Here in the Big City, the high cost of acreage coupled with the threat of lawsuits (you mean you can get hurt falling off a horse?) means renting mounts for trail rides is largely a thing of the past. But that doesn't mean you have to forgo the chance to be around horses. When you're ready to put away your cell phone and venture into country where the next cappuccino is a frightening 20 miles away, head west on Highway 55 past the town of Rockford to Valley View Ranch. Riding lessons (Western) cost $25, or $15 per person in a group of three or more. Discount packages are also available. Safety is stressed, and for beginners that's the most important consideration. Trail rides are offered to those who take lessons. If you'd rather be a passenger, take a hay-wagon ride ($50 per wagon for 10 people or fewer; $5 per person in bigger groups) around the heavily wooded 150-acre ranch. It's a great way to slow your pulse and get social. Kids can enjoy pony rides and a petting zoo featuring llamas, pygmy goats, donkeys, and bunnies. Leave the Tevas at home; wear boots or shoes that you don't mind getting mucky. To line up lessons or a hayride, call ahead of time.


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