Climbing onto a saddle might not seem like an obvious way to beat the winter blahs. But there's nothing quite like getting on horseback and taking in your surroundings from the strong back of a majestic beast. Whether you do it at a bold gallop or a tentative trot makes no difference. If you do it as a family, you'll come home invigorated from a memorable experience.
Look into your local stables. A search through your Yellow Pages or an Internet directory like Superpages will help you find stables in your area (search under "stables," "equestrian," "riding," or "horseback"). Resorts, riding academies, ranches, equestrian centers, and stables are all possibilities for riding lessons or guided rides. Most stables offer lessons at all skill levels. Guided rides are another option; they sometimes come with lunch along the trail. A ride with a guide will usually ensure that your family travels scenic trails; you'll have a chance to explore woods and meadows and appreciate mountain and lakeside vistas. If your area doesn't boast much in the way of scenery, your local landscape -- even if it's flat and dusty like most cowboy trails -- takes on a mystique when you're looking at it from the back of a horse. It's that much more magical after a snowfall or under soft flurries. Be sure to dress for the weather, and take along some Thermoses of coffee, hot chocolate, or spiced cider to take off the chill when you get back to the car. Make a day of it and go out to dinner after your ride. The conversation will commit to your family's memory bank a wealth of wonderful shared horseback experiences.
The pleasure of being pulled. Maybe your equestrian pleasure runs more to being pulled along in style than to being atop your own steed. If that's the case, let your fingers and search engines do the research again, but this time hunt for sleigh, carriage, and wagon rides. Many of the same places that offer horseback riding might offer horse-drawn rides. During the holiday season, shopping districts and festivals often feature horse-drawn carriage rides in the fashion of Dickensian London. Your kids will never forget huddling under blankets on opposite benches of a carriage pulled by Belgian draft horses, trotting around town under twinkling lights. If you live in a ski area, sleigh rides might be on the activity list at a nearby resort. Some are gourmet affairs that make a memorable meal of the experience; others whoosh you to restaurants accessible only by ski or sleigh. If the horses are wearing sleigh bells, you've definitely got the makings of a very special family outing.
Continued on page 2: Other Mane Attractions