I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m afraid of horses. So it was with some trepidation that I booked a horse ride with the Happy Ranch Horse Farm in Siem Reap. The Happy Ranch is home to 44 horses, and offers horse-cart rides and trail rides for all skill levels, as well as being a popular Siem Reap activity for kids.
We showed up, with no prior horse experience and were given helmets and introduced to our horses and our guide. Horse assignment seems to be based on experience and the weight of the rider — these are not big horses so riders cannot weigh more than 90kg (about 200lbs). You can choose ahead of time if you prefer to just walk, or to trot and canter. Trail rides go out into the neighboring countryside, and take you through local villages and lush green rice paddies. The best time of day for rides are in the morning or late afternoon when it’s not too hot. If you schedule your tour for later in the day, you’ll catch a stunning countryside sunset.
Happy Ranch is owned by Sary Pann, a Cambodian who has lived in the US for 30 years and developed a keen interest in the wild west. He’s imported all of the saddles and equipment from abroad, and the horses, which are Cambodian horses crossbred with Arabians, are well cared for. My only complaint is that despite filling out a long form about our experience with horses (none) we only got a short explanation before setting off, probably because we exuded an air of (mistaken) confidence. I would highly recommend spending some time asking questions before you hit the trail, because by the time you know to ask them, you may be in the middle of a panicky situation. My horse got frightened by a moto when we first set off — we had to cross a few roads to get out into the countryside — and reared up, and I had no idea what to do other than scream.
So make sure you understand how to handle a horse (it’s actually very easy) before you leave the stable. I would also highly recommend wearing long pants, and for ladies to wear a sports bra. Water is provided, as is a fanny pack to keep your phone and camera in, but if you have a larger camera be prepared to wear it around your neck on a shorter-than-usual lead so it doesn’t bang against the saddle when you are trotting.
Overall, though, it was an enjoyable activity, and a great way to see the Siem Reap countryside in a different way than usual. Even though we were scared of them, our horses were friendly and our guide was outgoing and fun.
Happy Ranch Horse Farm offer guided trail rides from one to four hours, for all skill levels. The cost is $28 per hour, $46 for two hours, $59 for three hours or $69 for four hours. Children from three can ride for 30 minutes on one of the smaller horses (on a lead if kids are very young). One-hour horse-cart rides cost $17 per adult, $8 per child up to age ten, and free for kids under five.
They do offer a slightly reduced expat and local rate ($3 off per hour) if you ask. However, be prepared to prove that you actually live locally. If you’re an experienced rider who wants to practice, Happy Ranch also offer a book of 10 one-hour rides for $200. Rides must be booked in advance and paid for in cash on the day of. Happy riding!