As I scoured the Internet for horseback riding in Carmel Valley, I fell upon Meadow Hill Farm, which is a stone’s throw from where we were staying at Bernardus Lodge & Spa, a luxury property spread out across 28 acres of rolling vineyards, orchards and gardens. Think epicurean spirit and rustic ranch country chic meets nature and a soothing soul. Getting on a horse during this weekend escape from San Francisco was a must.
Meadow Hill Farm is located at the stunning Holman Ranch in beautiful Carmel Valley California. Here, there are stables where you can board a horse if you own one (there’s a 20 stall show barn although they can store a hundred or so apparently). But, there’s a whole lot more.
When I inquired about trail riding, I learned from Meadow Hill Farm founder Stephen Pellett, that trail rides aren’t really “his thing.” There are of course, other spots in the area like the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center and Molera Horseback Tours, but what sets Meadow Hill Farm apart is that Stephen offers lessons in an arena.
If you’re going away for a long weekend escape, you may be thinking more of a casual trail ride along the beach, however after having experienced a lesson from Stephen, I’d argue that having a lesson is a bit more compelling for the adventure enthusiasts among you who never stop learning.
Using different techniques to make the best rider, his goal is to achieve the highest standard of riding ability, as well as teach horsemanship skills. Truth be told, we’re not looking to become advanced riders (don’t have the time at this stage in my life), however learning the basics and building on it, little by little every time we go on a ride, makes the horseback riding experience ten times better.
Stephen teaches largely at Holman Ranch which has 50+ pipe stalls, miles of private trails, jumping, dressage and western arenas, one of which is the largest covered arena on the Monterey Peninsula, three tack rooms and more.
The grounds are exquisite with views of rolling hills, stunning trees and flowers scattered throughout.
We met Stephen inside the stables where he selected a couple of horses for our lesson. Join me for a meander through the stables.
Meet Blue, one of the horses he selected for us. Because of her beauty and grace (and I have a thing about white horses — I would often dream about riding bareback on white horses on remote beaches as a child), I wanted Blue. Although the “universe” decided that Anthony would start riding Blue, she decided not to obey any of his wishes for the first twenty minutes, and so we swapped horses.
Clearly Blue wanted to hang out with me for the afternoon. While she was still a bit more stubborn than the male horse Showdown, Blue and I had a little chat and she came around. There was something about this horse, as if we had “met” before, as odd as this sounds. Blue and Stephen’s horse were both mounted with English riding saddles and Showdown was mounted with a western saddle, so we could experience trotting with both styles.
Lessons with Meadow Hill Farm Founder Stephen Pellett
It would be just Anthony and I for a private lesson in the outside arena (note that he typically teaches in their inside arena which is a little smaller and therefore can be more controlled). Because we had some riding experience, we spent our time in the outdoor arena. Despite the fact that it was late November, it was a lovely sunny day with clear blue skies, making our afternoon at Holman Ranch nothing short of blissful.
Stephen started with the basics even though we had some riding experience. Every instructor has their own style of teaching, so I’d argue that even if you do have some training, be open to hear what others have to say.
We learned that Stephen began riding at the age of 5, and started competing by 7, with the drive and passion to become a fighting force in the industry. From pony jumpers to the mini prix arena and everywhere else in between, he trained with folks like Richard Keller, Samantha Reid-Scanlan, Dick Widger, Anita English, and Tracy Cotchett.
Although his advanced training skills can bring your horse riding (and competing) abilities to the top, know that if you’re merely curious, would like to develop some basic horse riding skills, or simply would love a unique experience in the beautiful Carmel Valley hills, booking a Meadow Hill Farm session with Stephen Pellett as your guide, is a great option. We had a blast and the surrounding area is serene and peaceful, as is any time you spend connecting with a horse.
Needless to say, I bonded with Blue despite the fact that she wasn’t the most obedient horse I’ve ever ridden. Horses will teach you character, patience, humility and compassion. There’s a sense of knowing-ness and beauty about their spirits that opens you up inside. And this my friends, is a beautiful thing.
While the sound quality isn’t great because of the wind, and the fact that we only used an iPhone without a microphone, you can get an idea of our incredible time in the Carmel Valley Sun by viewing these very short three videos below.
For more details on Meadow Hill Farm and their services, visit their website.