“It’s is a tribute to an old western lifestyle that isn’t around anymore.”
This is how Mike Offner, owner of Pine Ridge Dude Ranch in Kerhonkson, NY describes his all-inclusive family getaway. Originally from Westchester County, Offner fell in love with the Hudson Valley at an early age and never left. With an indoor and outdoor pool, archery, tractor rides and snow tubing, Pine Ridge’s 150 acres transcend reality for a true unplugged experience. A sweeping deck offers visitors a vista to enjoy nature, while live entertainment by magicians and musicians liven up the atmosphere.
Offner’s ties to the land are deep-seated, and we were able to sit down with him to talk about his recently unveiled ranch.
Tell me about your background.
Pine Grove was the old ranch that went out of business. It was the first place I rode a horse–I was seven–with my family. It’s where I got my first job at fifteen, working in the barn. I went to college in New Paltz and from 1996-2005 worked with the horses. I took a hiatus from there, and in 2012 returned and became the manager until the last day Pine Grove was open (when the owner passed away unexpectedly).
People were heartbroken that their favorite vacation place was out of business.
I got together with my two [current] partners, who were both formers guests of the ranch and whose families had been coming [to Pine Grove] for reunions for the last forty years. We kept working on trying to buy the ranch while taking care of the horses that were temporarily living on a pasture. The owner of the land kindly let us keep the thirty-one horses we still had there. And then I bought the property on January 29, 2018.
How have you incorporated your past experiences into the ranch?
When I first started out around horses, I actually didn’t like it. I was afraid of them; [to me], they were too big and too strong. [My parents took us to ride] at the Arrowhead Ranch, where they matched me up with an older horse. I was able to bond with one specific horse, and it wasn’t until I bonded with her that I could ride.
Going slow and spending time with the horses was life-changing for me. We’ve incorporated that into the ranch, like in our Barn Buddies and Own a Horse for a Day programs. It’s that whole hands-on experience that you don’t get other than owning a horse. When I’m formulating my programs, I’m thinking, what experiences can people have of owning a horse without having the responsibility?
We also have a sunset horse ride. This is something my friends and I would do: we would take our horses out at sunset, drink some beers, enjoy the time together. We also pair wine and cheese with a picnic at our private lake. Horses are the main theme here. (Currently, they have 53 horses).
Why do you think the Hudson Valley needs Pine Ridge?
The Hudson Valley has been an up and coming area for a while now. I love [it] for a lot of reasons… you’re so close to the city but you’re [also completely removed from it, and closer to nature]. We like to say that this is a taste of the Old West in the East.
With all the people moving out to this area, the farm-to-table movement, the mountains, there’s nothing more local or homegrown about being around horses or having an old-fashioned family vacation.
What do you hope guests take away from their stay?
We’re hoping to share our love of horses with everyone that comes through. If a handful of people who have stayed here in one year go home and start sharing a love for the horses, start riding more, then I’m the happiest guy.
We also hope this becomes a family tradition. I’m not just saying this, but it’s really what happens here: people meet other people here. I can’t even tell you how many longtime ranch customers met their wife on the ranch 30 years ago. This place is a meeting hub. Adults become friends, their kids become friends, and they all plan their vacations here for the same time next year. They keep coming back and meeting new people and their circle of family and friends becomes bigger. I want them to know this is their home away from home and the staff truly cares about them.
Did you ever see yourself taking on an ownership role?
I did! My good friend Dennis’s family owned Pine Grove. When I found out about them needing a barn manager, I told the owner, “I want to come in, start here, become an owner, and then a partner.”
What is your favorite part of the ranch and its lifestyle?
I take a lot of joy in jumping in the tractor and feeding hay to the horses. I like being able to have the ranch really support the community with jobs. I love meeting the guests and making new friends, [and knowing] that they’re coming here and having a great time. People look forward to this week every year, and I enjoy getting to be a part of that.
What was your inspiration for building this–your–ranch?
I know what the ranch did for me and my life. We wanted to preserve the history of the Pine Grove and the history of the ranch, only fine tuning what was already working. It was important to us to preserve tradition.
Plan your trip:
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch has a robust calendar of events ranging from Girl Scout weekends and high school senior week retreats to the Catskills Country Music Weekend and First Responder Appreciation Weekend. From March 22-24, experience the first Adults Only Weekend, where the wine and beer will flow, the entertainment is spectacular, and an auction benefits the Little Brook Farm Horse Rescue.
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch is all-inclusive. Choose from a selection of comfort foods and vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. In the Silver Dollar Bar, enjoy drinks in a beautiful rustic setting. And every night, curl into your bed knowing that the morning promises stellar views from your window.
How to get there:
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch partners with Trailways Buses, ZipCar, Metro-North and locally with Chase Transportation. Take the bus to New Paltz, or the train to Poughkeepsie, then switch to Chase. Journey time is roughly three hours.
All photos courtesy of Pine Ridge Dude Ranch