Maui Trail Ride…Awesome!
By Susan Acree
My husband and I enjoyed a much needed warm vacation over the holidays. We spent Christmas with all of our children and grandchildren, although we had to travel 4 hours on Christmas Eve,and then an additional 7 hours Christmas Day to accomplish this amazing feat, it was worth it.
After a wonderful visit with our daughter and her family which included a brand new baby girl, we departed for Maui on New Year’s Eve. We arrived by 3:30, my brother-in-law picked us up from the airport and we got settled into our Condo. We then had a fantastic dinner at Cheeseburger in Paradise and headed to Wailea for the annual fireworks on the beach celebration. Because I was a bit jet-lagged, I took a much needed nap on the beach and woke up just in time to watch the spectacular fireworks display. Since it is also my husband’s birthday, we had cake and sipped champagne to end a wonderful evening and ring in the new year.
After spending many hours at the beach and poolside, sunning and just enjoying being warmed to the bone, I asked if anyone would be interested in going on a horse ride. We were staying at a condo with my husband’s brother and family. My two nieces, ages 18 and 25, eagerly expressed interest in a ride, so we started researching the options.
There were basically three ranches that offered trail rides. I had taken a ride with some girlfriends a few years ago, and although we had a great time and saw some amazing ocean views, the horses were not in very good shape and the ranch was pretty run down, so I immediately marked that one off. The other two were similar in what they had to offer, but one was a bit higher in price so we decided on the less expensive Ironwood Ranch.
It was going to cost us $80 each for a one hour ride through the mountains of Maui. I’ve often had to answer the question of “Why, when I have horses of my own, I would pay to ride a worn out trail string horse?” My reply is always the same “I do have horses of my own that I can ride any time, but I can’t ride my horses in Maui!”
One of things we really liked when looking at the ranch’s website was that their horses appeared to be healthy and well cared for. We arrived about 30 minutes early so we could wander around the ranch and just enjoy the unique beauty of a horse ranch on Maui.
We were pleasantly surprised to see the neat and tidy rows of covered pens where the horses were kept. There were only a few horses present because some earlier rides were still out. As we ate fruit from the abundant orchard, we anxiously waited for our guide to call us.
Ryan, our very entertaining guide.
My niece had somewhat jokingly asked the receptionist if they had any cute guides and she said they had a local guy that was pretty nice on the eyes, but she wasn’t sure if he would be the one assigned us. We laughed and quietly hoped she would try to make that happen. Ryan was an attractive young man and as he introduced himself, the girls gave each other a sly but happy glance.
We were asked about our horsemanship ability level, and since we all had riding experience and the others signed up for the 11:00 rides were beginners, they placed us with Ryan and we were to go ahead of the others on our own ride. This was very good news!
My view of the beautiful
Maui mountains from atop Vigo
They assigned a horse named Vigo Mortenson to me. He was a beautiful horse, not the type you usually expect to find on a trail ride string. They led him out for me, and after giving him a “nice to meet you” pat, I got on and waited for the girls to get their assigned horses brought out to them. My youngest niece was given a sweet Buckskin gelding named Kona and her sister was given a flashy white mare named Lady Gaga!
As we headed down the trail, Ryan told us how nice it was to have experienced riders, because some of the beginners could be pretty scary to try to control on the rides. He told of one ride when a family took a ride and for a reason Ryan never knew, the 14 year old boy started screaming from the back of the string of horses. He was thrown from his freaked out horse, which caused Ryan’s horse to buck him off, the mother slid off her horse and the sister also somehow landed on the ground. Ryan said as he watched the four horses galloping down the trail all he could think to do was call to the guide ahead of him to warn her that four riderless horses were headed their way. The other guide later told Ryan she had just gotten the last rider safely to the ground as the renegades caught up to them and ran past them on their way back to their corrals.
I always thought these trail horses were bombproof, but I guess that is not always the case. As we continued our ride, Ryan told us stories of Maui and Hawaiian traditions, pointed out different trees and flowers and basically kept us entertained the whole time. I was wondering why they had placed me on Vigo, because he was extremely well behaved most of the ride. Lady Gaga was being a little bit of a pill bringing up the rear, but my niece was handling her little tantrums well. Just as we were getting to the end of the ride, Kona, the horse ahead of Lady and behind Vigo got a little too close to me. Vigo laid his ears back humped his back and gave fair warning that Kona should get the heck away from his tail! I guess a less experienced rider may have had a hard time with Vigo, but I reprimanded him and moved on like it was no big deal and Ryan again reiterated how nice it was to have good riders for a change.
We got back to the ranch with no major incidents and wished we could have gone a little longer, although it was great just to sit on a horse for me. The weather in Idaho has been less than conducive for riding this winter. We have had either sub-zero temperatures or endless rain creating lakes out of my arena and pastures. Summer can’t get here fast enough for me.
So, the little warm weather respite in Maui was beyond welcome. And, although it was hard to come back to the cold and ice, I was happy to see my horses, Bonus and Baile and our cat, Kitkat who had been in the capable hands of dear and generous friends and pick up our dogs, Annie and Twix, who had been staying with my son in Boise for the last two weeks.
On my last two trips to Maui, I have enjoyed a trail ride on the beautiful island and can say without a doubt, I will go on a ride on every future visit!
If you haven’t had a chance to check out my recently published book, The Horses I’ve Loved, A Memoir, you can do so here.