You work hard for your time off. You work extra hard for it if you don’t have your horse in full livery. And while your non-horsey friends just don’t quite understand why you want to go on a “horseback holiday,” when you seem to spend every spare moment of your time at home with your beloved equine, your horsey friends obviously get it. The best view of the world is from between a horse’s ears.
From trail riding in North America to beach riding in the west of Ireland to dressage training in Portugal, a riding holiday could be one of the most memorable holidays you’ve ever had. And you don’t need to own your own horse or even be a regular rider to enjoy a horse riding holiday. Countless options are available for riders of all levels and abilities, from complete beginner to advanced level riders.
However, a horse riding holiday could turn out to be an expensive disappointment if you don’t plan it just right or choose the right destination for you. To help ensure that your next horse riding vacation is one to remember (for all the right reasons!), we have put together our top tips for planning a riding holiday.
What do you want?
The first thing to consider is what do you want out of your horse riding holiday? Are you looking for some laid-back saddle time, hacking serenely through beautiful new landscapes, or an action-packed equine adventure? Or maybe you want a more productive holiday, where you can brush up on your riding skills with some expert tuition?
Figuring out what you want from your holiday may seem obvious, but it’s an essential first step to help you choose your perfect destination – the world is literally at your fingertips. It will also help you consider whether a one location vacation (such as a guest ranch in North America), or a multi-location vacation is for you.
Multi-location vacations are a great choice if you want to combine different experiences into one holiday. For example, a country such as Spain offers a tantalizing variety of destinations, many of which are within easy reach from each other and so require minimal travel time.
Here you could spend time with one operator experiencing the beauty of the Andalusian coastline before moving inland to enjoy the dramatic scenery of the Sierra Morena, under the expert guide of a different local equestrian tour operator. Pure heaven.
Be honest with yourself
Once you’ve decided what your ideal horsey holiday looks like, it’s time to be honest with yourself… what is your level of riding ability? You don’t need to have the skills of a 4* event rider to have a fabulous riding holiday, but you do need to pick a destination and holiday type that suits your riding ability. Being put in a group, on a horse or on a ride that far exceeds your level of riding ability will not only dampen your enjoyment, it could also be downright dangerous.
So, know your riding ability, and if you don’t, ask your instructor. If you haven’t taken riding lessons or haven’t ever been in the saddle before, that’s not a problem. But you need to convey that information accurately so that your tour operator can prepare the perfect riding experience for you.
Also be honest about your level of fitness. If you’re an occasional rider with only an hour or two of saddle time a month under your belt, signing yourself up for a week of 6-hour long horse treks might not be advisable! If you are an occasional rider or are traveling with a non-rider, a great option could be to pick a vacation that mixes riding with other activities, such as sightseeing, golf, wine tasting, or possibly simply lying out on the beach.
The horsey world at your fingertips
Once you know what you’re looking to get from your holiday and you’ve tempered these desires with an honest consideration of your fitness level and riding ability, it’s time to get online and find that perfect holiday. And, thanks to the internet, a whole world of horse riding adventures are only a few clicks away.
However, the choice and variety on offer can be overwhelming. Google can be your best friend when it comes to finding your perfect holiday, or it could turn the planning process into a bit of a nightmare with endless choice and reams of advice of varying degrees of usefulness.
Set up a bookmarks folder in your browser, so you can save interesting destinations and sites with useful advice in one place, so it’s easy to come back to when considering your best options.
Using an online marketplace is a great option to offer inspiration and advice and to help you find the perfect riding holiday for you. Stable Mates presents you with a wide choice of both destinations and types of horse riding holiday.
With a powerful in-built search engine, you can refine your search on Stable-Mates.com according to holiday type or location, allowing you to easily compare similar holiday types across countries, or everything one particular country destination may offer you. The choice is yours.
If you’re considering a horseback holiday, horse welfare will undoubtedly also be high on your list or priorities. While you can’t always judge a book by its cover, looking at the condition of the horses in any of the tour operators’ photography will give you a good idea of whether they’re well looked after. Are they in good condition?
Does their tack look to be well-fitting? Are they well shod?
It is also a good idea to do an independent search online for a particular tour operator that you may be interested in, looking to see if there are any previous traveler reviews that may give you peace of mind that you are traveling to a place where care of the horses is a key priority.
Be comfortable, be sensible, be safe!
Depending how much time you are planning to spend in the saddle, it could be worth packing a full riding outfit for your adventure, including breeches, breathable, long-sleeved tops (to protect from both sun and low-hanging branches on trail rides), and comfortable riding boots.
However, if you’re simply planning an hour or two in the saddle before continuing on with a largely un-horsey holiday, a comfy track suit will probably suffice.
While all good equestrian destinations will have a selection of riding boots and riding hats available for you to borrow once at your destination, if you have the space in your luggage or are planning a significant amount of riding, bringing your own riding hat is a great idea. Not only can you be sure it will fit you correctly (and not be infused with other people’s sweat!), you also don’t run the risk of choosing a helmet whose protection may be compromised through age or having sustained previous impacts.
Remember also that you will be riding on a horse that is new to you, and while this is undoubtedly part of the fun of traveling and riding, make sure you don’t take unnecessary risks!
The last thing to say is it really can be as simple as search, book and ride…so log on, get on, and have fun!
Browse the incredible worldwide selection of trail rides and riding holidays at our online marketplace HERE.