Holly Anthony, Far and Ride
I visited El Bronco Ranch in May 2013 as part of a group of women who stayed at the ranch for a week. We went primarily for horse riding (of course!) but also to enjoy some of the ranch’s other activities such as a visit to the local cheese factory, a palinka tasting and even some line dancing! It is a wonderful destination for groups as the ranch has an open, sociable feel to it but it also welcomes single travellers, couples and families with open doors and warm hospitality. It is an affordable riding holiday destination and easily accessible from Budapest airport (transfer service available) which can be reached by many low cost airlines. Another benefit is that the ranch is open all year round and can offer great riding activities regardless of the weather – with an enormous indoor arena and sandy riding tracks, which provide excellent footing regardless of the temperature, riding in winter is no problem. They have also recently opened their wellness centre complete with jacuzzi and three types of sauna – the perfect way to warm up after a ride on a chilly day! Equally if you travel during peak summer then their outdoor pool is ready and waiting to cool you down after a ride in the warm sun.
I get to visit a lot of riding destinations for my job but have to say that I was very impressed with El Bronco for a number of reasons. They provide their horses with the best of care, something which is particularly important to me. All had plenty of food, water, shelter and company, none are made to work too long hours and they are treated with respect by their trainers and handlers. They are real western horses which need to be ridden, not just trail horses with a western saddle plonked on the top! You are not here to be a passenger but to enjoy good riding experiences, both out on the trails and in the arenas where you can learn and improve your western riding skills with the help of experienced instructors. There are horses to suit all levels, though they are all quite sensible and enjoyable to ride, and they range from champion Quarter Horses to Appaloosas, Paints and some Hungarian crossbreeds, all ridden with western tack. It was a pleasure to see the horseman, Sanyi, working with a young horse in the round pen and to take instruction from Robert who teaches the riding guests. His knowledge of western riding techniques combined with his good humour make him a wonderful teacher and a pleasure to be around. That’s if you can part him from his favourite horse, Brad Pitt! There is an emphasis on safety whilst ensuring that each guest enjoys themselves.
For non-riding guests or those wishing to take a break from the saddle there is plenty to do. Horse and carriage driving lessons can be provided with prior notice and you can learn either in the arena or out on one of the countryside tracks, under the knowledgeable eye of Josef. Taking a carriage trip out to the nearby bird station or the cheese factory comes highly recommended and Josef’s magnificent black carriage horses are a sight to behold as they trot willingly along the empty paths. As a real ‘foodie’ I adored the chance to sample the local cheeses and wash them down with a glass of delicious red wine (which Robert topped up regularly!). The ranch also organised a palinka tasting for us, hosted by a man from the local palinka company who came with many flavours for us to try. Palinka is a traditional fruit-based spirit and not for the faint-hearted… after trying six or seven different varieties the bar was rife with giggles and red cheeks! For drinks during the week guests keep a tab at the bar to be paid at the end of their stay. The bar area is also the dining room where you can tuck into hearty Hungarian fare, brought in from the manager’s personal restaurant, whilst enjoying the company of fellow guests and the hosts.
The ranch accommodation is modern, clean and comfortable with good beds, cotton sheets and practical bath or shower rooms. Many of the rooms overlook paddocks or are situated above stables so you are never far from the horses themselves. Guests here love to explore the land on foot, visiting the yearlings in their grassy paddocks or perhaps stopping by to say hello to their allocated horse as they relax in the sunshine. You can also walk to the nearby lake which is not only a beautiful place but rich in birdlife as well as terrapins and frogs. The countryside surrounding the ranch and lake is often dotted with deer and hare which can be seen both on foot and enjoyed from horseback during the many trails.
El Bronco Ranch was born out of a love of western riding and is the culmination of the owners’ dreams, a longing to breed, raise and train quality horses for both competition and leisure riders to appreciate. Whether you are new to riding or extremely experienced in the saddle there is something for everyone to learn and enjoy here, whether it be riding a well-trained horse through the western moves or simply exploring the beauty of the Kiskunsagi National Park, cantering along sandy tracks or listening to the birdsong. With a love of horses at its heart and a team of wonderful people at the helm, this is a ranch not to be missed.
Read more about the ranch here: El Bronco Ranch, Hungary.