By Kathy Carter
Are you planning a riding holiday? Even though it may be something of a ‘busman’s holiday’ to a horse owner, equestrian vacations offer many benefits, from improving your riding skills and making new friends, to developing fitness and challenging your own boundaries.
If you are planning a trip this year, remember my four top tips –
1.Be honest about your experience
If you exaggerate your level of riding skills, you will either hold the other riders back, or put yourself in danger – either scenario could spoil someone’s holiday! Some travel operators specifically match riders with other guests of similar levels of experience.
2.Get riding fit
Probably the biggest issue that riding holiday guests face is a lack of fitness appropriate to their trip. This occurs whether you opt for a simple training holiday with maybe one or two hours’ daily riding, or a lengthy trek with seven hours in the saddle each day! If you can find time, try and get in some general fitness work before you leave home, or increase the riding you are doing.
3.Pick a trip that meets your needs
An obvious statement; but one that warrants some thought. There’s no use complaining that there aren’t enough fast canters if you have booked a trip that involves trekking through woodland. And if you want to swim with your horse, this is something you will need to discuss with your travel provider first, as not all beach rides offer this. Truly adventurous rides in challenging environments may actually be very slow, due to difficult terrain, while beach rides can be fast and furious.
Most riding trips are informal, so you are unlikely to need more than one or two smart outfits. Instead, focus on your riding wear. Your footwear should be water proof and extremely comfortable – you may need to lead your horse in some circumstances – and you should take your own lightweight riding helmet meeting current safety regulations. (Some providers may supply hats, but their fit will be questionable. Plus, not wearing a helmet is likely to compromise your insurance cover). Also, don’t forget several pairs of jodhs, gloves, shirts with collars (for protection from the sun) and a waterproof coat. Additions like sun cream, camera and sunglasses are also important, plus a bumbag or rucksack to store them in while you ride.
Top trips for 2015
Ranch Rider’s unique wildlife experience at Colorado’s Zapata Cattle & Bison Ranch, owned by The Nature Conservancy, involves herding and riding close to the wild conservation herd of bison. Gourmet food and a true, working ranch experience await. Prices from £1495 pp (per person) sharing, exc flights. Visit www.ranchrider.com
If it’s a beach ride you want, consider Unicorn Trails’ Atlantic Coast Trek across 250km of protected beaches and forests. Fast riding up to 6 hrs daily on Anglo Arabs. Basic but comfortable accommodation, with beautiful French food and wine.
Prices from £769 pp sharing, exc flights. Visit www.unicorntrails.com
In The Saddle’s horseback adventures in Morocco give riders access to amazing riding and sensational scenery, whilst providing an insight into the unique culture which has Berber, Arab, African and European influences. Four different itineraries; prices from: £448 pp sharing, exc flights. Visit www.inthesaddle.com
Ireland’s Castle Leslie Estate is a Lonely Planet ‘Top 10 worldwide equestrian destination’. Their three day ‘Horse sport’ package is for experienced riders wanting to expand their skills or try a new riding discipline. Three hours’ riding per day.
Prices from: £610 pp sharing, exc flights. Visit www.castleleslie.com