Forget the dude ranches and one-horse-fits-all beach rides — these vacations are designed to challenge equestrians of all disciplines, all around the world.
Top photo: a river crossing in Mongolia mounted on native-bred ponies. Photo courtesy of Equitours.
Summertime is here–for many of us, that means horse shows and trail riding, more daylight hours to spend with our horses, and hopefully some time for a summer vacation. If relaxing on the beach or in the mountains leaves you thirsting for a little more adventure, a company called Equitours has got you covered–think of it like an international riding travel agency. Check out these equestrian trips and find the perfect one for you:
For the Bold: Ireland
The Irish have a reputation for their fox hunting with some hunts enjoying global fame. The Aille Cross Country Ride combines the experience of hunting with the Galway Blazers (in season) with the opportunity to jump a variety of cross-country fields. Non-jumpers can hack across fields, forests and hills as well. The horses are all experienced hunters and riders are assessed on the first day of the week-long trip to be matched with suitable mounts.
Hunting and jumping not quite your style? You can also enjoy Ireland with a test of your horsemanship and orienteering with the Beaches, Dunes and Trails ride in Donegal, which outfits riders with a horse, a map and an itinerary for an unguided week around the county. Four to six hours in the saddle daily will bring you from town to town to stay at authentic bed and breakfasts (complete with accommodations for the horses as well.)
For the Foodie: Italy
What could be better than riding all day through the beautiful Italian countryside and returning to a castle for evenings of elaborate meals and fine wine? The trip itinerary for the Feast of the Conquerors ride mixes up day rides from the Castello di Tocchi with point-to-point trips to surrounding villages and farms for special food tastings, including the cuisines of Tuscany, Siena and Sardinia. A special trip extension is possible as well when the season is appropriate for riders to experience the running of the famous Il Palio horse race and festival.
For the Adventurous: Tanzania
If you’ve ever dreamed of going on safari–but without the hunting-of-large-game part–this is trip for you. Riders move around Lake Natron in Tanzania from camp to camp, experiencing firsthand the wildlife of Africa while enjoying the thrills of fast canters along the plains. One of the more intense rides in terms of pace, hours in the saddle and miles covered, this riding safari regularly encounters zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, hyenas, jackals and gazelles, as well as meeting Masai herdsmen tending their cattle. An experienced bush chef cooks up meals at each camp to keep riders well-fueled for intense riding. This safari also includes two optional four-day non-riding extensions to continue the experience: relax and explore the island of Zanzibar, or continue your safari experience by driving through Serengeti National Park.
For the Free Spirit: Mongolia
For a truly exotic experience, head to Mongolia, where riders trek across the countryside for about a week setting up overnight camps. Notable destinations along the route include Karakorum, an ancient capital city with a still-standing monastery, and Orkhon Waterfall, surrounded by ancient monuments. The second week of the experience includes the Nadaam festival in Ulaanbaatar, featuring Mongolia’s three national sports of wrestling, archery and horse racing.
For Your Inner Cowboy/Cowgirl: Wyoming
The Bitterroot Ranch outside of Dubois, Wyoming offers a variety of experiences, from summer cattle drives to week-long pack trips into the most remote forest in the continental United States. Not your typical western dude ranch, the Bitterroot caters specifically to horseback riders; guests are given three or four horses for their personal string all week long that match each individual rider’s experience level. Ride routes travel out from the ranch valley into a variety of public lands, including high sagebrush plains, red-rock canyons and dense alpine forests. In the summer and autumn seasons, rides may get the opportunity to move cattle to new grazing allotments in the forest or try their hand at team sorting. There’s even a cross-country jumping course for advanced riders. The ranch herd includes both stock breeds and home-bred Arabians.
For a Little Bit of Everything: Argentina
Estancia Los Potreros of Argentina may be the end-all of equestrian vacations: this 6000-acre working cattle ranch possesses a herd of 120 ranch-trained horses for 12-14 guests at a time. A relaxed format means guests can stay as long as they wish and ride up to twice a day, or simply hang out at the ranch and enjoy the grounds. Guests can work alongside the gauchos, herding cattle and horses, and also try their hand at polo (for which Argentina is quite famous!) Trail rides and picnic rides travel over varied terrain and can also include things like gaucho games or stopping by a swimming hole for a few hours. The ranch-reared horses–some of which are gaited–are reported to handle just like a personal riding horse and are personable and friendly. Overall, this ride offers the best of Argentina for everyone.
Go on vacation–and go riding!
Follow Kristen on Twitter at @KristenKovatch.