Acacia Riding Adventures offers scenic views of NM from horseback - Albuquerque Journal

Acacia Riding Adventures offers scenic views of NM from horseback

Sunset rides are a popular option at Acacia Riding Adventures. (Courtesy of Jill Zawilla/Acacia Riding Adventures)

At Acacia Riding Adventures, no one is excluded from getting on a horse and hitting the trail.

“You can show up and never been on a horse and be what you would consider overweight or not be able to see well enough or hear well enough, not be able to articulate well enough … and I could have you cantering at 25 miles per hour on a horse within an hour,” says owner Dacodah Herkenhoff. “Anybody. Because we have phenomenal horses and we train our own horses.”

Located approximately 50 minutes south of Albuquerque, just outside of Socorro, ARA has been around for nearly two decades but its origins date back even further than that.

Herkenhoff grew up on his father’s farm – which now includes the area used for trail riding – and during those days he had something of an epiphany when he acquired his first professionally-trained horse in 1984.

“This horse would do anything I asked. And it changed my life because the horses I train now are exactly like that horse,” he said.

Today, riders of all skill levels can enjoy the fruits of Herkenhoff’s own training labor at ARA through a variety of adventures spanning canyons, sand dunes, forests and the waters of the Rio Grande.

The majority of the rides range between one and four hours, and cost anywhere from $95 to $225. A full day experience – known as the High Mountain Adventure Ride – can last approximately five hours and takes riders near the peak of South Baldy, through abandoned mines and old settler’s cabins and to the Kelly Ghost Town for $275.

According to Herkenhoff, sunset rides are among the most popular options at any given time and begin around 6:30 p.m. in July and 3:30 p.m. in December.

“Any ride that’s listed on (the website) can end with a sunset and the vistas and all that kind of stuff,” he says.

In the summer, river rides are all the rage, as visitors get the opportunity take horses splashing through the Rio Grande. The path for this trip doesn’t go through any exceptionally deep waters, but riders are advised to bring a change of clothes because they are guaranteed to get wet. During those journeys, one can learn about how the Rio Grande has changed and how it was manually moved hundreds of years ago. Once upon a time, Herkenhoff says, the San Acacia village was at the bottom of the river.

“All of that is still evident from where we ride and we can point out where it was… and how that was dramatically changed with men with wheelbarrows – not men with bulldozers and cranes,” he said. “It’s a really unique place.”

In the summer months, Acacia Riding Adventures gives riders the opportunity to take horses splashing through the Rio Grande. (Courtesy of Jill Zawilla/Acacia Riding Adventures)

With summer nearly in the rearview, ARA also offers breathtaking views of the fall scenery on its rides.

“We can get up 500 feet above the Rio Grande within two minutes on top of Indian Hill,” Herkenhoff says. “The sea of yellow that comes down from what you can see up there is this great big huge S-turn throughout the Rio Grande of yellow cottonwoods, orange tamarisks, yellow goldenrod as far as you can see – this big yellow snake enchanting its way through up here. Because it takes this big turn around the mountain you’re on, the view is spectacular.”

ARA boasts a 365-days-a-year schedule, though staff does get some occasional downtime due to inclement weather and the occasional slow day. It doesn’t really feel like work anyway.

“It’s a labor of love,” Herkenhoff says. “It’s not always being on the horse that brings you joy. It’s seeing how the horse brings someone else joy, the transformation you can make in somebody’s confidence level because our horses do listen to what their riders say.”

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