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“Best "Horse Vacation" Experience Ever”

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Free Rein Guest Ranch
Sparta, North Carolina
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Best "Horse Vacation" Experience Ever”
Reviewed July 18, 2012

I have visited many guest ranches through the years with horses being my primary focus. I also often travel alone and find small guest ranches to be an excellent choice for offering instant and interesting companions with which to share my adventures and I never feel lost in the crowd. In all of my excellent experiences with guest ranches, Free Rein has proven to be the very best and the only ranch to which I chose to return for a second time---and I will go back again! I usually spend about 10 days on my visits and it is always hard to say goodbye.

First of all the horses are excellent and, most importantly for me, well loved and cared for. The emphasis at Free Rein is on matching a rider's experience with the variety of trail rides available. This is no cookie cutter, one size fits all ranch vacation. I have enjoyed watching Debbie and her wranglers work with first time riders through those with extensive riding experience and I marvel at how they are able to create both confidence and challenge across this broad range of guests.

On my first visit to Free Rein they introduced me to the philosophy of Natural Horsemanship and on my most recent visit Deb and the wranglers worked with me on advancing my horsemanship skills on the ground---all while giving extensive time to a family of three who were riding for the first time. They match you with a horse for the duration of your visit which allows a much richer engagement and I have ridden Magic, a most magnificent Quarter Horse, on both of my visits and I am truly smitten.

And while I like to spend sunrise to sunset with the horses, there is also kayaking or canoeing on a gorgeous lake as well bike riding or just sitting in the lodge or cabins reading a good book.
In addition to all of this there is a friendly, relaxed, welcoming atmosphere created by Debbie, her family and staff that make meal times, with excellent "home cooking" served family style, another wonderful part of the full experience. They are also great at adapting to dietary restrictions with great care, but little fuss.

I could go on and on, but suffice it to say---Free Rein is an excellent choice for a memorable vacation!

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled solo
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1 Thank Stephanie P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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122 reviews from our community

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Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (27)
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Any
English first
London, United Kingdom
Level 5 Contributor
65 reviews
20 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
Reviewed July 16, 2012

From first meeting to goodbye you are treated like a member of the family. This is no big anonymous operation, just Debbie her mum and dad and couple of wranglers (Kathy, Fin, Ashley and Kitt) and they do it all. With the main goal of giving you the best time they can.

Debbie somehow pics the right horse for everyone and their level of riding but that will challenge you and improve not only your riding but your equine knowledge. Within half an hour of catching Weasel my horse for my stay I had the amazing experience of him following me of his own free will! Here you go catch your horse, groom and help saddle up and at the end of the day you untack and groom again, so you get to really enjoy and form a great bond with your horse. Weasel suited both my riding and my personality.

The riding is mostly through mature forests with beautiful views and lovely lakes, lopes (canters) are usually on logging roads as the meadows are frequently gopher city's. If your lucky you may even see some wildlife on the rides.

As well as riding there are kayaks and canoes that you can take on the lake by the house, I loved going down to see the beaver dam in the evenings and for the more active there are mountain bikes. There is a TV but rarely used, no cell phone or internet but this was no problem, a great place to catch up on a good book if your not too worn out at the end of the day

For me the main highlights were connecting with a wonderful animal and watching Ashley schooling a horse which had either never been ridden before or only possibly once using natural horsemanship where you use the horses way of communication to gain its trust amazing!

As you can tell I enjoyed my trip here and leaving was hard.
If you have children this is also a great place every child even if they just came for a 1 hour riding lesson left with a smile on their face knowing that they had been really in charge of the horse not just being lead around the arena.

They do not claim to be a luxury ranch but the rooms are clean and comfortable all with a deck (mine was perfect for doing tai-chi in the mornings) and the food is plain english but plenty of it and they try hard to accommodate various diets, likes and dislikes.
Would I go back Yes

Room Tip: There are 2 cabins which are good for family's.and several rooms in the lodge with different vie...
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  • Stayed June 2012, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank bluedragon52
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed July 9, 2012

We just returned from Free Rein Guest Ranch, a place that makes one feel part of the family for sure! I had never been on a horse before and Debbie`s incredible teaching ability made me feel safe and able to ride. Her work with our 10 year old grandaughter and the way she made her feel so special was amazing. The knowledge that Debbie has of ranching and forests and of course horses, gave us such great confidence in our selection of ranch opportunites that were available. We met people from around the world which so added to the enjoyment of our time away. One night I got up and looked out our cabin window and saw the most spectacular sight: a full moon shining over the white mist rising from the lake! The wild flowers were spectacular and there were no bugs! Thanks to all!

Room Tip: Beautiful view and good space in the log cabins! sleeps 4; double bed on loft
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
1 Thank Sharleen K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chicago, Illinois
Level 3 Contributor
11 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
Reviewed July 9, 2012

My family and I had a wonderful time! My wife and son had never been on a horse before this trip. The quality of the wranglers and horses are excellent. The horses are so well trained and behaved! Debbie and her family have created a wonderful environment where whether you are an experienced rider or just learning to ride you create your ranch trip experience and Debbie and her staff are there to make it happen. The smaller operation size allows the individual attention and caring that makes this a rare opportunity/experience. The countryside is beautiful. The rides are through pretty aspen groves, pine forests and along numerous ponds and lakes. Great place and I think a key question for any review is; Would you return? YES!

  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank VacationGZ
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Surrey, Canada
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed June 22, 2012

Over ten years ago, my best friend and I started talking about going to a ranch for a vacation. We didn't know anything about them, just knew that we both loved horses, and wanted to do it together. On June 5, 2012 we made this happen. It was definitely a "bucket list" item for both of us.
From the minute we turned into the Free Rein Guest Ranch's driveway, the butterflies started and the excitement was unbelievable. This is a little bit of heaven, deep in the Cariboo. I had never been to the Cariboo before, and was so impressed with its quiet beauty and variety of sights and landscape.
The Ranch itself is breathtaking, from the lakeside cabins, to the beautiful lodge, and the majestic scenery. But more importantly than this, are the amazing people who get to call this wonderful place home - Deb, Kath, and Findlay. Never have I felt so welcomed, so loved and so much at home within five minutes of meeting them. Greeted with a huge bear hug by Deb, and big smiles from Kath and Findlay, I knew this was going to be a fantastic time. The wranglers, Ashley and Kitt helped make this time away from home so much fun. We laughed and talked during all of our rides, and both of them made me feel very comfortable when asking questions about all the knots I needed to know - even when I asked more than once or twice !
I had quite a bit of exposure to horses before I got there (albeit some time ago) and thought I knew horses quite well. Deb showed me a whole other side to these wonderful creatures. In the corral, I experienced a life changing moment where I learned to create a relationship with my horse, Boo, that was based on respect, teamwork and a deep level of understanding. Yes, it brought me to tears, and I will cherish that memory for the rest of my life.
This is not one of those ranches, where you show up, have the big fluffy white robes, and slippers waiting for you (although there was a nice bottle of wine!). This is a place where you go and get back to nature, be as involved as you want to be in the horses, ride as much or as little as you want, in the most beautiful setting, with the most giving, caring people!
Kath was very understanding and helpful with my limited diet, so the three meals a day we had were fantastic!!! We even had a bonfire, roasted marshmallows and sang one night !
The horses are very healthy, happy and eager to please.
This is a magical place that both my friend and I will go back to ~ with our daughters in tow I am sure.
Thank you to Deb and everyone else at the ranch for making my dream trip more than I ever imagined it to be ~ I felt like part of the family when we left.
Thank you !

Room Tip: If you can get a cabin on the lake ~ go for it. The views are unbelievable, and just to sit out on t...
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  • Stayed June 2012, traveled with friends
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Helpful?
1 Thank Julie G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
1 review
Reviewed June 3, 2012

I would like to thank Debbie, her family & Kitt for their great hospitality during our stay at Free Rein Ranch. I felt like I went home when I arrived at the ranch !! It was like we were in the company of family with their caring attentive ways. Each and every guest is treated this way !The horses are so healthy and tame and Debbie goes out of her way to share such valuable knowledge she has about these beautiful animals. She even teaches you how to bond with your horse in the corral before riding....it was so amazing how my horse walked up to me all on his own...brought tears to me eyes !!! The trail rides have such variety...open green acres, forested areas, lake side and much more!! The setting of the ranch is unbelieveably beautiful....log cabins on lake front with acres of breathtaking wilderness. The food was delicious!! I enjoyed how we'd all gather after dinner on the front porch of the lodge and chat about how our day went :) In addition there's a games room, sauna, canoeing, boating and camp fires!! The icing on the cake was Debbie...she is so full of life, laughter, wisdom and compassion !! :) This vacation was more then I ever dreamed it would be and I'll be going back for sure !!

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with family
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Helpful?
Thank Shelley G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Switzerland
1 review
Reviewed March 11, 2012

First of all: I warmly recommend this unique Ranch! Wonderful owners, great animals, excellent food, brilliant accomodations, breathtaking landscape.... There’s really nothing to criticize!

Last year I planned to make one of my childrens dream come true: a Ranch vacation!
I was looking for a small, familiar Ranch, as close as possible to the „real ranchfeeling“, especially not to touristic, surrounded by a beautiful countryside and of course: excellent for riding acitivies!
While surfing and reading all the Guestranchsites all over Alberta and B.C., (and as you can imagine: there are quite a lot!!) I must confess: I suddenly felt in love with the Freereinguestranch! This Ranch seemed to have all I was looking for!
That’s why I mailed Debbie (the owner) for further information. I became a very pleasent and likeable answer, as we would have been friends for years! And from this moment I realised: This is the ranch to be!!
And yes, it was! October 2011, I spent a wonderful, unforgettable week there – my dream has been fulfilled!

I stayed in mailcontact with Debbie for half-a-year – until I finally arrived at her beautiful ranch. She even helped me plan my trip (I’m from Switzerland and the ranchweek was just one of 4 weeks I stayed in Western Canada). She sent me nice Website-Links, gave me informations about the weatherconditions in the autumn and was very willing to make my trip save and memorable. I travelled alone, so indeed she offered me to send her a final draft of my itinery and my mobile number, so she could check in with me to make sure I’m safe! Brilliant!
As a single traveller this place is just perfect:
Debbie and her lovely parents welcome you as an old friend, giving you the feeling to be a part of the family... Amazing!
Moreover all accomodations are the same price! And because they work on a first book basic, I was allowed to spent the whole week in this very roomy, gorgeous cabin, just in front of the beautiful lake - including the cute beavers ;o)! I can’t remember ever having such a unique accomodation – really!
Like a little peace of heaven....

The horses are all well-trained and very nice! Debbie loves her horses (her „team“ ;o)) , knows them inside out and treats them very well - for me a very important factor!
She makes sure that you threat them well also and that you feel as comfortable as possible with your buddy!
I loved combing and saddeling „my“ spider in the morning while listening to the countrysongs – just feelin like a real cowgirl! Smile....
We spent a lot of hours in the saddle – I was really fond of! The trailraides offered breathtaking views, although sometimes we needed to cross several Logs on the ground. We also did some „ground work“ with our horses and one day Debbie showed me how to ride a barrel race. So as a passionate rider, you’ll have verything the (cowgirl) hearts desires!

The food was excellent – I’ll never forget the cowboystew with it’s special addition in it... hihi...

I absolutely would spend my holidays there again - as soon as possible!
But unfortunately, Switzerland is not just around the corner....

Memories of a lifetime - - - thanks for making them come true, Freereinranch!

  • Stayed October 2011, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank Nadja K
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Free Rein Guest Ranch

Property: Free Rein Guest Ranch
Address: 9550 Eagan Lake Road, Bridge Lake, British Columbia V0K 1E0, Canada
Location: Canada > British Columbia > Bridge Lake
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 9 Specialty Lodging in Bridge Lake
Number of rooms: 5
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
We are a family owned guest ranch located in the wilderness of the South Cariboo region of British Columbia. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Free Rein Guest Ranch Bridge Lake, Canada - British Columbia

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