Come to Gilroy for exciting equestrian experiences! You can take a horseback trail ride through the redwoods with Mt. Madonna Stables, learn how to ride and rope cattle at Bright Ranch, or watch buckin’ broncos and talented rodeo professionals at the Gilroy Rodeo. Throw on your boots, don your hat, and giddy up and ride!
Gilroy Rodeo: Bringing Back the Spirit of the West
Have you ever wanted to watch roping, bucking, and riding up close? Then you need to get to the Gilroy Rodeo, now held annually in August. The main events are on Rodeo Weekend, the second weekend of the month. The first weekend in August has mostly contestant-only pre-rodeo events. The exception, however, is the “Big Cowboy Dance”—a 21 and over dinner and dance with live music with a limited number to tickets sold to the public.
Come to watch a variety of rodeo events, including mutton busting, a pre-show—with the Gilroy Rodeo Flag Team, Drill Teams, and Visiting Royalty—Tie Down Roping, Barrel Racing, Breakaway Roping, Bull Riding, Bareback Riding, Saddle Bronc Riding, Team Roping, rodeo clowns, flag teams, specialty acts and more! There are also merchandise, food, and drink vendors, with live music and dancing following the rodeo.
This Rodeo returned in 2018, and it’s a tip of the hat to the Gilroy Gymkhana (ghymkhana basically means competitive horse games and pageantry) that took place in Gilroy from 1930-1956. Nearly the whole town of Gilroy would turn out to watch the rodeo events every summer. The motto of today’s rodeo is “Where the past meets the present.”
True to its roots, The Gilroy Rodeo is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “bring rodeo and the spirit of western heritage back to Gilroy while enriching our community both culturally and financially.” It’s put on by a large group of volunteers. They strive to return all profits from the rodeo to youth organizations in our community, with special attention to those organizations involving agriculture. They have also founded our “Gilroy Kick’n Cancer” initiative, which allows them to donate thousands of dollars to local organizations fighting pediatric cancer in the area. Gilroy Rodeo gave $11,000 in donations to local organizations in 2021.
- Single-day Tickets for the Rodeo Weekend are $20 each, Kids 12 and under are free
- Get tickets right away, as they usually sell out!
Trail Ride Through the Redwoods with Mt. Madonna Stables
Have you dreamed of a trail ride through the forest? Take a horseback trail ride through the magical Mt. Madonna County Park. This park has over 4,600 acres of redwoods, oak trees, brush, and grassy meadows. A trail ride with Mt. Madonna Stables will take you between the majestic redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains and past the grassy meadows.
Owners David and Michelle Mahoney have been operating Mt. Madonna Stables for over thirty years. At their stables, they board a variety of award-winning show horses. They have years of experience showing horses and providing trail rides, horse camps, and riding lessons.
The Mt. Madonna County Park trail rides can be done for riders of all experience levels. When you arrive, Tesi will greet you, collect your signed waiver, and help you find a helmet. Next, you will be paired up with a safe, experienced horse that fits you best. The ride will start with a “practice” session in their large ring to assess your skill level and provide safety and riding instruction before hitting the trail. Once everyone is prepared, it’s off to the trail ride!
Tesi will lead you through the approximately 1-hour ride through scenic Mt. Madonna Park. She is a pro, and she will continue to communicate with you throughout your entire ride, making sure you’re safe and letting you know what’s coming up. Tesi will also tell you more about the park and the riding experience along the way.
Have a question? Just ask! In addition to the stunning redwood trees and other great scenery, you may also encounter wildlife—keep an eye out! When you’re done, you will dismount in the ring, and you may even get a chance to give your horse a treat before you part ways.
Book your own horseback trail ride through Mt. Madonna County Park near Gilroy today. You can book a ride for two or you can book a group. Families or friends can book a private ride together.
Know Before You Go:
- Call (don’t email) to book your trail ride in advance.
- Cost: $70 per person for the 1-hour trail ride, pay with cash or check upon arrival.
- Riders need to be 7+.
- Wear pants and closed-toe shoes.
- Fill out waivers online and bring them with you (there is one for adults and another if you have minors). http://www.mtmadonnastables.com/trailridereleaseform.html
- The total time will take about 1 1/2 hours, counting the trail ride and the practice session at the beginning.
- Use the directions from their website-not GPS! There’s no cell service in much of the area, and GPS doesn’t give the proper directions.
- According to Tesi, one of the best times to ride is in winter just after some rain—when the forest is fresh and green—it’s magical!
- Don’t feel you have to book a morning ride in the summer to beat the heat. The afternoon is still much cooler in Mt. Madonna County Park (at nearly 1,900 feet of elevation) than down in the valley.
- Book on a weekday, when it’s not as busy, especially in the summer.
Mt. Madonna Stables
The “Ranch Experience”: Learn How to Ride (& Rope) at Bright Ranch
Do you find yourself singing Toby Keith’s words, “I should have been a cowboy; I should have learned to rope and ride…”? Have you watched enough episodes of “Yellowstone” that you have dreams of riding and experiencing a horse ranch, albeit without a trip to the “train station” (inside joke for fans)? Well, you can still learn to be a cowboy/cowgirl for a couple hours at Bright Ranch near Gilroy, CA.
Visit Bright Ranch for a “Ranch Experience.” For a 2-hour session, you can learn basic horse care, how to tack up a horse, how to ride, and even roping skills. This can be done for one person or a group. The session can be customized or extended for additional fees. Please call for rates, more information, and to schedule your “Ranch Experience.”
Bright Ranch is owned and operated by Dennis and Kristin Bright. They have been running the ranch for over 30 years and have raised their three daughters there. Originally hoping to live a ranch lifestyle, they’ve expanded their offerings into so much more. As Dennis explains it, “I learned that I had the ability to help others pursue their dreams through horsemanship education.”
Bright Ranch also offer a variety of services, from a Horsemanship Academy, where they train their clients how to ride and advance the instruction as they progress, to seminars, group and/or corporate training, and the Leadership Program, where managers can learn more effective ways to work with employees. If you’re coming to Gilroy for a corporate retreat, plan a leadership training activity day with Bright Ranch.
When you’re ready to ride into Gilroy for equestrian adventures, be sure to book a room at one of our budget-friendly Hotels and stop in at the California Welcome Center Gilroy for maps and brochures, fun souvenirs, and helpful suggestions for other fun things to do in Gilroy!