Israelis who grew up on westerns no longer have to travel to Texas to pretend that they’re back in the Wild West. The Golan Heights – sparsely populated but loaded with nature and horses – is the perfect place to fulfill one’s cowboy fantasies.
Coincidentally or not, most Golan residents adore horses. In fact, most of them claim that they’ve been equine-crazy since childhood. Now, visitors to the Golan ranches can learn to ride horses… and fall in love with them as well.
By the time Zurik Michaeli of Emek HaBokrim Ranch was ten years old, he had already fallen in love with horses. Unable to find his place in his hometown of Jerusalem, Michaeli came to live with an Orthodox family on Moshav Keshet in the Golan.
His fate was sealed when he saw two cowboys gathering a herd of cattle. Deciding that he wanted to emulate them, Michaeli began studying agriculture, with a concentration on cattle and horses, while continuing to learn Gemara.
In the Golan Heights (Photo: Yigal Tzur)
At age 17, Michaeli met famed horse-expert Uri Peleg and joined him in his rodeo performances. Eventually, Michaeli made his way to the US, where he worked on ranches in Montana and Nebraska. Upon his return to Israel, Michaeli was determined to establish his own ranch.
Encouraged by Meirav, the stereotypical “good woman” behind the hardened cowboy, and his partner Petty, who makes first-time riders feel like old Texas hands, Michaeli set up a gorgeous ranch with around 40 beautiful horses. An adjacent restaurant serves meat while American country music plays in the background. In addition, weddings and other events are often scheduled on the site’s well-tended lawn.
The ranch tames horses, offers riding trips and therapeutic riding, and trains guides under the auspices of Oholo College and the Sport Authority.
Emek HaBokrim Ranch - Corsei-Afik Road (Route 789). Tel.: 972-0-696-2604, 972-52-242-4430.
In Moshav Eliad in the southern Golan, Neta and Alon Lazarovitch raise Shire horses, the world’s largest horses. Called “gentle giants”, Shires are even-tempered English workhorses, which, in ancient times, were used in battle.
Some Shires are only raised for show competitions, but others are still used to pull carriages and for agricultural work. Neta and Alon imported two mares from England - a nine year old and a two and a half year old - and hope to raise an entire herd of these unique horses, with the help of a single stallion located here in Israel and an English trainer named Jonathan.
Israeli horse (Photo: Yigal Tzur)
While riding in a buggy pulled by a Shire colt named Lady Beth, Neta lovingly whispers commands in English. Incidentally, instead of carrying pictures of her children in her wallet, Neta walks around with photographs of her mares.
Even though the colt is still young, she’s already incredibly large. Adult Shires can weigh over a ton; in contrast, other horse breeds generally weigh half a ton at most.
Shlomik and Maya Raziel’s farm is also located on Moshav Eliad. Their romance with horses began early. Maya has been entranced with them since she was six years old, and Shlomik says that he’s been horse-mad from age twelve. The couple worked on horse ranches in the US, where they learned the ropes.
Today, Maya specializes in cutting, the process of separating a calf from the herd, and Shlomik focuses on team roping, or lassoing. Both husband and wife train and prepare horses for competition and sometimes ride fifteen horses a day.
Their Eliad farm contains several first rate horses, which have proven themselves in American competitions. The Raziels plan on developing a program called “Horses and Men”, which will treat communication problems between horses and their riders in the framework of a therapeutic riding and horse taming school.
Shlomik and Maya’s Farm – Moshav Eliad. Tel.: 972-52-453-3951, 972-52-453-3954.
Uri Peleg, who has a ranch near Moshav Ramot, invented an original method of communicating with horses. Peleg’s technique involves voice and body language and shuns the traditional iron bridle in the horse’s mouth. Thus, the horse feels neither pain nor an unpleasant sensation in its mouth. Instead, Peleg has proven that successful communication can be achieved using speech and gentle pressure on specific body points.
Approximately ten years ago, Peleg contacted the Wingate Institute and established a recognized course for riding instruction.
Today, his romantic ranch bears the unmistakable signs of a feminine touch. For example, Peleg’s wife Justine was clearly the influence behind the attractive English-style cottages. The couple hopes to soon offer guests a complete “riding vacation”, including introduction to horses and horse communication, riding trips, training courses, and rodeo shows.
Uri Peleg’s Ranch – Near Moshav Ramot. Tel.: 972-57-736-4750, 972-57-736-4751, 972-57-736-4752.
Horses go well with meat, preferably good meat. Tastefully decorated, Sharoleh, a new kosher meat restaurant, is located at the Mapal Saar Junction, about three feet from the Banias.
The delectable bread, the delicious tapas, and the succulent chicken livers serve as mere introductions to the restaurant’s highlight: the fillet and the entrecote. Rinse down the excellent meat with Ramat HaGolan wine, as your eyes savor the view of Nimrod’s Fortress and the surrounding Druze plantations.
Sharoleh Restaurant. Tel.: 972-4-690-3377, 972-50-421-1007.