Is there an animal lover in your family? If so, find out how horses can be a part of your holiday. Here are five ideas to consider.
1. Wind River Horse Sanctuary, Lander, Wyo.
Located on the Oldham family's 900-acre Double D Ranch, the sanctuary is one of three BLM eco-sanctuaries open for public tours (children under 12 are free) and the only one on a Native American reservation. The family cares for approximately 130 wild horses or mustangs in Wind River country east of Yellowstone National Park. Stop in to the free Visitor Center for an interpretative display on the importance of the horse in the culture and traditions of Native Americans, as well as the history of wild horses in North America. Ask about the mustang adoption program.
2. The Virginia Range, Nev.
The Virginia Range, an area of about 30 square miles, in Northern Nevada had a major moment in the sun when it served as home to television's Cartwright family for the 1960s Western series "Bonanza." Today it is home to a free-roaming herd, among the first to be protected through legislation pushed through by animal activist "Wild Horse Annie." Consider taking a hike into the area, and be on the lookout for mustangs gathered around watering holes. You might also catch a glimpse of the herd from Route 341.
3. Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center, Wyoming & Montana
Learn about the evolution, habitat, social interaction and historical significance of this mustang herd during a tour of the extraordinary landscape that is their home. Many believe the magnificent creatures are descendants of Spanish horses brought to the area by Native American tribes, including the Crow. The daylong tour, available May through October, might include bear, bighorn sheep and other wildlife sightings as you traverse land that straddles the Montana and Wyoming border.
4. Ranch getaways
Horse lovers can follow their passion by choosing a ranch vacation. With an authentic and scenic setting as backdrop, you and your family can learn horsemanship from experienced hands who will tailor the instruction to your skill and interest level. Opt to ride in open meadows, on mountain trails or in the desert Southwest. Will your family members choose to participate in a real cattle drive? Are you up for a horsepack trip into the backcountry? Will your youngsters be eager to learn the skills required for team penning and other arena games? Or will you be happy to relax during daily trail rides. The options are yours at working dude ranches and guest ranches across the country.
5. Assateague Island National Seashore, Berlin, Md.
This magnificent stretch of beach is perhaps most well-known for the wild Chincoteague ponies that make their annual swim across the Assateague Channel. Locals often suppose the horses are survivors of a shipwreck off the Virginia coast, though it's not been confirmed. The seashore, a part of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, is also home to more than 300 species of birds as well as miles of trails for biking and hiking. Make time for beachcombing, kayaking, swimming and keeping eyes out for eagles overhead and dolphins in the water.