Looking for things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia? Check out the Happy Ranch Horse Farm.
One of the first things we do when we arrive somewhere new is to look up what there is to do for kids. We ask around as well as look online and on google maps to see what pops up.
Also, we find that many things aren’t listed anywhere. We had no idea there were 3 waterparks here until Jamie, the Manager of one of the restaurants we visited, told us of them.
Trying to find things to do with a 2 year old, in each country and town we visit, can be a bit daunting.
Like, you can’t take him zip lining or rafting, know what I mean?
We have done all of these things with our older kids though so is not like we are missing out on anything. If anything, we get new experiences with this little guy.
We’ve done so many cool things like climbing through a mud cave in Vietnam; Canyoning in Kitulgala, Sri Lanka; Island hoping and snorkeling in Phuket, Thailand; jumping off a cliff into a rock pool in Thassos Greece… and so much more.
With Sebastian, we’ve had the new experience of finding adventures that are appropriate for his age, attention span and safety.
The Happy Ranch Horse Farm
Today we took Sebastian to http://www.thehappyranch.com to go on a Horse Cart ride. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect, Shawn set it all up. That’s his job. I find and book all our travel and lodging and he has to be our entertainment director.
It was a short trip from our Hotel to the Ranch. As we pulled up it seemed like we weren’t just off of the busy main road as we drove through trees and a long, windy path.
There were chickens running around and some horses roaming freely while others were in the pens.
The cost was $20 per person for a 1 hour cart ride (Sebastian was Free) and you needed reservations – which we had. Shawn had called them a few days prior to set it all up. Also, you pay at the end of your ride.
You can ride Horses and Ponies for 1 or more hours as well. The office staff speak English so be sure to call, or email, and ask them any questions you may have as they are very responsive. (Click the website link above)
They can even arrange travel via Tuk Tuk for you if requested (you pay drivers directly) as not all drivers know where the Farm is. We do find that we have to show drivers with Google Maps, the places we want to go. This is what we did the morning we set off for the farm.
The Cart Ride
I didn’t know where the ride would take us. Would we just go down a field? Drive on the main streets of Siem Reap? I had no idea.
When we arrived at the Ranch I was so happy to see the horses in good condition, socializing and none looked stressed out.
We’ve been to plenty of places to know when an animal is not mentally or physically sound.
Sebastian was so excited to see all the horses. He got to pet a foal and was loving it.
Shawn filled out a form (I’m guessing it was a release) and we headed off to the Cart.
We decided to go at 8 am so we weren’t too hot. That also meant we were the first customers there.
Meet Dina and Astra
We met our Guide, Dina, and Horse, Astra (sp?) – a 7 year old Gelding.
Dina was warm, friendly and spoke English well.
He is from a village outside of Sihanoukville called Kampot. When he was 13, his father passed away and as he was the youngest son, he dropped out of school and moved, all by himself, to Siem Reap – so he could find work so he could help his mom.
He was fortunate to find the Happy Ranch Horse Farm. The owner gave him work, a place to sleep and a new career that he loved. He also taught himself English by speaking with Customers.
You can tell that he adores the farm and horses. While we were obviously there to experience the horse cart ride, mostly for our 2 year old, we really got more out of it than he did.
Can you imagine how scary it would be to go off on your own at 13? Our son moved to another country at 17 for a career opportunity, but he certainly wasn’t alone. Hearing his story was not only interesting, but it also makes us realize how fortunate we are.
Dina is now 21. He has a good life, is happy and loves that he is able to help out his mother back in Kampot.
One of my favorite things about traveling the way we do (besides all the food) is hearing stories from, and meeting, locals. The people are what I always remember and look back on.
Back to the ride
The roads in Cambodia are bad, except for those in touristy areas. They are definitely kept up more.
The cart was led onto the busy main road for the beginning of our ride and then a short way off we were led on to back roads made of dirt, water puddles and big holes.
It was a really bumpy but fun ride. We were able to see more of where locals lived, a rice field, a school and a very pretty Pagoda. This is where people go to bring offerings to the dead. There are almost 5000 Pagodas in Cambodia.
We got out at the Pagoda to stretch our legs and take some photos and to play “Shibby, Where are You?” (Our son’s version of Peekaboo) When we were done we hopped back into the cart to continue our journey.
On the ride back we saw a little boy, maybe 3 years old at most, standing on the side of a busy back road, playing with some garbage. He didn’t appear to have anyone watching him and some big trucks we’re coming by. I asked Dina how safe these kids were. He explained that they weren’t safe at all due to the truck drivers. It’s very dangerous for kids. Broke my heart.
We noticed that Dina had a lot of friends along the way that he was chatting, and smiling with. At one point, two young men on a scooter drove up and Dina told us that they worked at the Farm too and he was training them to being guides.
They were also his road crew. The guys drove ahead and stopped traffic to let us through. It was nice to see how organized the Happy Ranch is and how safety is important
The Ranch is owned by a man who is half Cambodian and American. He’s also an attorney who has lived in California and loves horses. Dina speaks very highly of him and you can tell that he respects and appreciates him greatly.
When we arrived back at the farm, we hung out for a bit to see the horses, find the farm cat and…play with Dina’s adorable new puppy. Sebastian LOVED the pup but was loving him a bit too hard.
The staff was super friendly and you could see that they loved their jobs and the animals. We paid our $40 in the office, happily.
When we came back out we saw Astra getting bathed after all the hard work he just did. You can tell that he was excited to come back to the ranch for his bath and treats as he was wanting to run and get rid of our extra weight, the closer he got to the farm.
We headed back in the Tuk Tuk we hired from our Hotel. It cost $3 USD each way from town to the Happy Ranch Horse Farm. We tipped our driver well when we returned. All in all, it cost us $55 USD. We tipped Dina as well as our driver (for waiting for us). We believe that good service should be appreciated and tipped for when you can afford it.
We put on our masks for the trip back!
Overall I think that for little kids, like our 2 year old, maybe just go there to visit with the animals and see if there is maybe a package where they can brush the horses since touching them was his favorite part of the ranch experience… Aside from the adorable fluffy puppy.
Dina told us that the cart is heavy but it’s also easier on Astra than people riding him. He kept apologizing for the poor road conditions but it was great. We found that all the staff really wanted us to enjoy our ride and our time spent at the farm and, we sure did.
I’d say that the horse cart ride is best for Seniors, those who can’t ride a horse for whatever reason and, for young children.
We definitely recommend the Happy Ranch Horse Farm.