Last Updated on December 4, 2023

“There’s something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man” —Winston Churchill

I thought of this well-loved quote when visiting the beautiful Temecula wine region in fall of 2023. When most people think about a novel way to see a new destination, they imagine helicopters, ATVs, or maybe a hot air balloon ride; my go-to secret for capturing the feel for a place is to arrange a horseback ride.

Yes, that’s right.

Seeing the world through the ears of a horse is one of the most relaxing and beautiful ways to experience a new place. You’ll have a down-to-earth conversation with a local wrangler and possibly snap unique photos to remember your trip by.

While it’s possible to arrange for a private trail ride when traveling, on this trip, I was with a group of seven delightfully fun and adventuresome professional women who jumped at the chance to see wine country in a unique way!

To find a place offering the perfect pairing of people with horses and friendly wranglers, look no further than the California Ranch Company (CRC). CRC is a premier private horse training and event facility that also features wine country horseback rides to the public. It offers safe and enjoyable trail rides to both beginners and experienced riders on gentle and well-trained horses who appear to enjoy the vineyard outings as much as the riders. 

Riders are accompanied by experienced wranglers, one leading and one bringing up the rear, who are there to assist, answer questions about the horses or vineyards, and generally ensure a first-rate enjoyable experience.

Temecula Horseback Riding

Horseback riding in Temecula with California Ranch Company.
Horseback riding in Temecula with California Ranch Company. Photo courtesy of California Ranch Company.

Upon arrival for our 90-minute early morning ride, we checked in at the office in Western Town, an old-west-themed group of buildings that perfectly set the tone for our adventure – and provided a great background for photos.

It was a perfect fall morning with a crispness in the air that was both refreshing and exhilarating. The horses were at the hitching posts nearby being groomed and tacked while finishing their breakfast. 

I love the sound of horses munching on hay, the occasional soft sigh or exhaling that signals contentment. There was the intermittent low whinny or chuckle as they clearly discussed the beginning of a new day.

CRC sits in the heart of wine country on 70 rambling acres that include vineyards, rolling hillsides, deep valleys, and amazing panoramic views of both the Temecula Valley and the distant Palomar mountains.

The property includes barns, arenas, guest houses, RV hookups, a main house and equestrian facilities designed to host many local events such as barrel races, team sorting, roping, rodeos, gymkhana, and even line dancing.

We heard a shout of “Ready to head out!” and excitedly gathered to find out which horse would be ours on this wine-country adventure. Trail Boss Maria Kurtz expertly eyeballed each one of us greenhorn cowgirls and selected a horse to be our partner. I got a big red sorrel gelding who only moments before had been swishing his nose around in the water trough to playfully splash the horse next to him. A jokester I thought at the time, and now the Jokester is my partner!

As we headed out, I inquired if we need to fall into a single file (which is the norm for most trail rides), but Maria responded that doing so wasn’t necessary with these horses as they automatically form single lines heading up or down narrow trails. We continued following the soft, sandy lanes through the equestrian facility watching cattle being rounded into pens and tractors raking the arenas in preparation for a busy day of life on a ranch.

After riding out a back gate, we soon found ourselves headed toward a stand of towering eucalyptus trees, their aromatic smell flavoring the air and surrounding us with a scent both pungent, yet sweet, woody, yet herbaceous, or as some people like to say, “a breath of fresh air.”

Temecula Vineyards Trail Ride

Single File horseback riding in Temecula along the Head to Tail Trail.
Single File horseback riding in Temecula along the Head to Tail Trail. Photo courtesy of California Ranch Company.

We soon rounded a bend with a stunning view opening before us to a hillside vineyard and an extensive panorama of verdant rolling hills in the distance. The intense blue rays of morning lightly diffused as it spread its warmth across the gracefully textured grape leaves.

Chatting with my friend about the beauty before us, I became vaguely aware that my horse was drifting toward the grapevines. Just as I began to correct him back to the path he lunged forward and grabbed a mouthful of grape leaves!

The red jokester cleverly caught me off guard!

Next, our trusty steeds began climbing up a steep trail that would bring us to the ridge of the hillside for even more breathtaking views. This outlook takes in lush green vineyards against a backdrop of royal blue sky. Kurtz knows exactly when to stop so that we can admire the beauty, soak up the serenity, and take advantage of spectacular photo ops.

As we made our leisurely descent down the hillside and through the next valley, we all realized with sadness that this lovely adventure was soon coming to an end. We turned onto the sandy road that would take us back to ranch headquarters and Western Town where our cars waited, ready to take us back to reality.

Riding along in the cool shade of towering trees, my partner, the handsome red-headed rascal, suddenly and deftly popped his head up to grab a tree limb and a mouthful of juicy leaves!

My equine partner got the last laugh, and I heard his friends and mine laughing with him!

Clearly, that old quote is true, “There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man” … (or woman).

If you go

Early morning sun on the vineyards in Temecula seen during horseback trail ride.
Early morning sun on the vineyards in Temecula seen during horseback trail ride. Photo courtesy of California Ranch Company.

California Ranch Company in Temecula, CA is open daily from 7:00 am – 10:00 pm. Reservations must be made in advance by calling 951-297-7150.

  • Weekday Adult Trail Rides (18+yrs) are offered daily. 90 minutes/$110
  • Weekend Adult Trail Rides (18+yrs) are offered both Saturday and Sunday. 90 minutes/$125
  • Adult Sunset Trail Rides (18+ years) are offered Wednesday through Sunday. Departure time is 5:30 pm during summer months/90 minutes/$150
  • Little Buckaroo’s Trail Ride (7-13 years) is led by experienced equestrian wranglers who guide young riders on gentle horses. 90 minutes/$100
  • Wild One’s Trail Ride (14-17 years) is led by experienced equestrian wranglers on a unique horseback riding adventure. 90 minutes/$115

Author

  • Sarita Simmons

    Sarita Simmons left a career in the financial industry to go back to her roots as a writer, having previously worked as a reporter for CBS and later as a broadcast producer. Sarita has traveled extensively through the U.S. plus Mexico, South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. Her heart and spirit embrace the globe, exploring regional vibes, absorbing local culture, capturing the colors, flavors, and images, and then sharing the tastes, smells, textures, sounds and beauty for her readers to enjoy. She particularly has a love of nature, wildlife, adventure, wine, food, and cultural stories, but also loves profiling the people in the places she travels.