Ghost Ranch, Abiquiú
View the spectacular vistas and actual locations of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings on the back of a horse rented from the stables at the Ghost Ranch Education and Retreat Center. The 90-minute ride takes you through stunning landscapes while you learn about the history of Ghost Ranch and the modernist painter. “We get a view of her home that you cannot get on any other tour and point out some of the sites she painted here at the ranch,” says Emma Treu, who manages the stables at Ghost Ranch. Rides are suitable for beginners and advanced riders alike, but to safely ride, you should be able to hike comfortably for an hour and a half straight. A day pass to the ranch is included in the price of a tour, and Ghost Ranch encourages riders to spend time in the museums and welcome center afterward. Ghost Ranch, 280 Private Dr. 1708 US 84, Abiquiú; 877-804-4678
Broken Saddle Riding Company, Cerrillos
Wind along the historic Turquoise Trail to the ghost town of Cerrillos, surrounded by miles of sweeping high-desert plains and peaks in Cerrillos Hills State Park. On horseback, you can see the Madrid Overlook and other breathtaking drops with nary a car, road, or house in sight. The best part? You’ll absorb the views while riding refined Tennessee walking horses and Missouri Fox Trotters—“gaited” purebred horses whose footwork is both showy and soothing. “They have a real smooth gait, which allows beginners to feel very comfortable,” says owner Harrold Grantham. “You don’t bounce around a lot.” Private rides are available. Broken Saddle Riding Company, 26 Vicksville Road, Cerrillos; 505-424-7774
Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch, Winston
This four-cabin dude ranch northeast of Silver City nestles among the towering ponderosa pines, mountain wildflowers, and craggy rock formations of the Gila National Forest. Owners Meris and Seth Stout offer unlimited horseback riding and a true Western experience—with campfires, horseshoes, roping, and cowboy chow—to overnight guests, who must book a minimum three-night stay. The Stouts can even help you plan a riding itinerary through the Gila’s 3.3 million acres. This tiny ranch is perfect for small family reunions or special gatherings. Geronimo Trail Guest Ranch,1 Wall Lake Road, Winston; 575-772-5157
Grindstone Stables, Ruidoso
You’ll find personable wranglers and big, gentle horses at Grindstone Stables, which offers trail rides through the Lincoln National Forest, past picture-perfect Grindstone Lake, and to the top of Townsend Ridge. Grindstone uses half-draft horses—a mix of giant, easy-tempered draft breeds like Percheron, Belgian, and Shire, and more nimble quarter horses for a perfect, agile trail horse. “The trail goes about three miles through the pines,” says Stephanie Kennedy, who co-owns the ranch with her husband, Kevin. “There’s a significant elevation change, so you can see the village of Ruidoso and Grindstone Lake.” Carriage and sleigh rides may also be available. Grindstone Stables, 523 Resort Dr., Ruidoso; 575-257-2241
Red Horse Riding Company, Corrales
At this small, family-owned training facility, you’ll learn how horses think and move while taking private lessons alongside the acequias in the sleepy agricultural village of Corrales. While Red Horse Riding no longer offers daily trail rides, those who take lessons can book a fabulous multi-day Wilderness Ride on national forest lands. (Wildfires halted rides this summer, so call ahead.) “We teach people not just how to ride but how to understand a horse and respond appropriately to the different things that horses do,” owner Rachel Reynolds explains. “Lessons with us are great for people who really want to make horses a part of their lives.” Red Horse Riding Company,149 Angelo Luigi Road, Corrales; 505-250-3216
Want to saddle up to a good time on horseback? Here’s some expert advice.
Be honest about your skill level. If you’re a beginner, the wranglers need to know. It’ll help them pick the right horse and tailor your experience to keep it fun but safe for everyone.
Come correctly clothed. Most ranches prefer that riders wear long pants and closed-toe shoes. If you wear a hat, make sure it’s tight-fitting or can be adjusted so it won’t blow off and scare the horses.
Check ahead for restrictions. Many riding companies have strict weight or age restrictions or don’t allow riders who are pregnant or have certain neck or back conditions. Inquire before booking.
Show that horse who’s boss! Horses are intuitive animals and can sense fear or anxiety. Arrive with a calm attitude and approach your mount with confidence. Horses want riders to be firm and direct.