Walt loved horses almost as much as he loved trains, so you’ll see that horses hold many prominent positions in the parks and the Disney resort hotels. Walt also envisioned his park as having a turn-of-the-century feel, and horses and carriages contribute to this feeling.
If you like horses too, you’ll want to check out these places. From seeing horses in parades to actually riding them, there are many places to encounter these beautiful creatures.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 activities for horse lovers in Disney World.
1. Tri-Circle-D Ranch
Tri-Circle-D (three circles for Mickey Mouse plus “D” for Disney) Ranch is a real working ranch on Disney property at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Guests at the campground and guests from any of the other Disney Resort Hotels can visit the ranch for free and participate in any of the activities. Some of the activities (mentioned below) do have a cost, but it’s totally free to see the horses including Cinderella’s ponies, the parade horses, and a Blacksmith making horseshoes or even shoeing horses.
There’s also a really cool thing (besides the horses) stashed away in these stables. The Dragon Calliope was purchased by Walt Disney in 1955 for the Mickey Mouse Club Circus Parade at Disneyland as part of a larger purchase of circus wagons. He restored all of them and preserved anything they removed.
The one on display at Fort Wilderness is a beautiful 1907 twenty whistle steam calliope that was in poor condition. Walt spent $50,000 to redesign and restore it, transforming it into what we see today. It was actually used in parades in Disneyland, and it’s even appeared in several Disney World productions including Christmas broadcasts. It’s the only circus wagon that Disney still owns since the others were donated to a circus museum in Wisconsin.
2. Guided Trail Rides
Tri-Circle-D Ranch offers trail rides that are guided by knowledgeable Cast Members. The 45-minute trail ride is good for inexperienced and intermediate riders since the even tempo might be too slow for more experienced riders.
Kids over age 9 and at least 48″ tall will love this experience not only because they’ll get to ride a horse but also because you might see deer, ducks, armadillos, and rabbits. Rides leave every few hours throughout the day, and reservations are recommended up to 90 days in advance.
3. Pony Rides
For younger horse fans, check out the pony rides. As the name suggests, these horses are smaller and better for smaller riders ages 2 to 9, less than 80 pounds, and less than 48 inches tall. The only other requirement is that they must be able to hang on by themselves.
Instead of going on a trail, the pony is in an enclosed area, and a parent or guardian leads the pony. This might make a younger child more comfortable by having mom or dad nearby.
Pony rides are available between 10 am and 5 pm daily, and cost just $8. That is really a pretty good deal!
4. Wagon Rides
Tri-Circle-D Ranch also offers wagon rides every evening at 6 pm and 8:30 pm weather permitting. The 25-minute ride takes you around Fort Wilderness along scenic trails. You can’t make reservations for the wagon rides; they’re first-come, first-served, so get there early. Guests ages 10 and up are $12, ages 3-9 are $8, and guests under 3 are free. Any rider under 9 years old must have an adult present to ride.
You can also charter wagon rides for between 30 and 35 guests for $300. You can call 24 hours in advance to make reservations for this experience.
5. Horse-drawn Carriage
If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, check out the horse-drawn carriage rides at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. They run a few times throughout the evening starting around 5:30 and going until 8:30.
There’s room for up to four adults or two adults and three children in the carriage, and for 25 minutes, you’ll ride through the scenic trails of the two resorts for $55 per carriage. Walk-ups are welcome, but the driver will only take cash; you can also make reservations up to 180 days in advance.
6. Holiday Sleigh Rides
Every Christmas between November and December, Disney offers sleigh rides. No, there’s no snow, but Disney has outfitted the sleigh rails with wheels in the inside. This experience is available at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
7. Horse Cars
While you can’t ride the horse-drawn trolleys in Magic Kingdom, you can see them on Main Street USA. These old-fashioned horse cars travel up and down Main Street in front of the majestic Cinderella Castle. It really doesn’t get much more magical than this.
Horses also participate in parades pulling carriages like Cinderella’s ponies and carrying characters like Merida from Brave. They also participate in special events like the Christmas Day parade and the Halloween and Christmas Party parades.
You can’t touch them in the parks, but you can see them if you visit Tri-Circle-D Ranch at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort.
9. Horace Horsecollar
Disney and his primary animator, Ub Iwerks created lots of characters including one that resembled a horse in 1929. Horace Horsecollar was a tall, human-like black horse known to be a cheerful know-it-all. He was one of Mickey Mouse’s early friends, and he was one of Mickey’s sidekicks until Goofy was created.
Until about a decade ago, Horace appeared for meet and greets with Clarabelle Cow in Town Square. Now he’s are only seen during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party’s Mickey’s Boo to You Parade and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade. Horace will also occasionally appear for other special events. If you ever see the Horace character making an appearance in the parks, consider yourself lucky!
If you like horses and you want to participate in activities involving them throughout your vacation, Disney’s Fort Wilderness is obviously the best place to stay since this is where Tri-Circle-D Ranch is and where most of the activities take place.
In fact, there’s so much to do here that you could fill a whole vacation without stepping foot into the parks. It’s a moderately priced resort, but the accommodations are a bit different. There are cabins that sleep up to ten adults and are equipped with full kitchens. There are also camp sites and trailer sites with basic to full hook-up options. You cannot bring your own horses because there’s nowhere to house them, but there are some locations that will allow dogs for an extra fee.
If you’d like a more refined experience, look at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa. It has a New York theme with Health, History, and Horses being prominently featured. The check in area, called the Carriage House is adorned with a horse weather vane, and Cast Members wear uniforms that resemble jockeys. While this is a deluxe resort with elaborate theming and home away from home accommodations in the Disney Vacation Club Villas, it is one of the most affordable deluxe resort hotels.
Do you enjoy seeing horses in Disney World?