Indoor riding arena

Combine Horseback Riding and Wine Tasting at These 7 Resorts

From medieval monks who used draft horses to clear vineyards in Burgundy, to the equestrian culture of Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, celebrated every year during the Feria del Caballo, horses and wine have long had a deep connection.

Today, serious wine programs and horseback riding opportunities abound at resorts across North America. Customers can spend the day in a saddle and come back to a bottle of wine made possible by the pioneers of the horse industry.

Here are seven equestrian and wine resorts to discover.

The equestrian hotel

Ocala, Florida

Image courtesy of Ethan Tweedie

Nestled among the oaks and streams of central Florida is the Equestrian hotela 380-acre resort dedicated to equestrian activities.

Many Kentucky Derby winning horses are bred in Ocala, giving the hotel a natural connection to the sport.

Saturday night competitions gather up to 7,500 spectators at the Grand Arena to watch riders compete for prizes of $100,000.

The Equestrian Hotel Ocala, Florida - Hotel lobby at night
Image courtesy of Ethan Tweedie

The pageantry of the ring moves to the restaurants where in-house master sommelier Roland Micu oversees a 6,000-bottle wine program of rare vintages and multi-year verticals from producers Penfolds, Harlan Estate, Chateau Latour and Chateau d’Yquem.

Along with the list, the property regularly offers experiences ranging from winemaker dinners to region-focused tastings as part of the Stirrup Wine Series held at the resort’s signature restaurant led by Chef Ryker Brown.

The complex at Paws Up

Greenough, Montana

Paws Up - Woman on Horseback Herding Cows
Image courtesy of Alison Haduk

The complex at Paws Up has long made wine and food a priority, getting some announced names to spend weekends there. Recent Winemaker Dinners hosted Rich Aurilia from red dot wineDan Kosta from AldenAlli Wine Estate and Lindsay Woodard of Back Wines.

When not eating and drinking, guests spend winter and summer days on horseback, exploring the 37,000-acre bison and cattle ranch located in the Blackfoot River Valley.

Paws Up inside a tent
Image courtesy of Alison Haduk

Activities include a ranch cattle drive where guests can find, pick up and push Corriente cows through pasture. The property also has plenty for kids to do, and riding lessons at the Saddle Club are a highlight for many families. There’s also Cow Croquet, a game of squabbling on horseback that takes place in the Saddle Club’s indoor arena.

Alisal Ranch

Solvang, California

Alisal Ranch Rodeo Ring
Image courtesy of Nicki Sebastian

Canyons, hills and streams make up the different landscapes that cyclists can cross at Alisal Ranch, founded in 1946 in the Santa Ynez Valley. The stable of 100 horses welcomes both neophytes and experienced riders. One of the most popular activities is the two-hour scenic hike under the oaks, open to all experience levels.

Guests who are feeling ambitious can try out a wrestling skills workshop that can cover everything from rope, barrel racing or team sorting class. The latter teaches students the basics of sorting cattle, an essential skill on a ranch.

The property’s 10,500 acres are home to 73 cottages and suites, over 50 miles of horseback riding trails, and are within a 30-minute drive of Santa Barbara wine country.

Image courtesy of Alisal Ranch

Guests don’t need to leave the property to indulge in local wines, however. Alisal Ranch’s winery is dominated by Central Coast producers, with an emphasis on the Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Maria Valley.

“We promote organic, biodynamic and sustainable agriculture wines; work mainly with small family producers; and caring for a collection of library wines that date back to the 1980s,” says Patton Penhallegon, winemaker and beverage consultant at Alisal Ranch.

Salamander Resort & Spa

Middleburg, Virginia

Salamander Resort & Spa Middleburg, Virginia - Hotel Entrance
Image courtesy of Salamander Hotels

Where the Blue Ridge Mountains meet horse country is the Salamander Resort, a 340-acre property in Middleburg, Virginia. Popular with wine tourists, the Salamander Resort combines both pastimes under one estate roof with 168 rooms and suites.

Salamander Resort & Spa Middleburg, Virginia landscape with a horse
Image courtesy of Salamander Hotels

Guests can book rides, lessons, “horse whisper” sessions and essential riding lessons at the Equestrian Center, a 14,000 square foot stable with 22 stalls, nine paddocks and an outdoor riding arena. Follow a day in the saddle with a flight of Virginia wines at the Gold Cup Wine Bar. While dining at Harrimans Virginia Piedmont Grill, browse the extensive wine list curated by Salamander sommelier Catherine Watkins.

Carmel Valley Ranch

Carmel, California

Carmel Valley Ranch Man hugging a horse
Image courtesy of Stephanie Russo

Carmel Valley Ranch, a resort in the heart of Monterey County wine country, has 181 suites on 500 acres of land. In the spring of 2021, the property launched a new Equine Experiences program.

Therapeutic sessions promote bonding with horses, a concept developed and led by licensed therapist Robert G. Magnelli, PhD, also known as “The Horseman”. The popular “Equine & Wine” session combines wine tasting in the hills with the ranch herd. When they’re not snuggling their snouts or touring nearby wineries, guests can swim, hike, hit the links, play tennis, or relax in the spa.

Carmel Valley Ranch Landscape
Image courtesy of Stephanie Russo

At sunset, a daily happy hour features local wines. the bar, Valley cuisineoffers an international list alongside creations from in-house winemaker Ian Brand, the 2018 Central Coast Winemaker of the Year.

C Lazy U Ranch

Granby, Colorado

Near Colorado Rockies National Park, C Lazy U Ranch has been in operation for over a century. Founded in 1919, the lodge has retained its rustic cowboy roots while offering guests a ranch vacation full of modern indulgences.

The ranch’s 38 rooms and cabins were renovated in 2021, though Western decor and stone fireplaces remain intact. Guests can hone their skills with private lessons or book one of the many daily hikes, as well as fish, zipline, and participate in other outdoor activities.

An on-site sommelier manages the extensive wine cellar, which has many labels and assigned vintages.

Half Moon

St. James, Jamaica

Half Moon, St James, Jamaica - swim with horses
Image courtesy of Salamander Hotels

Half Moon in Jamaica offers 210 rooms and suites, 27 villas and one of the best wine programs and equestrian centers in the Caribbean.

Half Moon, St James, Jamaica Landscape
Image courtesy of Salamander Hotels

Certified sommelier Sherrie Lee-McCallum oversees three cellars that include bottles from the world’s most and least appreciated regions. To Stableschoose from a wide range of activities to suit your skills and riding style, from jumping to polo lessons or easy beach rides through the waves.