Our Experience Horseback Trail Riding at Fort Wilderness Resort

by | Mar 23, 2023 | Walt Disney World Resorts, WDW Blog

Did you know you could go horseback riding in Disney World? We’re sharing our experience with an open trail ride on horseback at Fort Wilderness’ Tri-Circle-D Ranch!

The Disney horses live a life of luxury at Tri-Circle-D-Ranch, located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds. The state-of-the-art facilities are home to the Disney horses, the horses that pull Cinderella’s Carriage each Christmas and carry the Headless Horseman down Main Street, U.S.A., every Halloween. Not only do the horses live and play here, but guests can too! Fort Wilderness offers open trail horseback riding, a unique experience. We’d call it one of the most underrated experiences you can do in Disney World.  Escape the hustle and bustle the old-fashioned way, and saddle up to Disney’s Tri-Circle-D-Ranch for an unforgettable ride through the wilderness!

Horseback Trail Riding Reservation and Check-In at Fort Wilderness

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Photo by Maria Salerno

To start off, you’ll want to head over to Tri-Circle-D Ranch located at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds. Before you head that way and meet your horse, however, there are a few important steps you’ll want to follow for the horseback riding trail experience at Fort Wilderness.

  • Make a reservation. Advance reservations are highly recommended, as most trail rides sell out. Reservations can be made on the Disney World website for $55/per person (note that they will only accept rides aged 9 and up).
  • Gather your party prior to arriving at Tri-Circle-D Ranch
  • Arrive on time. There are several horseback trail excursions daily, so ensure you arrive ahead of your scheduled time to check-in and receive your instructions.

Once you’ve made your party’s reservation, you’ll check in for your experience at the Tri-Circle-D-Ranch office to the right of the stables off the main parking lot. To ensure everyone meets the age and weight requirements the day of, the Cast Member will weigh each participating guest and verify their age.

Meeting and Riding Your Horse at Fort Wilderness

horseback trail riding fort wilderness

Photo by Maria Salerno

Once checked in, you’ll head to your assigned table to wait for your horse! Each guest’s horse will be chosen for them depending on their height, weight, and age. Your table will be called to the mounting block when it’s your turn. Since these horses weigh over 1,000 lbs and average 6-8 ft tall, we humans need the help of the elevated mounting block to help us get on safely!

When your horse arrives at the block, it’s time to get in the saddle! The knowledgeable Cast Members instructed us on how to hold the saddle while swinging one leg over the side, while always keeping one hand on the reins… because from here on out, YOU are in total control of horseback riding! After a quick tutorial on how to steer and stop our horses, it was time to set out!

The Horseback Riding Trail Experience 

horseback trail riding fort wilderness

Photo by Maria Salerno

I got to ride on the back of Lil’ Joe, who so graciously and gently got in line with the other horses and began to walk the trail. When we set out, our Cast Member guide reminded us always to keep one hand on the reinsAlthough these horses are expertly trained, they love to sneak off to the sides of the trail to snack on the lush, tasty, sweet greens…that are not usually part of their specially curated diets! Your job as the rider is to keep your horse on the trail, in line, and away from the other horses.

Unlike Latte (the horse in front of us) my buddy Lil’ Joe never tried to eat the greenery…but he had quite the giddyup! Lil’ Joe loved to speed up and get close to Latte, which required me to steer and keep him at a comfortable distance the whole ride. The ride itself is slow, serene, and extremely relaxing. The gentle clip-clop of the horse’s footfalls can be heard on the soft ground, the leaves rustled in the slight breeze, and a very distant train whistle can sometimes be heard from the far-off Magic Kingdom. The world truly melts away while on the back of a horse.

Education on Vacation

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Photo by Maria Salerno

While out on the secluded 2-mile trail, I asked our guide how long it takes to train the horses to walk so steadily in a line while they are being controlled by folks who’ve (mostly) never been on horseback before. She was thrilled I asked, so be sure to voice your questions when they arise! Our guide told me that most of the Disney horses come from dude ranches, or were personal riding horses. Most horses arrive at Fort Wilderness with at least some training, so most horses only require a time frame of two weeks to six months to be fully trained and ready to give rides.

But each horse is unique. For example, she told me that Lil’ Joe had never ridden in a line before arriving at Disney, so mastering the art of staying in a line was his biggest hurdle to overcome…and he was flawless! Those horses are smart cookies!

Unplug and Enjoy Nature on the Trail

No cell phones or cameras are allowed out onto the trail. I’m glad about that rule because a still image can’t capture the experience. You can’t smell the freshness of the forest; you can’t feel the warmth of your horse under the saddle as they move below you, and you can’t reach out to pat their strong shoulder when they’ve followed a command.

You can only reap the rewards of what it feels like to steer one of these beautiful animals, give it a command, and feel it respond to you by actually holding the reins in your hand and doing it yourself. I highly recommend booking a horseback trail ride at Disney’s Fort Wilderness on your next Walt Disney World vacation for one of the most unplugged, in-the-moment, family-friendly experiences you’ll have at Disney.

To read even more about the specialty experiences you can do at Disney World, make sure to check out our links below!

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Posts by Maria Salerno

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Maria is a proud WDW Magazine columnist and blog contributor. After holding a WDW Annual Pass in the Northeast USA for 4 years, she recently moved just 5 minutes from Walt Disney World to be as close as possible to her favorite place on earth! Maria is a Certified Disney Travel Agent and private music instructor. Next time you visit WDW, keep your ears open, you just might catch Maria singing and playing guitar at Epcot or Disney Springs!
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Authored by
Maria Salerno

Maria is a proud WDW Magazine columnist and blog contributor. After holding a WDW Annual Pass in the Northeast USA for 4 years, she recently moved just 5 minutes from Walt Disney World to be as close as possible to her favorite place on earth! Maria is a Certified Disney Travel Agent and private music instructor. Next time you visit WDW, keep your ears open, you just might catch Maria singing and playing guitar at Epcot or Disney Springs!
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