I recently had a friend visiting from out of town who wanted to go horseback riding in the LA area. I had never ridden a horse before, but I was willing to give it a try. Well, I am glad I did, because it was an awesome experience and I had a blast! Here’s some info on what it involves and how to make the most of your horseback riding experience!
Where to Go
The two areas that we looked at for horseback riding were Griffith Park and Malibu. Both areas have lots of trails to choose from, and a variety of price ranges. In the end, we chose Malibu Riders in Agoura Hills because the online reviews were stellar and the prices were reasonable. Some of the other facilities had bad reviews, so check online.
For Malibu Riders, we had to call and leave a message. They called us back and set up a time to meet. Kind of low-tech, as this would have been easier online, but no big deal. Cost for the one hour three-mile ride was $50 per person, but also budget for a tip. There is also a six mile ride for $100 per person. We chose the one hour ride.
What to Bring
The day we went was very hot. On sunny days, I recommend bringing a baseball cap and not any other type of hat. Why? Because you can wear a baseball cap under your riding helmet (which itself doesn’t provide much shade). A bigger hat won’t fit under the helmet. Sunscreen is also a good idea.
You should wear long pants (jeans are a good choice), and closed-toed shoes (sneakers are fine). Amazingly, our guide at Malibu said that she’s had some women arrive in high heels!
I thought about bringing a camera, but since I was a novice rider, I decided against it. I just used my cellphone.
From Santa Monica, we drove up Pacific Coast Highway and made a right on Malibu Canyon Road, then a left on Mullholland Hwy. Make a right on Cornell, then a left at the sign for Paramount Ranch.
If you are coming from the Valley, their website provides directions.
They recommend arriving 45 minutes early, but we got there way early. At first, we were a bit baffled, as there seemed to be no stables nearby and no building for Malibu Riders in the area. I asked the park ranger and found out that they would show up with a truck with all of the horses. Sure enough, a truck arrived with the horses!
So, just be aware that you won’t be meeting at a stable. It is a mobile operation.
Riding a Horse for the First Time
Our guide was named Ashley. It took some time to saddle up the horses, but by the top of the hour, we were ready to go, right on schedule.
There were six riders, half of which had lots of riding experience, and half with none like me. Ashley explained how to turn the horses and stop, and before long we were on our way!
For the most part, the horses “drive” themselves, simply following the trail and the horse in front of them. So, don’t fret if you’ve never ridden a horse before! It’s easy! Occasionally, you have to pull the reigns up when they wander off to eat some grass, but overall, riding was very easy! I would describe it as a cross between riding a slow motorcycle and walking a big dog (I used to have a Golden Retriever). I really enjoyed the experience!
My friend, who is an experienced horse rider, remarked that the horses were in good condition and that this was a quality operation.
Malibu Riders in Agoura Hills has two trails to choose from: Malibu Creek, and Paramount Ranch. Malibu Creek is supposed to be shadier, but was closed due to a fallen tree, so we went on Paramount Ranch.
While the shadier trail would have been nice, the cool part about Paramount Ranch is that it goes through an old Western movie set that has been used in lots of movies and TV shows (for example, “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”). Later on, we explored the set on foot.
We followed the trail up some gentle hills. There was some tree cover, but much of the trail was out in the open.
We went in the summer, so much of the grass was brown or yellow. It probably would be more ideal to go after the “rainy” season (if there is such a thing in Southern California) when there is a lot more greenery. But even in summer, the trail was nice. My friend said the trail was one of the best horseback riding trails she’d been on.
At one point in the ride, Ashley stopped all of the horses, and took photos of all of the riders with their cameras, which was cool. So, you’ll be able to get that selfie!
At the end, the horses drank some water, then we got off. Ashley had cold bottled water for everyone, which was a very welcome touch!
What to Do Afterwards
The Malibu Riders website recommends The Old Place as a nearby fantastic restaurant. Had I known about it, I would have gone there. Next to The Old Place is a winery called Cornell Winery. Both of these places seem like a great way to end a ride.
Another option is the amazing Malibu Café at Calamigos ranch, but that requires reservations. I’ll be writing about this place in the future, but here’s a photo:
In our case, we drove back down to PCH, made a right, and had friend clams at Neptune’s Net, a biker hangout about ten miles up the coast. It was so good!
The Down Low
Having never been on a horse before, I really enjoyed the experience! It was not difficult at all. My friend, who is an accomplished rider, really enjoyed the ride and the trail as well. Our guide, Ashley was really friendly and professional. I would highly recommend horseback riding and Malibu Riders in Agoura Hills as a great date idea for both experienced and novice riders!
What was your horseback riding experience like? Please leave a comment below! – Brian