With their smooth gait and comfortable ride, Fox Trotters are the perfect horse for any age of rider and any level of riding ability. Youngsters will feel safer when they're not bouncing all over the saddle, and aging arthritic joints appreciate the gentle ride and lack of pounding. If you've never ridden a gaited horse, you're in for a treat, but if you prefer a quarter horse, no problem.
"We keep a herd of about 35 head -- mostly Fox Trotters, walking horses and quarter horses -- and two teams of Percherons," said Tanya Schoenbeck, co-owner with her husband, Roy, of the 500-acre working cattle and horse ranch. Percherons are draft horses, and are used for hayrides and sleigh rides, as well as for ranch work.
There's something for every member of the family, from youngster to grandparent, at RS Ranch. You can make it a day trip and enjoy a trail ride or horse-drawn hayride and campfire. Or you can opt for a multi-day trip, staying in the comfortable guest cabin at the ranch.
Tanya specializes in creating custom itineraries and in matching people with the appropriate horse. "Whatever kind of ride people are looking for, we can do it," she said. "We work with guests to select rides that fit their desires and abilities." The minimum riding age for children is 8, and the upper age range is 80 and beyond. Several 80-something women are frequent riders at the ranch.
The Schoenbecks strive to provide an authentic ranch experience. They both grew up on farms in Illinois and have ridden horses all their lives. They moved to Missouri in 1990. Tanya breeds, trains and sells horses. Roy is a farrier (horseshoer).
Riding is the main attraction at the ranch, but there is much more to enjoy. The spring-fed lake is perfect for a swim after a day on the trail, or rent a canoe or kayak for a float trip on the nearby Meramec River. Typical night-time entertainment consists of evening campfires and chuckwagon suppers with impromptu bluegrass music by local musicians. The ranch is also a great place for stargazing. There are Native American pictographs on a bluff in a remote part of the ranch. Hiking, bird watching or just sitting on the porch and reading a book are all options. Historic Route 66 attractions abound in nearby Cuba, and there's a ranch store in Rolla for some retail therapy with an equine twist.
Riders from 30 states and 11 countries have made the trek to RS Ranch. It's only about an hour's drive from St. Louis, so what are you waiting for? Saddle up and "get in the gait!"
RS Ranch is located at 1275 Smith Road in Bourbon, Mo. You can reach the ranch by calling 573-732-4590 or visiting www.rsranchtrailrides.com.
Photos courtesy of RS Ranch.
Barbara Gibbs Ostmann has been writing about travel, food and wine since 1975. The author of 13 books, she lives with her husband and lots of pets on 50 acres in Franklin County. Contact Barbara.