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“Breathtakingly awesome experience!!”

Denali Horseback Tours
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Recommended length of visit: 1-2 hours
Owner description: Denali Horseback Tours is a small, locally owned and operated business based in Healy, Alaska, just few minutes from Denali National Park entrance. We live here year-round and would like to share our Alaskan lifestyle with you! Come ride with us, the closest horseback outfitter to Denali, into some of the most spectacular backcountry in the world, under the midnight sun of Alaska’s north!
Reviewed 23 July 2014

From the very first email through the ride itself, this was such a great experience! Ivana was so easy to work with, starting with her website, which is very easy to navigate and full of information. I really appreciated the info about the taxi service to her place-- Mike was early to pick us up and was full of information about the area! When we arrived, the horses were just about ready to go- Ivana just had to adjust out stirrups for our height- and away we went for two hours of the most amazing scenery and great family time! We have been on many trail rides, but this one, by far, surpassed them all. The horses were wonderful- calm,but not boring by means- and very well cared for! The trail Ivana chose was so interesting-- a good sampling of the different types of topography to be found in Denali. Ivana was very knowledgeable about the area. the wildlife, and their habits and we felt very safe at all times. We learned so much and have so many beautiful photographs and countless memories that we will treasure forever! I would highly recommend this tour and am looking forward to someday repeating this visit!!

3  Thank JennyL1024
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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"experienced riders"
in 7 reviews
"riding experience"
in 4 reviews
"hour ride"
in 6 reviews
"denali area"
in 5 reviews
"beautiful scenery"
in 4 reviews
"a great tour guide"
in 2 reviews
"dry creek"
in 2 reviews
"the entire trip"
in 2 reviews
"an amazing experience"
in 2 reviews
"ivana"
in 34 reviews
"kara"
in 6 reviews
"horses"
in 39 reviews
"woods"
in 6 reviews
"terrain"
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"beginners"
in 4 reviews
"galloping"
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38 - 42 of 56 reviews

Reviewed 15 July 2014

Ivanna is such a great tour guide. She kept the conversation flowing and was able to keep up with my endless barage of questions. She knew everything about the lay of the land, and talked about other dynamics of life near Denali. She pointed out different things to us constantly. If it weren't for her talking, I would have never seen some pretty awesome things. We went for a two hour tour and with perfection, she came back in two hours!! Her horses were great! We were able to trot around with them when we had open space to do so. Ivanna definetely kept an eye out to ensure we were riding correctly and not mistreating (even by accident) her horses. Her dog was awesome!! I've never met a dog who can bark so ferociously at a large stick!! With all that being said, obviously SD3TravelBirds doesn't take a horse tour too often. They all ride in a line (hey, the trails are narrow bc you're in the bush). If you husband was told not to "kick" the horses...maybe it was a little more of a nudge. Its not a gas petal, its a horse's hindquarters.

1  Thank Rachel D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 May 2014 via mobile

We just finished taking a two hour ride with Ivana's, her ponies, and Matsuo. The directions were were very detailed and Ivana seemed to cater the tour to our liking. We rode on a variety of terrain and had some views of the mountains. Ivana pointed out many things as we went.
It was also nice to hear some about life in Alaska.
Highly recommend and will try to do this again, on our next trip.

1  Thank Buckeyemom43210
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 2 October 2013

The reason why I rated this place average is because, apparently our 2.5 hr. tour was cut short by half. From the minute we mounted the horses, and then dismounted after returning back from our ride, we were given a total of only 1 hr. and 13 min. ride. We booked and paid for a 2.5 hr. ride, and when something didn't feel right about the tour that ended in less than half the time, we decided to check our camera's-clocks (at Alaskan time-zone set on DSLR, and videos on our pt. & shoot camera) and on my son's cell-phone-camera, we took a lot of pictures from the minute we drove in until we drove off. We were disappointed, and in disbelief wondered we should have spoken up before tipping and leaving, as we didn't see anyone/group waiting to go after us on the next tour. Hence, I give 1-star for our shrunken tour. However, the only upside to this experience was, being with the family. And also, for how cordial, and an absolutely a true-lover of her fine horses the owner-guide was. It was beautiful to watch her ride on one of her very fine-looking horses,"Stoney". For this, I give her a 5-star. And that averages out to a 3-star review. Actually 2.5 stars but who's counting.
To begin with the booking process, we found this service very disappointing and the entire process a difficult one, here's why: While we understand that a solo-operation can be, at times hectic, we were expecting more of a no-nonsense and straight-forward experience according to the owner's business website and the TA reviews. We were a bit late to reserve for this tour and the owner was at first not very accomodating to our short notice. And understandably so, I called only a week before the intended days of our tour. She said she'll call us back in 24 hrs. with our reservation date and time as she's going to town to bring hay for her horses during that weekend. The only request I made was, the late-afternoon or evening-time tour will not be suitable for us. After more than 48 hrs. when, I didn't hear from her, I called back & she said she's available for a tour "anytime after 11am" on saturday. While I wondered why then she didn't call back, my voice actually jumped with joy & excitement that atleast we get to go on a ride now. She then hurriedly cuts the call short by saying that we're set for 5 pm on saturday, and she'll send an e-mail confirmation upon receiving the check that I must mail her asap. Fair enough, but at this time we were leaving for Alaska in less than 24 hrs. Even though, 5pm tour was NOT suitable to us, I went ahead & paid an extra $30.00 for an expedited next-day priorty-express mail service to mail the check. She wouldn't accept cash if I personally came a day before the tour, to drop off the payment in full, as we already had arrived in Healy, 48 hrs. prior to our tour.
Nonetheless, once again the night before the tour, I had to call her again as there was no e-mail confirmation of our payment and no address of her facility(not mentioned in her website). She finally e-mailed the directions at the last minute where we'll meet up with her & her horses. She explained that the place is not a stable, or a pen, or paddock, or corral, but on a driveway of a mechanic's location, about 12 miles north of Denali Park entrance. She also mentions that the "place is dry",so no bathrooms or electricity available. We didn't find anything negative about the place being small as she did mention later that she's slowly working on providing the amenities for her future riders.
It was my second-time riding a horse after 20 plus yrs, and my husband & my son were more experienced riders than I was. When we arrived at 5:05 pm, we were hoping the owner-guide to be waiting with her horses all saddled-up & ready to go. Instead we spent the first 50 minutes waiting painfully long, mostly standing aimlessly, while my husband killed time by throwing a small log, playing with the owner's friendly & playful dog, Mahtzo. This delay was due to, a woman, who's expert in horse's-equipment was replacing horseshoes on one of the horse's hooves. So while we waited, we were introduced with the names of the five horses that were there. We were mounted on our horses 57 minutes later(to be exact) after we arrived; the owner led the way out and we followed her in a line. When, the awesome-looking horse my husband was on, "Marble" the last in line, had a delayed start as he was doing his "stallion business", my husband gave a slight heel-kick to get him moving, the owner got paranoid, and asked him not to do it again. Soon enough we realized that trotting, cantering or galloping was discouraged !! on this tour. The whole ride back & forth turned out to be a boring nose-to-tail, basically a slight step- above the donkey ride on a dusty, very rigid and narrow trail, mostly through a wooded brush. The owner-guide wouldn't stop anywhere in the trail to show or describe the trail-area she talked about on the way there. Halfway stop was, a 15 min. break on a dry creek bed for a "photo op". We weren't allowed to get down, so she took a bunch of pictures for us. This was the only open space we could've used for the horses to atleast slightly canter a bit, but to be fair, on this uneven dry creek-bed covered with a lot of big & small stones, a romantic gallop down the strand isn't really possible. That explains why, there wasn't any pre-trip safety orientation (although mentioned on her e-mail), aside from how to steer, go-and-stop. There's very little instruction to the novice.
As the sun was closer to going down at the creek, the pictures turned out dark & shady while we sat on the horses in the wrong direction from the sun. Moreover, the place wasn't even scenic. Just a distant glimpse of small scattered montains surrounding the Healy's countryside. It's nothing like Denali's wilderness, there's absolutely no wildlife sighting. No climbing of horses on even a smallest of a hillside, which again, is fine enough, as it'd be a liability to let you gallop, even through the narrow non-scenic trails that we travelled on. One stop and we turned back to return through a much faster, shorter, another of a boring but sunnier route. We were told at booking, that the 2.5 hr. tour will have 2-scenic stops, that's why we picked this one over 1.5 hr-tour. Didn't happen.
Hurriedly returning back was sooner than expected, the horses were bored & so were the riders, so much so, that the gorgeous blue-eyed horse (D.C. "Tuff" enough) that I was riding, all of a sudden, actually bolted through the entrance of the facility and kept circling,(as if throwing a bit of a tantrum) while I managed to stay calm. (Wheee !!? ) Mine got me to experience a quick thrill-ride.
To sum up, we got short-changed for getting less than half of the riding time, that we paid a hefty price for.( A Total of $ 525.00 :- $465 for 3 riders plus $60.00 tip).
While taking a horseback riding expedition for any length of riding-time, one would expect feeling wildly energized, happy and free. It wasn't anything like that. Besides, I made an extra effort coming prepared wearing thickly padded bike-shorts to experience a comfortable ride. For a sit-back trail-ride, it wasn't necessary. Overall, the entire experience was well below our expectations at DHT. For those, who are looking for their first-time TRAIL-riding experience to be mellow, ( small kids & beginners) then this is their TRAIL-RIDE.

6  Thank SoCalTravelBirds
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
IvanaDHT, Owner at Denali Horseback Tours, responded to this reviewResponded 19 January 2014

I’m very sorry to hear that the experience you had riding with me wasn't what you expected. I wish you've told me before you left (and tipped me so generously) so I could try to make your tour more enjoyable.

I do my best to respond to the messages in timely matter but sometimes it’s not possible because I get done with my horses around midnight and it’s too late to return the calls. This year I’m going to schedule extra time between the rides and hopefully that will fix the problem.

I’m sorry for the delay, but riding without a horseshoe (that unexpectedly fell off), would be like driving with a flat tire. Putting a shoe back on only takes about 20 minutes. I was under the impression that your family was enjoying themselves while meeting my animals. I didn't have a ride scheduled afterwards and so felt no need to rush you as though we were on a tight schedule.

Regarding the “small mountains”, those are located inside Denali National Park. I think that this area is beautiful and I've never had anybody complain about it not being scenic. I always tell my riders to let me know if they want to stop for any reason (for instance to take a photo) and I wish you would have done so. I have no problem getting off my horse to assist my customers; however I don’t encourage them to get off because the mounting can be problematic if in the wrong spot (no mounting block, not enough room to control all the horses, etc.).

One more thing I’d like to mention is that safety of my customers is my priority. That’s why I try to emphasize the herd nature of horses and the fact they don’t like to be separated. My mare Marble, that your husband was riding, is no exception and that’s what probably caused her “stallion business”. She is responsive to leg aids (that’s why I chose her for your more experienced husband) and kicking her hard just gets her more stressed about being behind. I strongly believe that it wouldn't be safe letting novice riders gallop, especially on open trails where I can’t control/stop their horses if needed. Also it's not safe for the horses because most of the trails in the Alaskan backcountry are either too rocky or too boggy (due to permafrost) and are not suitable for cantering. In addition, you and your husband signed the Release of Liability form that stated that there wouldn't be any running with the horses.

I appreciate your feedback because I take pride in what I do and would like to ensure the best experience possible for all of my customers.

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Reviewed 7 September 2013

Having horses of our own in the lower 48, we were a little concerned about what conditions we might find trail horses in Alaska. Wow, we were spectacularly surprised. Ivana is doing an amazing job with all of her horses, they were in fantastic condition, and all were so kind, like "pocket ponies". Ivana's equipment was all first rate as is her knowledge of the area, the trails, the local wildlife, etc. Ivana took us out for about 6 hours, and we thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. I've never written a review for Trip Advisor (though I've relied on many), however, the experience that my husband and I had with the Denali Horseback Tours was so wonderful that we had to share it with others. We highly recommend this activity for all levels of riders, beginners to advanced - it will be an unforgettable experience! Brietta R.

2  Thank Brietta and Hen... I
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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