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Frequently Asked Questions

Our response to Covid-19

In this time of great uncertainty we currently remain committed to carrying on and providing a safe and comforting vacation away from crowds.  We are grateful to every one of you who venture out and spend time at the ranch with your family.

We have been in contact with local health officials and we are closely monitoring guidelines by the CDC and Georgia Dept of Public Health. Its an ongoing situation, and will look to these sources for guidance to guests and policies.

At time of writing, the following measures have been put in place:

  • We have enhanced our sanitation practices. We are frequently sanitizing touch points throughout the guest and staff areas and especially all bathrooms and dining areas.  One tool that we use to sanitize the ranch is a high tech electrostatic sprayer (used by Delta, Marriott, schools, daycare facilities, hospitals and more).  This sprayer applies a very small amount of hospital grade disinfectant which is non-toxic and leaves no residue after it evaporates. 
  • Floor markers have been installed in high traffic areas such as lobby and buffet line to assist with social distancing.  
  • We have installed monitored hand sanitizing stations in the dining hall, and a staff member is present to ensure that all guests sanitize their hands before obtaining items from the buffet.
  • Education of staff in the importance of monitoring their own health and compliance with safety guidelines.
  • In an effort to reduce cross-contamination between guest rooms. We are not servicing guestrooms during this time.  All guest rooms are thoroughly aired and sanitized prior to the next check in.  
  • Open dining seating is currently suspended.  Instead, each guest/family/group are given reserved seating at the same table for each meal throughout their stay equipped with sanitized rolled silverware, and sanitized bagged beverage cups.  Guests are encouraged to make use of open air dining areas if they prefer. 
  • Snacks are offered as individually wrapped packages.  
  • At this time, it is not mandatory for guests to bring masks, however they are welcome to.  However, our chef & his team do wear masks during meal service.

Southern Cross offers wide-open spaces, fresh country air, a rural location, and very few guests. We feel a trip to the ranch has less exposure to traffic than you will see at a bank, grocery, or even a gas station.

Many of us live here at the ranch as well as work here.  We work very hard to make sure our ranch is safe and clean for everyone.

Horseback Riding FAQ

Horses are matched for novice and experienced riders alike at the beginning of each ride, and lessons are available upon request.  You will be guided in small, ability based groups of around 4-5 riders, never more than 7.  Two trail rides are arranged per day, one in the morning (9:15 a.m.) and one in the afternoon (2:15 p.m.) – morning ride times do vary during the winter months.  To further enhance their experience, guests are encouraged to continue to ride the same horse throughout their stay. Guests on the All-Inclusive plan are welcome to ride for up to 2 hours per riding session.

Absolutely! We have horses for every level of rider. Our experienced staff will also teach you basic horse riding skills and be there to answer your questions and assist you.

We provide only Western tack and saddles for our program. Riders are welcome to bring their own Western or English saddle if they wish, but naturally our bridle and bit must be used. Guests are even welcome to bring their own horse if they so desire.
There are some restrictions starting at 250 pounds. If anyone in your party weighs 250 pounds or more, please contact us for more information.
Yes. For safety purposes there must be at least two riders together at all times.

Good question and tough to answer. We’ve yet to figure out how to get the horses to ride tail-to-tail or head-to-head. It’s also not a wise idea to attempt to ride abreast in wooded trails. We do ride in small groups of two to seven riders. Smaller groups of this size can be quite versatile on the trails. When appropriate, riders may trot and canter as well. In a literal sense the horses will inevitably ride nose-to-tail, but you’ll find our riding program to be tailored to your experience level.

This is one thing over which none of us has control. Many times when there is rain in the forecast, it doesn’t rain a drop at the ranch. And when it does rain, it may not rain during our riding times. Even then, it is generally possible to ride in light rain in the absence of lightning or thunder. If you do miss a ride or two, don’t despair! We have a system in place wherein you can choose to make up the missed ride at the end of your stay, take a rain check, or even possibly be downgraded from the riding plan rates for the day(s) that you were unable to ride due to bad weather. If you have an upcoming reservation and rain is in the near-term forecast, you may cancel your reservation (forfeiture of deposit). If this is too large a risk for you, it is advised that you wait until the last minute to book your reservation or consider buying traveler’s insurance from a third party.

Yes. All guests are required to wait for a staff to help them mount the horse. There is a large mounting block with handrails for people who need a little more help.

No, for the health and safety of the mother and child we do not allow pregnant women to ride.  If you are pregnant and have already made a booking, please contact us immediately.

Well behaved ones! All of our horses available for guests to ride undergo prior training to assess their temperament and readability. This allows us to accurately pair horses and riders. All of our guest horses are sweet-tempered, calm-natured, and easy to interact with.

 Children must be 8 years or older to participate in our horseback riding program.

Depending on the number of people riding it can take about 30 to 45 minutes to retrieve your horse, assist with brushing and tacking and get on your horse. The ride time officially starts when you are on your horse and lasts for up to two hours from that point. The ride time ends when you arrive back at the barn and dismount. After that, it can take 15 to 20 minutes to assist with unsaddling and returning your horse to their pastures.  You don’t have to ride for the full two hours, just let your guide know when you are done and they will bring you safely back to the barn.

It’s not uncommon for guests to skip or miss a meal and/or a trail ride. Some guests simply don’t arrive at the ranch in time due to travel delays. Others take a day to visit Madison or area attractions. With this in mind, the trail rides and meals within the AI/AINR packages are heavily discounted versus booking a non-riding package and adding rides or meals a la carte and we therefore do not offer credit for missed rides or meals.

Not necessarily. Our riding packages are created with a significant value in mind. Many times, booking a non-riding plan and buying two or more rides separately will cost as much or more than a riding package that could possibly include much more riding. It is not uncommon for guests to pass up a ride or two during their stay in order to relax and/or do other activities on the ranch or nearby.

It is recommended that you bring jeans or riding pants for horseback riding and boots are suggested over sneakers. Check out our packing list download on the homepage or this horseback riding style guide!

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are served at 8:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm respectively. Casual dress is appropriate for all occasions and meals. It is recommended that you bring jeans or riding pants for horseback riding and boots are suggested over sneakers.
Most riders ride exclusively on the ranch’s property. However, some guests staying over longer periods enjoy the change of scenery provided at Hard Labor Creek State Park. Riding at Hard Labor involves transporting the horses and riders by vehicle and providing a guide. The cost is $75/person with a $150 minimum (plus horse rental if not on All-Inclusive plan). In other words, a total of $150 is required for us to cover our trip expenses. If more than one rider is going, the minimum is met. If only one or two riders take the trip, the fee is a flat $150. In most instances, three or more interested riders can be found to take the trip. The trail ride involves a 9+ mile trek through the park’s well-established forest and along Lake Rutledge. The terrain is steep at points, and this particular ride is not for beginners. Generally, this trip is only available Monday through Thursday, conditions permitting. This offering is best utilized by guests planning to stay a week or longer.

Yes. Many guests like to visit for meals, riding, or both. Please visit our booking tool here. Reservations are required.

As per Georgia law, riders 18 and over are not required to wear a helmet however it is always recommended. The ranch does provide helmets of all sizes that are cleaned and sanitized regularly but you are welcome to bring your own horse riding helmet. NO BICYCLE HELMETS.

Yes!   We allow guests staying overnight to bring either mares or geldings, no stallions are allowed. Stall board is an additional $20/per night per stall. You will also need a copy of the horse’s Coggins and 5 – way vaccine for each horse. (Eastern Equine Encephalomyelitis, Western Equine Encephalomyelitis, Tetanus, Influenza, and Equine Herpesvirus)

Rooms and rates and dates, room and general amenities

Guests visit from all over the world for a variety of reasons. Most come for a riding vacation; some come to visit the historic town of Madison, while others visit just to take in the beauty and tranquility that the ranch has to offer. Southern Cross is a great place for couples, singles, and families too. We invite you to read our guests’ comments posted online from our guest book to read what other guests had to say.

What is a typical day at the ranch like?

Arrival Day:

  • 1:00pm lunch
  • 2:15pm Afternoon trail ride
  • 6:00pm Supper

Middle Days:

  • 8:00am Breakfast
  • 9:15am Morning trail ride
  • 1:00pm lunch
  • 2:15pm Afternoon trail ride
  • 6:00pm Supper

Departure Day:

  • 8:00am Breakfast
  • 9:15am Morning trail ride

Sometimes. Most rooms available on Friday and Saturday nights may require at least a two-night minimum stay. Holiday periods require a 3 night minimum. Occasionally there are exceptions to this and prospective guests are encouraged to check availability for a one-night stay.

Unfortunately, no. The minimum age for all guests staying at the ranch is age 4.

Children must be 8 years or older to participate in our horseback riding program.  

Not necessarily. Our riding packages are created with a significant value in mind. Many times, booking a non-riding plan and buying two or more rides separately will cost as much or more than a riding package that could possibly include much more riding. It is not uncommon for guests to pass up a ride or two during their stay in order to relax and/or do other activities on the ranch or nearby.
Check-in is officially 2:00 p.m., but we welcome check-ins as early as 12:00pm. (prior notice requested) and as late as needed. If your room is ready before 2:00 p.m., you may take possession; otherwise you may enjoy the property while you wait for your room, use the common areas (i.e. patios, TV room, game room, etc.), or take part in any other meals or activities that your plan may include. If you are on the All-Inclusive plan (with or without riding), your plan begins with lunch at 1:00pm. Please plan to arrive by 12:45pm. For guests on the All-Inclusive plan with riding, the first ride included in your package is at 2:15 p.m. on your arrival day, and the last ride is the morning ride on departure. Guests riding on the morning of departure should plan to vacate the room prior to the ride. The official check-out for all rooms is 10:30 a.m. Late check-out requests must be arranged through the front office and are subject to availability. Breakfast, lunch, and supper are served at 8:00am, 1:00pm, and 6:00pm respectively. Casual dress is appropriate for all occasions and meals. It is recommended that you bring jeans or riding pants for horseback riding and boots are suggested over sneakers. DAILY SCHEDULES: Arrival Day:
  • 1:00pm lunch
  • 2:15pm Afternoon trail ride
  • 6:00pm Supper
Middle Days:
  • 7:00am Breakfast
  • 9:15am Morning trail ride
  • 1:00pm lunch
  • 2:15pm Afternoon trail ride
  • 6:00pm Supper
Departure Day:
  • 8:00am Breakfast
  • 9:15am Morning trail ride
Absolutely not! You’ll never pay a service charge at Southern Cross Ranch. Our rates are simply our rates. While it is customary to leave a gratuity for our staff in an envelope provided at the end of your stay, your contribution is completely discretionary. Of course, your stay is taxable by Uncle Sam (government), and those taxes are not included in the rates.
Unfortunately, we cannot allow pets in our guest rooms. However, you may rent a stall in our stable ($20/night) to board your pet. This arrangement is ideal for most guests with larger dogs. It’s like camping for dogs. However, this may not be acceptable for every pet owner. If you are unsure, we encourage guests to make other arrangements for their pets.

Eating and activities and entertainment

Our location is convenient to many area attractions and activities. Several golf courses are within 30 minutes. A nearby gun club offers sporting clays, skeet, and trap shooting as well as archery. Our historic town of Madison offers a beautiful self-guided walking tour of the antebellum homes and gardens, and features numerous shops offering art, antiques, and civil war artifacts. Nearby, Lake Oconee features premier fishing and boating opportunities. If you wish to venture up to an hour away, you’ll find canoeing and whitewater, Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, and several attractions and theme parks in Atlanta. Please see our local attractions page for additional information.

Our magnificent chef and his team are more than able to accommodate most dietary restrictions and needs. When you make your reservation, please let us know about your special dietary needs and we will make sure our kitchen team is aware prior to your arrival.
We do not sell or serve alcohol. Guests are welcome to bring their own adult beverages. A refrigerator is available for items needing refrigeration. We have drinkware and adult beverage openers available.

Our dining hall offers a variety of fresh fruit, crackers, pastries, cookies and snacks throughout your stay. Complimentary soft drinks, iced tea, lemonade, water, and snacks are available 24 hours daily.

Guests are welcome to bring horse treats such as apples, carrots and peppermints.
We encourage guests to visit Madison for dinner. Madison offers numerous locally owned restaurants, fast food options and pizza delivery to the ranch is also available.

Photography

Easy! Just click here to book a phone call with Charlotte and she will tell you everything you need to know to get started!

There is NO shooting fee for Charlotte to photograph your horseback riding activities, however this does still need to be pre-booked and there may be a minimum photo purchase requirement. Occasionally (such as on Holiday weekends) Charlotte will photograph riding activities without pre-booking, but the best way to make sure that your riding is captured on camera is to book her in advance by scheduling a call or completing this form.

The short answer is no, but it does depend on the type of session you book….
Group Photo session: If you opted for the Horseback Riding Photography Package ($399) then yes, all of your final cut photos will be included both in print and digital format. The package also includes a $50 canvas credit and a complimentary private portrait session, making the total value over $600. Click here to view the package information. Otherwise, print prices start at $20.

Private portrait sessions include a $250 print credit towards the purchase of your portraits. Please note that the experience, product range and therefore pricing differ between private portrait and group photo sessions. To see the difference between the options, visit Charlotte’s dedicated web page for Ranch Guests.

You can, but it’s unlikely that you will be successful in getting on Charlotte’s limited schedule! Charlotte only serves a limited number of clients each month, giving each one the attention and time needed to deliver an exceptional service and quality artwork. In order to get the most out of the portrait experience we recommend that you contact Charlotte as soon as you have decided that you are coming to the ranch (even if you have not yet made your reservation!). If your booking is last minute, contact her ASAP to see what she can do for you!

No problem! You can also get yourself on Charlotte’s schedule to photograph your daily riding activities. Click here for more information.