bizarre).

In February I had the amazing blessing to find
Cinemax, my new equine  partner in crime. It’s been a riot getting to know him. A former show jumper, he’s been a fun project when it comes to introducing him to trail riding with all of its variety – and his funny reactions – deer in the woods (holy cow, what’s that???), wild turkeys in the woods (Holy S&%T – what’s the deal with them flying up into the trees above my head?????), cows in the next pasture across the street (No EFFing Way – WE ARE NOT going over there!).

We sent our beloved Dakota over the Rainbow Bridge in March, on a lovely day that wasn’t too cold and afforded us a nice long walk to visit all the spots she loved to smell and leave messages for the next dog. Fifteen was an amazing run for her and for these last 6 years, she’s been a wonderful family member – gentle with size of person large or small and ferocious when strangers are walking down the street (or turkey vultures circling, LOL).

June saw myself and few clients head out to Colorado to
scope out our two new destinations – if you want an amazing experience be sure to check out our private family ranch ride – we loved it beyond description and many great rides and loads of fun laughs.

October took us back to Montauk for our annual fishing trip and funny, for the second year in a row, I had a double header!

The months in between were filled with seeing many of you at trade shows – thanks for coming by our booth – that’s such a highlight for me!

November and December are family months, by design and by tradition. Thanksgiving is spent with the Moriarty clan – 23 fun, festive and sometimes overly loud Irish folks. And December brings us to Coral Gables to see my folks and my brother and his family.

And I feel blessed indeed – that our families on both sides are all healthy and well. That we both still have our parents, all with no major health issues. That we have each other – finding Will has been God making lemonade out of lemons in my life, he is truly my dearest and best friend – the one I can’t wait to celebrate with and the one that has to listen to my wrath when things get under my skin (he offers to dig a hole in the backyard to bury what ever it is that is vexing me and then instead, brings me a glass of wine – he’s just “gets” me).

But through all of these highs and lows of 2016, it’s really all of you that have made it an amazing year. Your calls, your emails, sharing your lives on Facebook so openly and inviting me to share mine – those moments, some of which were small (the first snow of the season) and big (your child’s first ride) – those are the moments and events that I’ve come to love, the ones that allow our lives to intertwine.

Thank you for sharing yourselves and for connecting. Please don’t stop! (and if we aren’t connected on Facebook – please friend me! Stacey Adams, Stanfordville, NY – Dakota is my current profile shot)

Wishing all sorts of peace to you this season, no matter where you are in life or what is going on, please know that I’m truly thankful for you and wishing you the best of what is possible.

Here’s looking at you 2016 – and to a fabulous 2017!

Stacey

What do you do when life gets in the way of your riding?  Sometimes it’s work, sometimes it’s illness, sometimes it’s family, sometimes it’s weather, sometimes it’s _______________ (fill in the blank).   And no matter what it is, it’s frustrating.

I go through periods where I feel my riding is in “fits and spurts”.  I’ll have a couple of weeks or even a month when I’m getting to the barn 5 times a week regularly and totally in the groove.  But then we hit trade show season and I’m on the road a lot.  Or I have a day like today where the head and chest cold that I’ve been avoiding for the better part of the week finally catches me and I’m a runny-nose-sneezing-can’t-catch-my-breath-mess.

And looking ahead, I’m leaving in a week for the holidays and prior to that I need to wrap gifts, see my hairdresser (my gray is a bit out of control – BIG understatement), try to have my eye surgeon fit me in (to see about cataract surgery in January) , pack…….and starting Monday (of course), the solar panels are being installed on the house – and yes, someone has to be there the entire time for that.

So does it even make sense for me to attempt to get to the barn, stand on the cold concrete and do anything?  I know for a fact that I could push myself to ride.  But I also know that I’ll regret it for days as it will tax my system further.  But it’s been a week – a solid week of not being there due to work and not being able to get out on time to get there, ride and still get home at a reasonable time.

What do you do when you have these problems?  Or do you even have them?  Is it just me?

I know many folks just soldier on and ride.  I don’t know if it makes them any sicker, as it does me, but either way my hat is off to them.  In the end, I’m sure it’s better for your horse and for you.  And that brings me to the next item – that I’m not being fair to my horse in all of this.  To have him in work and then have a week off and then go back to work, have two weeks off – even if we aren’t doing anything major, we also aren’t making any progress.

It drives me crazy.  And I feel like a failure at times.  It’s not like I’m going out with friends instead of going to ride………in fact I’m  usually walking through the door of my house checking the clock (again) to see if I just might make it to the barn, realizing I can’t, and then being grumpy  the rest of the night.

So what to do?

For me, I’ve had to make peace with two things about this situation:

  1. I can only do what I can do – nothing more, and certainly nothing less. To this end, that means that I do go to the barn on which ever day/night I can get there and not be an inconvenience to the owner (who lives next to the barn and is subject to car lights in her windows any time someone arrives or leaves)  By the way, the owner is super and very encouraging.  But I just don’t want to be that boarder- the one that is ALWAYS keeping everyone up, etc.   And Cinemax and I will work on what ever – it doesn’t matter – that we are doing something together is the main thing.
  2. Being at the barn, no matter if it’s every day or three times in a month is good for me – the inside of me and the outside. And my soul needs it.  It doesn’t matter if I come and stay for 10 minutes or go through a full ride and tack cleaning session.  Being there does me good, if only to re train those mental tracks that say “you don’t have enough time to go to the barn”.   I’m amazingly blessed at this time with a horse that can go for days of no work, be tacked up and will be ready to work – no antics.  He’s a God send.

So, we may not make it to a show next summer, and my goal of working without stirrups all winter may have days of great work and days of no work at all – but no matter what, I’m not going to let my guilty conscience keep me from going there, even if it turns out to be the only day this week.

Many of our clients are folks that are coming back to riding after a few years (or decades) off to raise families, establish their careers or due to injury and taking the time to heal properly.  As such, they often have some trepidation about signing up – the spirit is willing, but the small voice in their head chides them with visions of white knuckled riding and broken bones.

And this got me to thinking.  Why is it that fear often prevents us from doing what we love?  To date I’ve never had any debilitating injury or harrowing scare on a horse.  That’s not to say I’ve not had more than my share of unintentional dismounts (in fact one barn where I boarded offered to charge me rent on a section of the arena that I got to know intimately, LOL) and in reality, my worst injury was a severely bruised hip that sustained a hairline fracture when I had one of those above mentioned dismounts.

But here’s the thing – I’ve always gotten back on and kept riding.  And when I first got into this business, I was the one with butterflies in my stomach on the first day of a trip – more than a little anxious about what my mount would be like and would I be ok on this strange horse?  What I can tell you about that one point is – that’s the least of your worries.  The horses we use on our programs are veterans – they know their jobs and enjoy them.  That’s not to say they might not shy or flinch when a bird flies out of the brush, but they won’t lose their heads and often, they’ll be abashed to have even given any notice to the bird.  They are tried and true and solid citizens.

You’ll figure that out in the fist :30-:60 seconds of riding on any of our programs.  So let your mind rest easy on that count.

But – what about jumping?

When I was growing up riding and taking lessons, I jumped every week, no problem.  And when I got back into riding in my late 20s, I had no issue signing up for the adult classes – 3’6” – no problem!

But that was 20-25 years ago.

And for the last 20 years, I’ve dabbled in dressage and in enjoying hunter pacing – but with the go around options on the pacing.  Yet, when I come to one of the small fences on the trail, my brain and my heart both say “go on – pop over it – it’s no big deal”.

And so I do.

And my horse loves it.

And I stay on, albeit not so form perfect.

And the not so form perfect part of that has that cheeky small voice telling me “aren’t you the lucky one today – you could just as easily have come off over that.   And did you feel how big your horse jumped in his enthusiasm?  Next time, you’ll be out of the tack for sure!  Better count your blessings for today and stay away from that again.”

Ugh.  It was just a small two food vertical.  And my horse was perfect.  What’s the matter with me?

That’s when I realize that I need a week in one of our training programs.  Not on my horse – on a trusty, foolproof, take you around horse that will let me figure it all out again.  And again.  And again.  Figure it out so many times that my brain is reprogrammed to the channel that plays the “this is how it always is” playlist and doesn’t play the “this is what might happen” playlist.  I mean, for crying out loud – driving on most streets is FAR more dangerous than riding my horse – where is that blasted small voice when I back out of my driveway each day??????  Little bugger.

So that’s my plan for 2017.  I’m going to sign up for one of our “Build Your Nerve and Learn to Jump” programs.  I know how to jump – here’s the last time I took a formal lesson with no prior jumping:

gleneagles-jumping

I realize it’s a dark photo, apologies, but – that was the third jump in a small grid.  And for not having jumped in several years, my leg isn’t SO awfully far back.  But I needed more days of this – those are not relaxed shoulders you are seeing.  Nor it that hip angle doing much to help my horse, hence the flatness of the jump.

But we are all our own worst critics.  Sometimes – you just have to get on with it all.  And that’s my plan.  I’m not afraid to ride and don’t mind my spooky horse at home – his quirky shying and running don’t faze me.  And so what we need is mileage and jumping.  And there is nothing better than a week of riding school horses – up to 3 hours a day, to start to drown out that pesky voice.

And I need some (many) days of riding in modified two point at home, and strengthening my core, honing my balance, grabbing mane and just giving it a go.

Do you struggle with any fear issues when you ride?  Is that whiney little voice holding you back from anything in your riding? What will you do to change the tapes that play in your head and reprogram?

All suggestions and comments are welcome – we are all in this together J

Old woman young womanA picture is worth a thousand words, right?  Just like this one:

I know, it’s not new to you all and I admit, when I first saw it, it was a lovely young woman looking off over her right shoulder, with a marvelous feathered hat – and I needed help to see the old woman with the kerchief wrapped around her head.

But it got me thinking.

I have (and have always had) terrible eyesight.  I was born 7 weeks premature, and as a result, my eyes never fully finished themselves off  –  they had to hang on for dear life as the rest of me insisted it was time to get out into the world.

And thankfully, I was born in the 20th century, when corrective options abound.  So for my entire life I’ve worn glasses and/or lenses.  And more recently both (if you are not over 45 you probably won’t understand this – but wait – you’ll see (or more to the point  you won’t, LOL))  I am extremely myopic with astigmatism.   So what that means to those of you fortunate ones with 20/20 or better all of your lives is this:

  1. What you can see clearly at 20 feet, I can only see clearly (as in totally focused) at 3-4 feet.
  2. And all the rays of light that come into my eye do not hit the back of my eye (my retina) at one point, as they should. The rays of light come in and intersect each other either in front or behind my retina – so no matter what the distance, near or far, I was doomed to have blurred vision as the light is scattered inside my eye.

And it occurred to me that vision and perception are interesting things (and yield interesting things) – not just in life but in the dealing with horses.

For example, I read all of the “Which Horse is the Best (Dressage) (Three Day Eventing) (Hunter) Horse” columns.  And as I’m no trainer (far from it), I find myself picking the horse that most closely looks like horses I’ve seen (in person or in magazines) who excel at the particular discipline.  And invariably, I generally pick a bay.  (It’s my weakness.  As much as my friend Maxine only likes chestnut colored horses, I find I’m most attracted to bays. (Must be the old adage of tall, dark and handsome.)

And sometimes I’m right!

And other times, the best horse is the last of what I chose.

And it reminds me –  to use the Eventing folks as an example – that what you see is not always what you get.  I mean, who would have expected that a plucky little chestnut named Theodore O’Connor (Teddy), not even 14.2 hands, could compete and excel at the highest levels of eventing?

But he did.  And beat out many other larger and more experienced horses in the process.

Further, what you see (or don’t see) can also impact your feelings and expectations.  Let me talk about my current horse Cinemax (aka Clive) for a moment.  When I went to try him out, I had not been riding for 4 months after the sudden loss of my prior horse Wieland. In addition, I was 5 days into a winter cold that left me winded going up and down a flight of stairs.  But I figured I’d give it a go anyway, he was available and attracting a lot of attention so time was not on my side.

So I rode him for 20 minutes in the indoor (you know how it is – walk, trot, canter, circle one direction, change direction, repeat).  And I got off coughing like crazy and acting like I’d just sprinted 800 meters.  But I liked him.  Enough to take a chance on him.

His owner asked if I wanted to hack him out, but I declined.  I trail ride.  A LOT.  And I’ve had two slightly wacky TBs so I’m used to pretty much anything or any type of shenanigan that can happen on the trail.  Besides, she said he was good on the trail.  That was enough for me.  (I should mention that his owner is a trainer, was local to me and we had about 75% of our friends in common – so I wasn’t concerned about misrepresentation).

So I called my vet (who works in the same practice as his vet at the time) to come for a pre purchase exam.

And she declined.

What????

“But I’m asking you to come see a prospective new horse.  And I’m paying for your time to do it because I think he might be a good fit for me.”

To which she explained “Listen, his owner granted me approval to review his records and a year ago he was treated for lameness due to a suspensory issue as a result of his professional jumping career (which his owner had told me already).   The records indicate he’s very lame.”

“But I’ve ridden him now 4-5 times and I’m telling you, he isn’t lame.  He goes just fine.”

And with a little more cajoling, she agreed to come.  (For the record, I adore my vet.  She is always looking out for the best interests of my horses and my budget.   And she knew that I still had outstanding vet bills from when Wieland was put down.)

But she came.

And she watched him go.

Both directions.

And she could not believe what she saw.  This was NOT the crippled, lame, not going to be rideable horse from the records.  In fact, “He is pretty amazing.  This is not the horse I saw on the records.  And he’s probably the nicest horse I’ve ever seen for that price”, she told me.  (In full disclosure, he was free – but only to the right person.  Three others had been turned away before me.)

Hmmm, so sometimes, what you see can change.  So off we went, to begin the new chapter in my own personal life’s book of horses.

And after the ground got better in the Spring, I began to hack Clive out, for the exercise and to get out of the arena (which we see a lot of in the winter).

And MAN – was that (and still is) an adventure!

Clive:     “WHAT?  What’s that?  That thing right there – there – poking out of the tall grass.  Yikes!  It’s going to jump up on me!”.

Me:        “it’s a rock.  Ok, a big rock.  But it’s not moving.  You are fine.”

Clive:     “I don’t know.  It looks like it might open up and I’ll just fall into it.”

Me:        “You won’t.  I promise.  No, don’t back away.  Just stand here for a second.  See?”

Clive:     “Well, I guess so.  But I’m still not sure.  ACK!!!!  Holy Smokes!  Yieeeee – what’s THAT bounding out of the brush?????  We’re definitely getting attacked, we have to GO!  NOW!”

Me:        “What?  What’s the matter with you?  It’s a deer.  For crying out loud, you see them when you are in your turnout paddock.  And besides, you are WAY bigger than that doe.”

Clive:     “I don’t know.  She just came from nowhere.  And she went the way we are going.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  She’s pretty scary.”

Me:        Sigh.  “Its’ ok.  We are together.  You will be fine.  I won’t let anything hurt you.  Hey!  HEY! What are you doing???  Stop that!  Just because she turned left at the fork in the trail doesn’t mean we are going that way.  Come…….ON………You are making my right arm tired.  We are going right , back toward home.”

And so it goes.  Clive doesn’t bat an eyelash at the 20-25 foot tall statues on our trail ride (yes, there really are tall, concrete garden statues in the woods near us), but the deer and the wild turkeys (as well as the peacocks and cows) all seemingly have a love of horsemeat.  At least that’s what he tells me.

So, I don’t know.  I guess life is a bit like that too.

Sometimes we see things plainly.  Sometimes we don’t.

And for Clive sometimes it’s when he doesn’t see things at all – like when the woodpile is moved and no longer stacked on the side of the trail, now it’s just an empty spot.  A horse eating empty spot that will open up and grab him from the middle of the trail and devour him whole.

But I like to think that even though my eyesight isn’t good and won’t ever be, my faith ( and expectation) In the fact that he won’t willingly ditch me, allow us to see a more beautiful picture.

One that has things we both see as well as things we see individually.

And it reminds me of the artwork by Bev Doolittle.  IF you look, you’ll see the horses – but HOW MANY will you see?

Bev Doolittle

usa_colorado_15Some of you know that Stacey recently returned from riding at our two ranches in Colorado, but we wanted to take a few minutes to share (or gush) about the trip. Stacey and four other ladies spent the third week of June relaxing and riding at the Bar N I Ranch in Stonewall, CO – and it was beyond their expectations in every way.

The Bar N I Ranch is remarkable even before you step onto the property.  Unique in that it is privately owned by a family, it is not open to the general public – so your stay there is not filled with 150 strangers and dusty, boring nose to tail riding.  From the moment they drove onto the property, they were treated like family members – not one thing was any trouble at all.

Impressed by the well appointed and comfy rooms to begin, the first night in the dining room for the first of many delicious meals proved equally outstanding.  One of the group was lactose intolerant, But all were surprised and thrilled when the chefs had prepared a special batch of the coconut lime ice cream that was lactose free!  The first of many demonstrations of the “can do” attitude of the staff.

The days were filled with riding up steep inclines to explore ridge lines with majestic views for miles in all directions, as well as long canters through fields and high meadows of gently blowing grasslands.  Riders chose from two half day rides or a packed lunch full day ride – all of which were varied and still on the property of the ranch – with 36,000 acres it’s virtually impossible to ride only 5 days and “see it all” – but they really tried!

usa_colorado_09Three of the group decided to take one afternoon and forego a trail ride to try cattle sorting and to take a lesson with Ben, the lead wrangler and a student of Ray Hunt’s teaching philosophy.  The cattle sorting was a riot – for the “Eastern” gals, it was counter intuitive to just “ride into a group of cows” – yes – directly into them!  But the horses were totally unfazed and all had a great time learning how to sort.  The lesson with Ben not only helped them further appreciate his calm approach  but even more so how the horses relate to him, it left each person anxious to get home and try (or begin) using the techniques on their own horses.

They rode.  They laughed (a lot).  They jingled horses in on several mornings (helped bring them in from the far pasture).  We exchanged stories by the bonfire.  We hiked to see the petroglyphs.  They ate (and ate and ate).  They slept like babies.  And all were very sorry to leave.  Ben, Lance, Steve and the entire team had all become like family – they heard our group stories, shared their own, played with Ben’s two girls, roasted marshmallows around the bonfire, discovered elk sheds (an antler that’s been shed), marveled at bighorn sheep and elk, took in the sun and even some hail.

They arrived as guests.  They made new friends.  They left as family.

It was a perfect week.

December 19? Really? I cannot figure out where this year has gone, it has
completely slipped away with many great trips, a lot of laughs and a few tears.
How did that happen??

First, I want to thank all of you – each one. To those that traveled this year,
thank you for placing your trust in us to provide a wonderful trip – the entire
staff as well as myself truly had more fun this year than any year prior helping
you plan and enjoy your vacations. And you came out in droves, reminding
us that our economy is recovering, and telling us we need more help, LOL!
To those that didn’t travel this year but that spent time with us chatting about
trips and looking to the future (or just dreaming on the bleak winter days
with us) thank you!

You keep all of energized and excited, and we love staying connected to you
and your families, both two and four footed :).

Golf CCD
Big n Me Close
2012-06-22_19-44-06_598

2015 was a bit of an epic year for me personally.
It  has some amazing highs and at least one bitter
low.  My travel schedule this year was limited to
local and shorter trips, most of this in non riding
capacities.We skied a fair amount this last winter –
from Lake Placid to Attitash in NH. During the
summer, my golf game made large improvements
with the main benefit that I had a chance to play
more than a few times with my golf loving (and horse
tolerant, but not horse loving) parents. My folks
are both in their mid 80s,  so I really cherish the
chance to spend time with them.

The fall always brings our annual trip to Montauk to
fish (I’m the comic relief as fishing is well…fishing, not
riding. But Will puts up with all of my horse activities
so this is the least I can do). However this year ended
poorly for me.On our departure day, Thursday, I had one
of those dreaded calls from the barn at 8:30AM – my
dear, sweet, gorgeous and smart Wieland (aka Big,
my 17h Hanoverian gelding) was colicking and the
vet recommended he be immediately transported to
the clinic. Big was not a candidate for surgery so while
we tried a variety of non surgical options with no success,
I opted to let him go by 7:30AM the next day, Friday.
And then I crawled under a virtual rock for two weeks.

But life doesn’t let you stay in one place or disposition for
too long. It pulls you out and makes you get on with the
living part of it. And so, with that said, on Dec. 7th, “a day
that will go down in infamy”, I found out how you catch
an un-catchable fish.With a ring of course!Yes, it’s true –
the man that said he’d never get remarried – DID.Will
and I went quietly down to town hall, met with the
judge – and came home married. And now, when we
leave for Ireland on the 26th of this month to celebrate
his 50th birthday, we’ll also be raising a pint
to ourselves.

So, as we leave 2015 and get ready for 2016, I want to wish you all the best of
everything. That you will have peace in your life, no matter what’s happening,
and that we’ll stay in touch in 2016.And I thank God for you and also that all
things are as well with all of us, as they are.My very best to you,Stacey

P.S. And Dakota, the sweet lovely Pyr of our lives, is still going at 15! She’s
slowed down, and this winter may be her last, but she’s still a doll 🙂

 

On a recent trip to sunny CA for an equestrian event, I had my bags packed, ate dinner early enough to get to bed at 9:30PM so that I could rise at 3:30AM leaving myself enough time to arrive at Laguradia Airport by 5:00AM for my flight.  Sound a little crazy?  Well, like you, I travel on a budget and the best (translation cheapest) flight I could find was at 6:00AM.  As it was due to snow the night before I left, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of time to get to the airport.

And that planning paid off splendidly as while the roads were a total mess, I arrived, safe, calm and on time.

But then things changed.

The TSA agent studied my passport at great length (as I keep all my travel documents and airline info all together in my travel portfolio; I often opt for using the passport rather than digging out my wallet with my driver’s license).  After looking at me, looking at it, looking back at me, looking back at it, looking at my boarding pass and then looking back at me, he observed – “You cut your hair.”

Now as you know, passports are issued every ten years and mine was last issued in September 2001.  And as it was early, I was too befuddled to smile and nod so instead, I replied  – “You mean I GREW my hair” for in fact, since that photo was taken, not only is my hair about 5” longer, it also much more blonde and much less brunette.  And that really seemed to confuse him.  I then asked him if he thought it looked better in the picture to which he was a sharp enough man to say “Oh no, it looks great now” (he is clearly well trained in dealing with folks, as he was quite convincing)

Nevertheless, he ascertained that it really was me and that I was safe to travel that day.

But then, my flight to LAX, which required a connection in Cincinnati had a few start up issues.  As it was one of the first flights of the morning in chilly NY, we had to wait to board so they could “heat up” the plane.  While we were waiting in the terminal, I heard the Captain over the walkie talkie to the gate agent saying that he wasn’t going to wait any longer to board as folks would miss their connections (he was speaking my language!)

Once boarded, we then had to move from our parking spot to a place to de-ice.  This is typically not a problem, except that in our case, there was equipment behind our plane that had to be moved first – and there was no on to move it.

So we waited.

Then, we were bathed in the lovely pink coating of de-icer and were finally out on the runway – just in the nick of time – to get in line behind 7 other planes.

Ugh.

Needless to say, when we got to Cincinnati, the gate agent told me to RUN to my next gate as the flight was going to leave in 10 minutes.  So, big winter coat, one computer bag, large travel purse and one small carry on dufflel all on two feet went careening down the terminal – and saw my plane still at the gate.  Phew!

One glitch – the jetway door was closed.

Rut-Row.  That’s never a good thing in the world of boarding a plane.

One smiling and only slightly sympathetic gate agent AND a new ticket later, I was reliving high school track with a second sprint of the morning!  I didn’t stick around to see my original flight leave as I needed to race off to the next terminal to catch my new flight to Atlanta – ok, no problem – it was more good exercise and would only have me arriving about two hours late – it could have been worse!

Right?

How little I knew!

As I raced through the airport, I saw one of the flight attendants from the NY flight and she too was in a hurry.  She was not continuing on with her flight schedule as her very dear grandmother was in the final throes of Alzheimer’s and she was departing to go be with her.  We talked (as we quickly walked) about what a gift it was to have had our grandparents as integral parts of our lives and how they always championed our causes and made us feel like we were simply magnificent – the best kids on the planet to be sure.  (If you have had a close relationship with a grandparent, you can understand intimately how my heart went out to her.)  And that made me reconsider my slight annoyance at a mere travel delay.

Saying goodbye to grandparents and parents is so heartbreaking and always sooner than you want it to be.

Parting company, I found myself at my gate – one of the last people to board the plane to Atlanta.  Whew!  I only took a brief moment to wonder where my checked luggage was in all of this. . . . .

Ok, things were looking up – the flight was all boarded, it was on time, we only had to de-ice again – we were home free!

Or so I thought.

Upon arrival in Atlanta, I once again grabbed all of my accoutrements and raced down the terminal to my next gate.  Breathing a sigh of relief, I saw my plane, which should be in the boarding process.

But then I saw the closed door to the jetway.

And NO gate personnel anywhere.   Not one.  It was the Sahara of airline gates in terms of personnel.

Ignoring the sign that said “Penalty for opening door.  Alarm will sound.” I tried in vain to get onto that jetway.  (it wasn’t until later that I was able to thank the airline – if only in my heart – for saving me a large monetary fine)

And so, for the second time that day, I found myself at the counter of a gate agent, who once again was trying to find a way to get me to LAX.  Fortunately, Atlanta has many options and the next best one for me was in two hours – and even though I’d be arriving in LA five hours later than planned, I was still ok!

Sitting at my new gate, I had the great fortune to meet Carol Anne.  While she is from Homestead, FL, she was traveling to LA to be a birth coach to her daughter who was in labor having not only her first child, but the first grandchild.  And Carole Anne was a bit tense as she had been trying to reach her son-in-law all morning but to no avail since his last call was the prior day to say that labor had begun – early!

And so, we chatted about all things FL and how my family lives in Coral Gables and what a cold winter it had been there and how her son owns a fishing boat business in Key West and her youngest daughter is doing a semester abroad in Israel and for crying out loud why hadn’t she heard back from her son-in-law Josh????????

And then, as if a miracle, as the plane began to board, the phone rang.  And Carole Ann was already a grandmother – to a healthy and lovely 8.12 lb baby girl.  And while she was disappointed to not be there for the birth, mother, daughter and father were all doing fine and anxiously awaiting her arrival.

And I marveled at how amazing travel can be if you open your mind to it.  In the span of a scant few hours I had been in four states, witnessed someone preparing for death and shared the joy of new life with another.

And all this before I even got anywhere near a horse – go figure.

Well, you are in good company!  In North America alone there are over 23 million folks that own or ride horses on a regular basis.  And of those folks, about 80% travel either with their horses or to places that have horseback riding.

Additionally, there are many folks that rode when they were younger and are just now getting back to it after years of focusing on family or career.  And it is a super way to reacquaint with an area of the country or the world or to explore new places you otherwise could never see on foot or by vehicle.

We’ll spend the next few blog sessions talking about the elements of taking a riding vacation.  Things like:

  • What types of trips are available
  • How to choose the right trip for you
  • What to look for in a booking agent
  • What to expect if you book on your own
  • Important Questions and points to consider prior to booking
  • What opportunities await you on a riding vacation

If you are considering a riding vacation, chances are you have taken vacations before and done some riding but you may not have taken an exclusive riding vacation – where riding is the main focus.  Let’s begin by exploring the types of vacation options available:

We group our rides into two classifications:  Trail Rides and Training Vacations.

Trail Rides consist of rides out in the countryside each day.  They can vary in length of time in the saddle, pace and terrain.  Additionally, they can be further classified as either “Stationary” meaning you stay at the same hotel each evening, or “Inn to Inn” (sometimes called “Progressive”) where you ride to multiple accommodations during the course of the ride.

Training Vacations allow you the opportunity to spend a week with a discipline specific trainer and work on areas of personal development to break through barriers you may currently be facing.  Typically, you can find training vacations for the following disciplines:

  • Dressage
  • Show Jumping
  • Three Day Eventing/Cross Country Riding
  • Driving
  • Reining
  • Polo

While there are certainly other types of training vacations on the market, these tend to be the most requested at this time.  Do bear in mind that the sport is always growing and changing so keep a lookout for other offerings – and let me know if you see any that look credible!

Let’s spend the next few minutes talking about Trail Rides and Training Vacations.

Trail Rides

As previously mentioned, trail rides fall into two categories – Stationary and Progressive.  Before you decide which one is the best for you, you would do well to ask yourself the following:

  • How long am I comfortable riding for up to 5 consecutive days?
  • At what pace am I most comfortable?

While folks often begin with the question “Where do I want to go?”, they often find themselves analyzing these first two questions to determine if the trip is appropriate for them.

The stationary rides tend to run anywhere from 4-6 hours of riding each day and they will most typically be “daisy” rides of about 12-18 miles.  That is, the rides will start and end at the same point but they will leave out and make a loop, ending up at the starting point.  The next day, the loop will move out in a different direction, still returning to the point of origin, and this will continue in each different direction so that by the end of the week, you have, in effect, ridden in a daisy shape.  These are VERY different from “Wheel” itineraries and do beware – a wheel has spokes that radiate out from the center – but to date, I’ve never seen a spoke that doesn’t run straight out and straight back, and thus repeat itself in reverse.

Depending on the terrain, some stationary rides are quite active.  For example, if you normally ride on flat terrain at home, with small hills and mostly walking, taking a ride in Tuscany where the hills are up to a half mile long and require more trotting and cantering can be challenging.

One advantage of a stationary ride is that you have the wonderful opportunity to unpack and truly “settle in” to your accommodations.  This can be much more relaxing than having to pack and unpack multiple times during the week.

The progressive rides range from 4-7 hours in the saddle each day and will cover upwards of 20 miles or more daily.  As a result, they sometimes can be faster paced than the stationary rides and require a particular level of fitness from riders.  On the progressive rides we require that folks be able to ride at all gaits (walk, trot, canter (and occasionally gallop) on a trail (outside of an arena) and maintain control of their horse at all times.

Progressive rides generally cover about 15-18 miles daily but some can have days up to 20 miles.  They are designed so that you experience long canters and trots – so be sure that you are fit enough to trot for 10-15 minutes or canter for 5-10 minutes.   The days are fun and while they cover a lot of ground, the riders are interspersed with breaks and long lunches, so you will have time to stretch and get out of the saddle for a bit.

Within the progressive rides, some travel further and faster during the week and others cover less ground so the pace is more relaxed.  One of our consultants will chat about that with you, so no fear that you’ll end up on a ride that’s too fast – or too slow for your tastes.

So this rather long primer is a good start to help you visualize a week of riding.  In one of our next posts, we’ll dig a bit deeper into the trail rides and discuss the types of horses, accommodations, meals and other elements that go into making an exceptional equestrian vacation.

Stay tuned!