Unbridled Hospitality at Illinois Horse Hotels
When Debbie and Don Mills traveled to Wyoming to experience the grandeur of Yellowstone National Park with their grandchildren, the inspiration they found extended well beyond the breathtaking scenery.
“When we went out West, we discovered that people go camping with their horses at national parks,” says Debbie Mills, who lives in Indianola in Eastern Illinois. “We discovered horse hotels and learned there weren’t many of them along Route 74. That started a discussion.”
The Mills’ 13-year-old grandson, Owen, led the discussion with unbridled enthusiasm.
“We started writing a business plan with him,” says Mills. That plan grew legs when the Mills Farm Horse Bed & Breakfast opened in spring 2012, on the family’s 200-acre farm.
At the heart of their business, a new horse barn features three Amish-made stalls, a pasture with a paddock, two campsites and a new training arena.
“We designed the barn to have lots of air flow and really nice, finished stalls,” says Mills.
Dutch doors allow the horses to enjoy a view that includes 30 acres of woods and a pond stocked with bass, bluegill and catfish. Equine guests (and their humans) can also explore nearly four miles of riding trails that meander through hills and hollows along the Little Vermilion River.
Miss Farm is truly a family business. The Mills’ 8-year-old granddaughter, Tessa, works as a horse trainer, while Owen has taken the reins as manager.
“It was all his idea,” Mills says of her grandson. “He’s got big plans.”
Still fresh out of the gate, the response to Mills Farm has been promising. Indeed, Illinois’ horse hotel industry appears to be off and running – and horse lovers couldn’t be happier. One online horse hotel directory lists nearly 20 facilities throughout Illinois.
“These places are popping up all over and it’s great – more people are traveling with their pets,” says Lea Sommers, who owns Sommers Gate Farms with her husband, Tom.
With two different horse hotels – both conveniently located near Interstate 70 in Fayette County – Sommers Gate Farms offers something for everyone.
The modest-sounding bunkhouse in rural Vandalia serves as a completely updated farmhouse offering all the amenities of home. Equine guests find comfort in a new five-stall barn; for four-legged friends of a more modest size, the bunkhouse offers a large, fenced-in yard.
“A lot of horse people have dogs, too,” says Sommers. “Nine times out of 10, dogs are traveling with them.”
For those traveling with campers or motor homes, Sommers Gate Farms also offers a campsite farm with a three-acre pasture in nearby Bingham.
Their guests include those traveling to and from trail rides, clinics, competitions and equestrian schools. One Maryland man stopped while returning from a horse-and-Harley Davidson tour of ranches in Wyoming, Colorado and Kansas.
“We see a variety of people traveling with horses for whatever reason,” says Sommers.
Weary travelers of all species need a comfortable place to rest after long days on the road.
“After eight to 12 hours in a trailer, a horse needs to get out and stretch its legs,” says Sommers.
The quiet, peaceful settings at Mills Farm and Sommers Gate Farms serve as a welcome respite from the road. But beyond the tranquil settings, horse hotels offer peace of mind.
“You worry about your horses when you drop them off and then don’t see them until the next morning,” says Sommers, who owns four horses. “It’s convenient because you’re right there with your horse, and you don’t have to find another place to stay yourself.”
Road warriors wild about horses welcome this unique brand of hospitality.
“There are a lot of people out there looking for this, and knowing that facilities are available makes it easier to travel with horses,” says Sommers. “Horse hotels give you more opportunities to see the world on horseback.”
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Contact: Debbie Mills
13363 E 450 North Road
Indianola, IL 61850
Sommers Gate Farms
Contact: Lea Sommers
1433 Cypress Road
St. Jacob, IL 62281