uth and Tony Daly are both passionate riders, the husband and wife team running tour operator Ranch Rider – one of the very few remaining independent specialist horseback holiday companies. They give their take on their favourite holidays from American ranch stays to Caribbean cruises…
What do you like to do on holiday?
Being keen riders, we both love to spend a good few weeks in the saddle every year. There’s nothing like experiencing the destinations we offer first-hand as we can keep our travel advice up to date, and as we’re always adding to our collection, there’s always somewhere new and exciting to go. On our last riding holiday, we spent time visiting three properties in Arizona, including the White Stallion Guest Ranch, the Tombstone Ranch and the Rancho de la Osa – the latter, one of the most historic ranches in the Grand Canyon state, its building dating back to the 1700s.
Aside from herding cattle, tracking the Big Five on horseback is up there as one of our all-time favourite riding experiences. Encountering large herds of elephant and galloping alongside zebra and giraffe in Botswana was truly exhilarating. Your heart beats faster and you feel this overwhelming connection to your surroundings and the wilds of Africa.
Where did you last go?
Our last holiday was a world away from horses, but we were still states bound as we love the country and the people.
Last December we spent a few nights in Austin, Texas followed by a Caribbean cruise (cruising is our second love) over Christmas and finished with a few nights in New Orleans. You need a few weeks to do a trip like that, but we like to cram in as many experiences as we can.
Do you know where you’re going this year?
This year we’re going to be spending five nights in Memphis and Nashville – primarily to get an inside track on the music scene and to research the area. After which we’ll be enjoying a relaxing cruise over Christmas before heading down to Central America and finally rounding off our trip in San Francisco. We love discovering new destinations, so we’re very much looking forward to the trip.
Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
Ruth: Cantering alongside giraffe in Botswana and tracking the Big Five on horseback are two unforgettable honeymoon experiences, that will always stay firmly imprinted on my mind. We also enjoyed luxury dining in the bush, and a true “out of Africa” experience, our tent looking right out onto the watery channels of the Okavango Delta. The tents were beautifully furnished like a five-star hotel and there was even a swimming pool on site. Just heavenly for a horse fanatic like me who doesn’t want to give up on her creature comforts.
Tony: I have three favourite riding holidays (is that allowed?) because it really depends on how adventurous I’m feeling. If I’m considering a working ranch holiday, the Klondike Ranch in Wyoming is always my choice. It’s a small family run operation and an authentic western cowboy ranch with the chance to camp out on the range. If it’s a holiday where we want to kick back and relax, the White Stallion Guest Ranch in Arizona – but outside of June to September for more pleasant riding temperatures. It’s a great place to go if you’re looking for some downtime, but still want the option to ride and it has a resort-like atmosphere - we’ve spent many an afternoon there lazing by the pool with a good book. I agree with Ruth on our all-time favourite. The African Horseback Safari in Botswana's Okavango Delta is a really exciting fast-paced riding holiday with luxurious tented accommodation and five-star dining. A magical experience, we even had elephants camping with us for one night.
Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Like any serious rider, we’re always planning the next horseback adventure and riding across the Serengeti, the trip timed to coincide with the famous Annual Migration, definitely appeals. Of course, there are no guarantees, but there should be plenty of other game spread across plains with zebra, Thompson’s and Grant’s gazelles and impala all following the grass in the wake of the rainy season.
In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
London is always on every tourist’s radar and people often come to the UK capital with a ready-made checklist to see Buckingham Palace, the changing of the Guard, Tower Bridge and so on. They should add North Yorkshire to that checklist, if not just for the warmth of the locals (we find London can often be the opposite). You can’t go wrong if you want to dig into British Heritage with its castles, abbeys and stately homes and, and while it would be hard to find anywhere that hasn’t been covered in a guidebook, Alnwick Poison Garden is a “homegrown” favourite spot of ours. There’s something otherworldly and inspirational about the poison garden (home to Deadly nightshade), and who wouldn’t want to visit Alnwick Castle, the medieval fortress used as a backdrop for the Harry Potter films! That’s genuine escapism!
How do you plan your holiday?
We like to mix travel for work and pleasure so we tend to start off with a fixed destination and work our way out from there. If we’re looking to visit somewhere new, we check out the latest online reviews but when it comes to the heavy legwork of a long detailed trip we often use a travel agent. It saves us time and hassle (Ranch Rider and riding on the weekend keeps us busy) and they usually have access to some pretty good deals.
How often do you go away?
At least twice a year, and we tend to make the most of the Christmas break and take a longer holiday before the New Year as that’s everyone starts planning and booking their summer riding holidays.
Who do you travel with?
Each other. We’re great travel partners and, since we share a love of horseback riding, we have to make very few compromises on travel. We’re incredibly lucky that way.
Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
At present tourism in the UK has really taken off and Britain is apparently looking to break records this year. Obviously, a lot of that has to do with the fall out from Brexit and the weakening pound versus the US dollar, but the UK will always hold its own and continue to draw tourists who are curious about the royal family, especially the Americans. After the wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, there’s certainly a stronger bond between the States and the UK. As local and authentic travel grows in popularity, we think tourist numbers will be more evenly spread across the UK rather than focused on the capital.
For the full low-down on Ranch Rider, visit www.ranchrider.com
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About Ranch Rider
When Tony Daly headed to Arizona over 20 years ago, he never envisioned he would end up selling ranch holidays, but Tony says, “ranch life has a way of quietly seeping under your skin and each time you visit North America, it gets harder to put down the reins.” A keen rider herself and owner of a 14.2 colour cob mare, Tony’s wife, Ruth has helped to expand the tour operator’s list of destinations outside of North America. Argentina, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and more recently Tanzania are the latest additions – cantering alongside giraffe in South Africa, tracking the Big Five on horseback in Botswana, riding across the wilds of Tanzania and Namibia (some trails inaccessible by anything other than a horse) and saddling up with the Gauchos in Argentina offering plenty of contrast when it comes to riding holidays.