Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Happy Ranch (Siem Reap) 2nd Review - with pictures

I planned my trip to Siem Reap in part because of the good feedback about Happy Ranch I've been getting from my friends (see Rachel's review here) and from tripadvisor (see here).

Having ridden in several places around the region (and many beyond), the Happy Ranch was definitely one of my favourites. I did a 1 hour trail ride on the first day and a 2 hour sunrise ride followed by a private jumping lesson on the second. On the first day, I rode Brin, a 3-year-old who was born on the ranch. It was his first time out on the trails with a guest and he behaved impeccably- he was responsive and calm almost throughout the ride. I fell in love with Cambodian ponies there and then- they are really such intelligent, hardy animals with easy-going temperaments, comfortable gaits and smooth canters.


The sunrise ride is the one I'd really recommend. We went past paddy fields, waded through small streams and rode through the local villages and caught a glimpse into the lives of the farmers.
Riding past a lotus pond. Boy did I hone my horseback photography skills!

Wading through a stream

Paddy fields

We rode through a field of cows that were peacefully grazing and didn't flinch even though we were an arm's length away from them. It was a very surreal experience for a city girl like me and probably the closest I've ever gotten to farm animals (other than at the zoo!)

We got so close to the cows we could touch them. Thankfully they minded their own business

Water buffaloes

Watching the sunrise over the paddy fields was breathtakingly beautiful- it was quiet and absolutely serene- a stark contrast from the crowd and bustle of watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat the day before.

Sunrise over the paddy fields

Jay (Jai?) was an excellent guide as well- he spoke very good English and answered all our questions about the people living in the region, having grown up in the village himself. The only downside was that I didn't get a chance to canter as much as I would have liked to as a lot of the trail involved going past villagers' houses and through water-logged terrain.

Jay leading the way

We also made a quick stop at Wat Athvea, a 12th Century Hindu temple built by the same king who constructed Angkor Wat. It's quite a small temple but worth visiting simply because there were no other tourists around. Unlike Angkor Wat, there are relatively few carvings on the walls, other than a few very well preserved devata (sacred female images).

Wat Athvea. Riding Baloo, another young pony

Inside the temple- a devata

Unfinished carvings on the walls- they must have known there'd be horses passing through!

The lessons are perhaps more suited to beginner or intermediate riders, although more advanced riders can pick up a couple of good tips as well. The horses are not trained to a very high level so if you are looking for more advanced dressage or jumping lessons perhaps you may want to go somewhere else.

Information about the Happy Ranch:

Prices (payment in cash, US dollars only):
Trail Rides: 1h ($19), 2h ($36), 3h ($51), 4h ($64)
Lessons (1h): Private ($22), Group lesson up to 4 ridesr ($16)
Cart Rides (1h): $12.50

Bookings: Tel 012 920002 or 016920002, email:

Website: click here

Location: 1.5 km away from the centre of Siem Reap (see website).