I like Luxury. I like Horses.
Last month I mentioned the new Auberge-managed resort in the Costa Rican mountains that, among many other wonderful features, also has a world-class stable. I thought… I write about a lot of things that meeting and incentive planners can use, so here are some of my favorite North American luxury retreats… perfect for small meetings, retreats, incentives, team-building (and all of that jazz)… that have good horses. I want to go.
Whenever planners get together to talk shop, or for that matter, whenever anyone finds out the business I am in, the question invariably arises… what’s the best place you ever stayed?
It’s an almost impossible question to answer because I have had the good fortune of visiting and staying in some really amazing places over the last 40 years in the biz (and of course it depends on the category… Resort? City? Luxury? Adventure?)… but when pushed, I usually say…
Miraval Resort & Spa, Tucson, AZ
Why is it one of the best places I have ever stayed? Granted… there are probably a lot of really beautiful all-inclusive resorts with 117 casitas on 400 acres about 35 minutes north of Tucson with a (really) world-class destination spa, delicious, healthy food, dozens of activities, 4500 square feet of indoor meeting space, and probably the friendliest and caring staff of any place I have ever been. But, do they also have horses? Miraval does.
I have gone through the Equine Experience twice now and space prohibits me from giving it its due. I will summarize quickly… Cowboy therapist, Wyatt Webb, and his staff, take a group of “dudes”, tell them how horses view the world, and then have the dudes a) clean the horses hooves, b) walk them up and down and c) end up in a ring (just you and a horse), where without touching the horse you learn to get it to walk, trot and canter in one direction, turn around, do the same in the other direction… stop the horse, have it walk towards you and out its head down.
What do you learn? It’s not about the horse.
I could talk for an hour about it, but another thing I learned… I don’t need to talk about it for an hour. The only thing I will say is that if you ever have a chance, bring your group to Miraval and have them do it. And while you’re at Miraval, do all of the other stuff they offer too.
Moving north (and maybe a little west)…
Rancho de los Caballeros, Wickenburg,AZ www.ranchodeloscaballeros.com
They self-describe themselves as “a dude ranch in the Sonoran desert”, and I guess it’s that if you think of a dude ranch also having one of the top 10 golf courses in Arizona and a spa. The 79-room all-inclusive resort is located on 20,000 acres (yes, 20k), 75 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Besides great golf, a great spa, a super-relaxed ranch atmosphere, hearty food and friendly (and real) staff, they have trap & skeet shooting, hot air ballooning, desert jeep and ATV tours, nature programs and my favorite… lots of horses.
And ranked as one of my favorite team building activities of all time… Team Penning. Simple… everyone gets a horse suited to their riding experience, the group is separated into teams, and given the task of herding three steers from one big pen into a smaller pen. Trust me, it is not as easy as it sounds, and requires teamwork. Let’s just say, there is a lot of laughing and whooping going on while participants learn to co-operate (and overcome fear). It is the best. :)
Time to jump north… because if you are talking about Luxury and Horses, you have to talk about Montana…
The Ranch at Rock Creek, Phiipsburg, MT www.theranchatrockcreek.com
There is luxury, and there is luxury. The RRC is the latter. It’s the world’s only 5-Star Guest Ranch, a member of Relais & Chateaux, and is even a charter member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World (and yes, I am sure you can name the other charter members).
Long story short… The 6600-acre all-inclusive year-round ranch resort offers 29 one-of-a-kind accommodations providing 38 private bedroom/bathroom combinations, truly world-class cuisine, and over 20 activities with guides, gear and expert instruction. The activities include fly-fishing, shooting, archery, ropes courses, mountainbiking, rodeos, plenty of winter sports, and in-season… 75 horses.
The “thing” about the RRC… when you first look at their all-inclusive pricing you may say… whoa! … but if you really break it down to what is included (everything), it is in-line with all of the other resorts in it’s class. So make sure you are comparing all of the components before freaking out.
And while we are in Montana…Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky, MT lonemountainranch.com
Just twenty miles from Yellowstone National Park (and one hour from the Bozeman, MT airport), Lone Mountain Ranch (aka “The Real Montana”) has been a destination ranch for about 100 years. They offer 24 unique accommodations from creek-side cabins to six-bedroom homes… the total being 50 separate bedroom/bath combinations with the ability to accommodate 100 guests (and everyone gets their own horse).
It’s an all-inclusive resort and they can do everything from the cowboy steak fry to an elegant gourmet meal, and depending upon the season include horseback riding (of course), guided tours of Yellowstone Park, sleigh rides, cross-country and downhill skiing, guided fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, hot air ballooning, massage (really good after horseback riding), and a menu of teambuilding options. The staff is made up of real people (this is, after all, the real Montana) who truly care that you have a good time.
That’s it for the moment… but we’ll keep building the Library. Tell every meeting planner you know to visit the site and share their ideas (and click on everything :) Next month we'll be talking about Theme Parties … or whatever other random idea pops into my head between now and then.