50 Things we love about riding holidays
1. Starting an adventure
Shine Valley Pack Trip - Yukon
This is a "get away from it all" 10 day expedition style trip with some long days in the saddle. It's guided by Pierre, who has lived here for the past 18 years, guiding horse trips in the summer and dog-sledding in winter. Everything is carried by the pack horses and you stay in simple two man dome tents. You may come back tired and sore but you will have had an adventure.
2. Arriving in style
Chateaux of the Loire
Our Chateaux to Chateaux rides are surely the most elegant way to holiday in the Loire. The riding is not the most challenging but you stay in some beautiful places with food to match. Your guide, Anne-France, brings the grand palaces to life with her in depth knowledge.
3. Messing around with friends
Bush and Beach, Australia
From playing around in the surf to beach canters and cattle station round ups. This ride on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane has plenty of fun and variety in the saddle.
4. Not knowing what the day has in store
The Great Trek, Kyrgyzstan
For an all out adventure this 13 day trail across central Kyrgyzstan is hard to beat. This picture shows the more gentle foothills but you also get to experience high mountain passes between snow capped peaks. As one rider said "Kyrgyzstan could win a competition of being the most beautiful country in the world!"
5. Feeling small
Macatoo Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Nothing quite gets the heart pumping like a face to face encounter with the world's largest land animal. At Macatoo you get amongst the wildlife. There is no metal or glass and no fences between you and the animals.
6. Going for a canter with the locals
Horizon, South Africa
When you go for a canter in Africa you're never quite sure who is going to join you. As the guides will tell you, you don't chase the wildlife, but if you start running they will often go with you. Here we have some Zebra and a springbok joining in.
7. Living in the moment
We love this picture because it shows how you can become completely engrossed in the task in hand. One of the great things about riding is the way it takes you away from the stresses of modern life. You know this cowgirl is thinking about one thing only.
8. Being focussed
Improving the connection with your horse is something many riders aspire to. Horses schooled in classical dressage are out of the price range of most of us but a holiday at Alcainca is very affordable. Here you have the opportunity to take your skils to another level, riding highly trained horses that respond to subtle aids.
9. Taking time off from dessage
Monte Velho, Portugal
At Monte Velho they take their fun seriously. The Lima Meyer family have created a beautiful equestrian resort near the ancient town of Evora. You can combine instruction on high quality horses from their own stud with trail rides into the surrounding olive groves and cork oak plantations.
10. Experiencing nature at its most spectacular
Homoki Riding, Hungary
Riding through a sea of red like this is guaranteed to make you smile. Oliver your host on this holiday takes great care to give his guests an authentic Hungarian experience. You may be walking through the poppy fields in spring but there is also some fast riding on the flat sandy tracks that criss cross this part of the country.
11. Realising the world is bigger than you thought
Ol Donyo, Kenya
Taken in the early morning, this picture was timed perfectly. The rising sun picks out the horse and rider on the Chuylu Hills with the acacia dotted plains below still half in shadow. It gives you a real sense of the scale of the landscape which is often difficult to capture in photos. These safaris are centre based so you combine game rides in search of wildlife with the comforts of a luxury safari lodge.
12. Getting sand kicked in your face
The Wild Coast, South Africa
Beach gallops are on many riders bucket list. Of all the coastal rides around the world we reckon this is the most spectacular. Long sandy beaches framed by headlands that jut out into the crashing surf. The rides on the shoreline combine with cliff top trails with views out over the ocean where you might see dolphins or even whales.
13. Leaving only hoofprints
Coastal Estancias, Uruguay
We all want to tread lightly on the planet and with a riding holiday you know you're going to have minimal impact on the environment. Groups are always small so you interact meaningfully with the people you meet on the way. The tiny country of Uruguay, sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, is often overlooked but it has a unique equestrian history and offers great diversity within a small area.
14. Staying up after lights out
Ol Donyou, Kenya
Swaping stories of the days ride around the campfire with the sounds of the night as the darkness closes in. This is one of most evocative images of riding in Africa. Safaris range from basic camping where you sleep out in the open in your swag to super luxury tents with flush loos and hot showers. On all the trips there are no fences between you and the wildlife so you are a participant rather than a spectator.
15. Encountering new photo opportunities
Kalahari Safari, Botswana
Beyond the Okavango Delta lie the Makgadikgadi salt pans and the Kalahari, transformed into carpets of green by seasonal rains. Herds of zebra and wildebeest attracted by this new growth are temporary visitors but these ever alert meerkats are the permanent inhabitants. It's often easy to overlook the smaller animals you encounter on safari but the mark of a great guide is someone who can enthuse about the little animals as well as the big ones. These are wild meerkats that have no inbuilt fear of humans, so when you dismount they don't hesitate in using you as a new look out point.
16. Kicking on
Tuli Trail, Botswana
The Boerperd, Shire Thoroughbred crosses, Appaloosas and Friesian crosses used on the Tuli Trail are beautifully trained by Louise Carelsen who runs these safaris in eastern Botswana. The horses have a rotation of one week on the trail, one week schooling and a third week resting. This keeps them in top form and provides the ideal mount where you really can kick on.
17. Being part of the action
This is what a horseback safari is all about. You are there, amongst it all on equal terms with the wildlife. The unpredictability of these safaris is one of the great attractions so they are not for the novice or nervous rider. One morning you could be cantering alongside a herd of lechwe trying to match their speed and elegance as they skim across the water, then you might encounter a family of browsing elephants or even a pride of lions guarding a recent kill.
18. Cooling off
Even in winter during the middle of the day it gets hot in Botswana. Motswiri Camp is near the panhandle of the Okavango Delta on the banks of the Selinda Spillway so there is always permanent water nearby. Cantering through the shallow lagoons is the ideal way to keep cool and the horses enjoy it as much as the riders.
19. Camping with the odd luxury thrown in
Masai Mara, Kenya
Keeping it simple is the secret to mobile safaris in Africa. But that doesn't mean roughing it. Gordie Church and his team at Safaris Unlimited create the perfect balance of adventure and luxury. A comfortable bed, hot shower and great food are the essentials, then you're ready for whatever excitement the day's riding brings.
20. Seeing the best view in the world, between your horses ears
As riders we are priviledged to experience this special view. Given a loose rein, sure footed trail horses will look after themselves leaving you free to enjoy the constantly changing sights. Seated high up the vegetation and other barriers like fences and walls don't impede your view and coming across wonders like this mountain lake hidden high in the Pyrenees are a real treat.
21. Turning the corner and seeing something new
Wait a Little, South Africa
We can't guarantee you'll come across a pair of big cats relaxing in the open on every ride but at Wait a Little riders are more likely to get close to the wildlife than on any other horseback safari. The other thing that's fascinating about this picture is how calm the horses and the cheetah are. The horses are alert and obviously interested in what's in front of them but they are relaxed. The cheetah know they are not being threatened and are happy to pose for the camera.
22. Giving it full throttle
Across the Namib
This is one gallop where you probably want to be at the front, avoiding the worst of the rising cloud as the horses race over the dusty plains. The wide open spaces of Namibia are great for fast rides like this. What people don't expect on this expedition ride is the variety of terrain, as well as the sandy desert there are plenty of rocky outcrops which demand a different set of skills.
23. Making new friends
Rocking Z Ranch, Montana
Spending time out of the saddle interacting with your horse is a special part of many riding holidays. The Wirth family who run Rocking Z are passionate about natural horsemanship and for them it's integral to the experience. Relaxing in the paddock, allowing him to decide when to approach you and being playful are all important in building trust and strengthening the bond between horse and rider.
24. Working together as a team
White Stallion Ranch, Arizona
Team penning brings out the cowboy in us all and acheiving something as a group always seems more special than doing it on your own. It doesn't matter if you haven't tried it before, the horses are the experts and the wranglers will give you any help you need. It's all about keeping alert and applying pressure on the cattle at the right moment.
25. Being alone in the wilderness
Sierra Nevada, Spain
Although just a few hours drive from the Costa del Sol the mountains of Andalucia between Granada and the coast are secluded and unpoilt. The horses here are your means of transport through this wild and rugged landscape. Ancient tracks that zig zag up the mountains join the whitewashed villages that cling to hillsides and it's easy to understand why this remote corner of the country was the last stronghold of the Moors in Spain.
26. Feeling tired at the end of the day
Ant's Lodges, South Africa
Riding trips are probably not the ideal holiday for those who like to completely relax on holiday but that doesn't mean it’s all hardship. At Ant’s riders can have an active day searching for wildlife in the reserve then when you return to the lodge you can enjoy gourmet food and the comforts of a luxury wilderness lodge. There’s that feeling that you’ve earned it.
27. Building trust in each other
Horses, Dunes and Nomads, Morocco
Safely negotiating the rocky slopes of the Atlas mountains above Marrakesh requires horse and rider to work in partnership. Riding with a relaxed seat doesn’t mean you’re being a passenger. Your horse responds to your encouragement and shifting weight as the trail turns up, around and over the boulder strewn hillsides. A loose rein allows him to see exactly where he is putting his feet and a mutual confidence gradually develops.
28. The smell of spring
Alentejo Trails, Portugal
Riding through the Alentejo in bloom the gentle movement of the horses legs against the flowers combined with the warmth of the sun releases their scent surrounding you in a bubble of perfume. Smell is more closely linked to memory than any of our other senses so years later a similar fragrance can transport you back to that flower filled meadow in Portugal.
29. Understanding the meaning of controlled power
Los Alamos, Spain
The Andalusian has been bred for centuries for its athleticism and stamina. At Los Alamos they are the perfect mount for cantering on the beach, along the forest tracks or through the dunes. This holiday has one of the highest number of repeat visitors of all our trips and a number of visitors enjoy their horse so much they end up bringing them home.
30. Discovering alien landscapes
Cappadocia translates as “the land of beautiful horses”. Exploring Cappadocia on horseback gives you a unique perspective of these strange rock formations. They might look like something from another planet but they are caused by erosion where a hard volcanic rock overlays much softer layer. The special geology of this area of central Turkey has allowed whole underground towns to be carved into the bedrock.
31. Keeping warm when it's chilly outside
Equus Sylvania, Romania
Cantering through the snow in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains these endurance trained horses kick up clouds of snow. Winter is the best time of year to see tracks of the other inhabitants of these mountains, deer, wolf and lynx.
32. Knowing today is going to be a challenge
Andorra Trail, Spain
The expectation here is evident in both horse and rider. The Andorra Trail is our toughest ride in Europe so you know pretty much every day on this trail is going to be challenging. Long hours in the saddle over steep rocky terrain and narrow mountain paths contrast with canters over high alpine pastures.
33. Seeing horses dance
The Sacred Valley Ride, Peru
Horses are such an integral part of the culture of Peru that they have even been incorporated into a version of the local folk dance, the Marinera. The origins of the dance are not clear but the smooth gait and agility of the Peruvian Paso are a natural fit. What’s surprising is that the same breed makes an excellent trail horse, hardy and surefooted over the challenging paths that lead through the mountains between Cusco and and Machu Picchu.
34. Being on top of the world
Cotapaxi Adventure, Ecuador
This area of Ecuador south of Quito was named The Avenue of the Volcanoes by early 19th century explorers. It would be difficult to imagine a more dramatic backdrop for riding than these grassy plateaus surround by a chain of snow capped volcanic peaks.
35. Choosing a picnic spot with a view.
High Plateau Ride - Tibet
Stopping for a mid day rest on the edge of the Tibetan massif with a panorama of snow capped peaks in the distance.
36. Being just a little bit taller
Cape Winelands, South Africa
These trail rides take you through the broad fertile valleys of the Western Cape. While you may be able to reach the juiciest fruit on horseback you also get to see more of the world around you. Morning and afternoon rides through vineyards and orchards are broken by leisurely stops and tastings at the many wine estates.
37. Dressing up for special occasions
Fairs and Festivals, India
The people of Rajasthan love to put on a party. The horses also seem to know it and look majestic in their colourful livery. For our rides we use the local Marwari, bred as the war horse of the Maharajas. The Marwari has great stamina, it’s often used for endurance and makes an ideal trail horse. The rides run from November to March and are timed to coincide with the many festivals in this part of India including Pushkar, where buyers and sellers come together from all over the country to trade camels and horses.
38. Waking up in the desert
Footsteps of Lawrence, Jordan
The exploits of Lawrence of Arabia who fought here alongside the local Bedouin in the Arab Revolt of 1917 have become part of local folklore. His book, the Seven Pillars of Wisdom was inspired by the red cliffs of Wadi Rum. After a day exploring this bizarre wind carved landscape evenings are spent around the campfire learning a little about the Bedouin lifestyle. You can imagine what it must have been like to sleep out under the stars and woken by the warmth of the rising sun.
39. Tryng to keep your feet dry
Lake District, Chile
The Puelo river flowing into the Pacific starts in the snow melt of the Andes so there is a good incentive to keep your feet out of the water. Between the numerous river crossings there are narrow paths through dense forests. This is not an easy place for vehicles so everything for the trip is transported by pack horses which follow behind the riders.
40. Discovering ancient traditions
Eagle Festival, Mongolia
On the border between Kazakhstan and Mongolia the practice of hunting with eagles on horseback has been going on for thousands of years. The actual hunting always takes place in winter when the eagles can spot their prey against the background of snow. Our ride visits the area in September when the nomadic families come together to hone their skills and compete against each other in the annual tournament.
41. Overcoming your fear of heights
Canyons and Waterfalls, Brazil
In the extreme south of Brazil in Rio Grande do Sul the high plateau is dissected by river gorges that have cut down through the rock. The Montenegro Canyon is one of the most impressive. Its sheer grey walls contrasting with the lush vegetation beneath and the flat grasslands above. In other areas there are cascades of water that tumble off the edge of the highlands into the valleys below.
42. Stopping for a well earned drink
Land of Galilee, Israel
Our rides in Israel really do take you through contrasting scenery. From inhospitable deserts to lush fertile valleys. After a morning riding in the sun coming across a palm fringed oasis like this is a chance to cool off and water the horses. The routes take in many biblical sites and the trip ends with a visit to the old city of Jerusalem.
43. Knowing you're prepared for whatever the day brings
Tekapo Expedition, New Zealand
This rider is getting ready for a pack trip into the Southern Alps where you need to be set up for whatever weather comes your way. Climbing up through mountain passes the temperatures can drop suddenly compared with the valley floor. Storms can come up quickly and without the right kit you can quickly get drenched. We recommend plenty of layers which you can take on and off as they ride progresses.
44. Overcoming any obstacles in your way
Castle Leslie, Ireland
Whether it’s jumping a fallen tree or any of the other 300 jumps on the cross country course at Castle Leslie there is no shortage of challenges. We think this has the best combination of facilities and instructors in Ireland, so whether you are a budding eventer or just want to enjoy hacks out through the estate we know you will be well looked after.
45. Bringing in the herd
Moolmanshoek, South Africa
The Arabian stud at Moolmanshoek has bred some of the world’s top endurance horses. There are over 300 Boerperds and Arabians and they live out as a natural herd including the mothers and foals. Rising early and collecting in the riding horses in for the day is a great start to the day.
46. Arriving at that perfect spot
Torres del Paine, Chile
When you’ve ridden for days across the pampa with the stark peaks of the Torres del Paine always in view it feels like a real achievement when you finally arrive. The peaks are often shrouded in cloud which parts only briefly allowing a glimpse of their full grandeur. It’s a moment that’s definitely worth getting your camera out for.
47. Trying out the local fashion
Colonial Haciendas, Ecuador
A riding holiday to South America is definitely an opportunity to raid the dressing up box. These locally made thick woollen ponchos are the ideal protection against the elements. They stop the wind cutting through you and if the rain comes on, the natural oils make them waterproof.
48. Pushing yourself to your limits
Ingeborg, who runs the riding operation at Okapuka breeds Arabians and takes guests on horseback safaris as well as competitive long distance rides. Endurance is a tough enough sport for both horse and rider but when you combine the climate and terrain of Namibia you know you’re in for a challenge.
49. Taking part in the roundup
Pantanal Experience, Brazil
The Pantanal is the largest wetlands in the world. It’s also home to some of the last true long distance cattle drives. These Brazilian cowboys, or Pantaneiros, ride on sheepskins dyed in a distinctive bright orange. The cattle ranches cover vast tracts of land that are also home to a wide range of native animals so a visit is as much a wildlife safari as a ranch experience.
50. Coming across the unexpected
High Plateau Ride, Tibet
Prayer flags have a long history throughout the mountains of central Asia. The flags are always in the order blue, white, red, green and yellow, representing the primary elements of space, wind, fire, water and earth. The fluttering pieces of coloured cloth are often found in the windiest spots carrying their messages of harmony and peace as far as possible.