With help from Natalie Garner of Far and Ride Ltd, we find out all you need to know for your next equestrian vacation.
Going on a riding holiday can be the ultimate adventure. Exploring a new country on horseback can give you the freedom to see places otherwise off limits, giving you unforgettable experiences.
As Natalie Garner explains, despite popular opinion a riding holiday can be available to anyone and everyone, regardless of ability or background. “The horse enthusiast can come from any walk of life and have a great many outlets for their passion; we always hope to have something suitable for any level of rider. Clients can come to us with either a very clear idea of what they want from their holiday, or just something as simple as a few free dates and a drive to explore,” she continues. “Our job is then to help them narrow down their ideas, make suggestions for places we think they might enjoy and tailor something that can suit them.”
Nevertheless, being realistic about your riding ability is a must. “Riding ability and fitness are very key considerations when planning your horse riding holiday. This should certainly not be looked at as a bad thing, but certainly some of our destinations are better suited to fit riders who are comfortable spending long hours in the saddle. Others on the other hand, are much more relaxed and are perfect for those who want to get back into riding, enjoy the holiday feel, or simply want to rest and spend time around horses. Again, it’s really important to be as truthful as possible with yourself and your travel advisor when choosing the right holiday. It’s a horrible feeling finding you are under challenged on a ride and similarly there is nothing worse than resenting your holiday because it’s much more difficult than you had anticipated.”
There are now holiday opportunities available across most of the world, meaning that finding your perfect horseback adventure in the perfect setting is much easier! “We ourselves cooperate with over 120 destination across 48 countries at the moment and are always looking to expand and find new, fresh ideas too,” explains Natalie. “It’s worth considering that horse riding holidays will generally cost more than any standard package beach break, as there are so many more factors to consider when you book something like this. For example, holidays in places like Australia, America and Africa carry more of a premium cost, as well as being more expensive to travel too. However, most of these will tend to be all inclusive so the only extras you’d need to worry about are gratuities and any souvenirs you might like to bring home with you. Oppositely, if you are travelling to many countries in Europe, you’ll find that the costs of the destinations themselves (as well as travel) are generally much cheaper, but with plenty of variation between countries themselves.”
Natalie continues, “From your trip, you should expect to come away feeling contented, relaxed and most importantly like you could do it all over again. The sign of a really good riding holiday destination is one where the hosts and guests can relax and enjoy each other’s company. The horses should always be happy and healthy, contented in the work they do and completely at ease in their manner. Whether it’s climbing mountains in Ecuador, galloping across the deserts of Jordan or riding a beautiful Spanish stallion in Mallorca, some of the best feedback we can get is when our guests tell us they wished they could have stayed forever.”
What to expect
Once you have an idea of where you would like to go and for how long for, it’s good to get a sense of what to expect on your riding holiday. Natalie describes this in more detail, “The numbers of people on each trip will vary according to the destination itself. Generally our longer, more adventurous trail rides require minimum numbers of riders in order to confirm certain dates but that’s not to say that you would need to book with a group of your friends and family. In fact, I would say that of our client base, the majority are solo ladies travelling on their own and we can usually match them easily to other groups of riders comprising other singles, couples, and so on. Riding holidays are a great way to meet new people from all over the world, who share the same passion for horses as you do.”
Next thing to know is how the holiday is set up and run. How much time is spent in the saddle? Will you have luxury accommodation to crash in after a long days ride? “The amount of time spent in the saddle varies dependant on your activity. Generally on a trail, you could expect to be in the saddle for around three to six hours per day and could cover up to 60 km. However, we also offer rides for the very adventurous where you may be riding for up to eight or nine hours per day, which sounds like a dream, but even the most regular of riders can end up walking like John Wayne! On the other end of the scale, your more civilised tuition based programmes may see you spending an hour each morning perfecting your lateral work or flying changes, or getting that perfect approach to see you and the horse safely over each fence. This might be followed by an afternoon of quiet hacking or restful reflection by the swimming pool instead.
“The accommodation on these trips can also vary substantially. Some of our riding breaks offer luxurious five star accommodation, boutique hotels, grand fly-camps and quaint family run guesthouses to stay in. Many of these will offer riders the chance to explore the local area when not in the saddle, take in the culture and flavour of the country they’re visiting, or simply spend time enjoying a swimming pool, spa or other facilities offered at the accommodation itself. On the other end of the scale, we also offer some fairly demanding pack or mountain trails. These often see guests braving some breath taking wild terrain and sleeping in rustic old farm buildings, authentic shepherd huts or even in tents as they adventure across country, which is otherwise removed from the modern world we know.
What to pack
Being prepared is essential, so Natalie gives her advice on what to take with you. “We always recommend that no matter which destination you book, you bring a riding helmet with you which is to current safety standards and has been correctly fitted to you. Many destinations will offer to loan you a helmet, which is great if you are travelling light, but a rented helmet will never be truly as comfortable or safe as your own. Similarly, well fitted and comfortable riding boots of shoes, which have been adequately worn in, are completely invaluable when you are spending long hours in the saddle, especially if you are asked to dismount and lead your horse over an area of unsteady ground. Short boots should ideally be worn with chaps to minimise pinching, or comfortable cowboy boots are perfect for a western riding trip. Don’t leave without a coat, some may think this isn’t necessary when travelling to places like Spain, Portugal or Italy, because they are wonderful, warm Mediterranean countries. However, do be warned, it can also rain in these countries, so we always recommend a light rain coat as an absolute essential, wherever you may be going.
“Other items worth considering are things such as a waist bag or saddle bag. These can be an invaluable tool for carrying small personal items with you during the day, as well as storing that rain coat when the sun comes out. Many destinations will provide saddle bags for you, so it’s worth checking with your travel agent to see if these are provided. You also should not forget to bring the very essential items such as your passport (or other travel documents), a phone in case of emergencies, a camera to take photos of your trip, as well as a travel adaptor and any chargers or spare batteries you might need.
“There are a number of things that you can do in order to adequately prepare for and make the most of your horse riding holiday. When selecting where you’d like to go, do some research about what’s on offer, what sort of riding is available and where is best to go at certain times of the year. You can do lots of research online, but also by speaking to other people; horsey friends and speak directly to the travel agents. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to find your perfect destination and try not to be drawn in by something that looks too good to be true, as you may wind up getting disappointed.
“Riding holidays are generally not very cheap, so if you are booking through an agent you will normally find that they provide you with extra insurance cover and set out a series of booking conditions to ensure that you are safe and that your money is safe too. It’s also highly recommended that you take out travel insurance at the time you make your holiday booking, just in case anything should go wrong before, during or after you travel. Your travel insurance should include cover for horse riding, but will also pay back the costs of your trip if you become injured and cannot go, or if your flights are delayed, luggage or travel documents are lost and so on.
“Other things to consider before departure, are that as the trails require certain levels of fitness and experience, you may need to consider taking some pre-holiday riding lessons to give your ability and confidence a boost. When on the holiday itself, you can make the most of your time in the saddle by being honest with your guide and listening to what they have to say. They have the most experience of all on these trips, and are there to make sure you remain safe whilst having a fun, enjoyable and memorable holiday. So, listen to their tips and instruction and take anything they say on board, as you never know what you might learn from sharing in their knowledge. Most of all have an amazing time and take your camera so you can look back over the memories for years to come.”
If you would like to find out more and check out their great destinations, visit www.farandride.com