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Western riding can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities, whether you visit the wide open spaces of Montana or Wyoming, or the estancias of Argentina. Closer to home you might choose instruction and trail rides on Western trained horses in Italy, Hungary, Rhodes, Macedonia or Israel. To meet some real cowboys who still work their cows from horseback, then you need to visit a working ranch in Montana, Wyoming or Argentina. There are also great ranch holidays in Arizona. Some ranches are open all year round such as in Hungary, Arizona or Los Potreros in Argentina. However the ranches in Montana or Wyoming are best visited in their summer from May to September.
It really doesn’t matter. Almost all Western riding holidays offer great riding for all abilities, whether you are experienced or just starting out – it’s what makes Western riding so accessible to all. Most of the time, there is also the opportunity for instruction as well. For the trail rides in Israel, Macedonia and Rhodes you should be confident at walk, trot and canter.
If you’ve never ridden Western before or just dream of being a cowboy or cowgirl, these holidays allow you to bring those dreams to life. You can get as involved as you want to with the horses and sometimes there is an opportunity to help with cattle work, which is particularly exciting on the working ranches in North and South America.
The most noticeable difference is the saddle. Western saddles have a higher cantle at the back and a horn at the front which is used when roping cattle. The saddles are designed for the comfort of horse and rider over long hours. They hold the rider more securely allowing beginners to improve quickly. Some paces are named differently – walk is the same, jog is a slow trot, a more active working jog is used for covering distances more quickly and finally lope, which is a canter. You ride with a longer leg and looser reins. Steering is achieved using the seat, weight and lastly the reins. Horses start their training with two reins like English style riding, then progress to being ridden one handed – which is called neck reining. To turn right, move your hand forward and to the right, allowing the reins to touch the horse’s neck on the left. The opposite to turn left. To stop, say ‘whoa’ and pull back on the reins, but remember to release the pressure or your horse will start moving backwards.