MY CHILDHOOD horse-girl phase ended without my ever owning a horse, or even learning how to ride one particularly well. I did, however, read a lot of books about horses, and go to a lot of "horse camps" which were less about riding horses and more about "caring" for them, which is code for cleaning out poopy stalls. (In hindsight, I respect the scam.)
At this point, barring a shipwreck that leaves me stranded on a desert island with a beautiful black stallion, I'll probably never win the Grand National. There are, however, a handful of stables throughout the state where recovering horse girls can take our childhood dreams out for a scenic, family-friendly trot. Yes, you're mounted on an indifferent gelding (#thatswhatshesaid) with all the charisma of a used couch, but it's as close as you're going to get to Chincoteague at this point.
The "riding a horse on the beach at sunset" fantasy is cheesy in theory, but kind of magical in reality. If your fantasies are such, options abound at the coast: The Ocean Trails Riding Stables (oceantrailsbeachrides.com) just north of Pacific City promises you can run your horse on the beach, if you're looking for an Extreme. Riding. Experience. Rival stable Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides (beach-rides.com) in Pacific City notes that the practice of letting rental horses run is "frowned upon within the horse community for obvious liability reasons," and boasts that their horses receive the finest quality of care.
Based on extensive perusal of their social media output, the Big K Guest Ranch (big-k.com) is the best place to indulge your Butch and Sundance fantasies, with both lessons and group rides on a 2,500-acre ranch in Elkton, Oregon. Cabin rentals and campsites are also available. (Be advised that hunting and fishing happen here, too.)
All of nature's bounty is basically consolidated in the Gorge. And sure, you can use your legs to scale its walls for the best views, like a sucker—or you can enlist an animal-slave to do it for you, like a fat little king. Hood River's Double Mountain Horse Ranch (ridinginhoodriver.com) offers a variety of group rides for various experience levels. Or, if you're charity-minded, head south to RR Saddle Club (rrsaddleclub.webs.com), where ride proceeds support the rescue of neglected and abused horses.