Choosing a Horse Riding Holiday

You need a holiday. You love horse riding, and you want to do something a bit different ie: try a different style of riding, ride over open spaces instead of the arena, or sort out your schooling issues on expert horses instead of your goofy three year old. Image

There are so many options available -how do you decide where to go?

Obviously first up is your budget. You need to add in flights, transfers, extra gear needed as well as the actual ride holiday price.

Where would you like to visit?  Of course every ride operator or agent is going to rave about whats on offer –  they want your business. So do your research. Go through equestrian forums, talk to people that have traveled in the area you want to go to, check walking and cycling websites too, as that will give you an idea of what type of terrain you will be riding over. Some areas of the world can look magnificent on websites/travel sites – but are not at all suited to horse riding (fences everywhere, lots of road work etc).

It is also important to consider what type of riding you want to do when choosing a destination. If you want to ride at speed – then a mountain trail over the dolomite’s is not the right choice for you. Perhaps consider a beach ride in Spain, Sardinia or a safari in South Africa. If you like the idea of riding through a scenic area,  at a mixed pace -and like to visit cultural sites: then France, Italy and Romania may be good locations.

Operator size. Remember that small is not always good. Smaller rides can sometimes be on a tight budget (especially if horses are there only source of earning a living) and you may find costs are cut so that the owners can save a $ especially in these times of economic crisis. On the flip side, these rides are often more familiar, and you may be accommodated in the owners home and be made to feel part of the family. Sometimes big rides count more on quantity rather than quality, and in the name of numbers riders will be heaped with other riders of a different level. Make sure to ask what the maximum group size is, and whether riders of different levels will be cater too (in different groups). To be stuck on a ride with someone of an inferior level all week can ruin a trip.

Ask  as many questions as possible to the ride owner or the agent you are dealing with. How much riding you will do daily?  What type of horses do they use? ,What qualifications do the staff have (and are they relevant for that country> ie. British Horse Society qualifications are not recognized in Italy by insurers)? Ask who will be riding the same week, and what level they are riding at.

Check who else works with the ride you are interested in joining. International rides of a good quality will have partnered up with horse riding agents or recognized travel agents. They will have checked the ride personally, and made sure the horses and instruction is up to scratch. If the website has professional, well done photos, press coverage, reviews and a good team of collaborating agents – then the ride should be a good one.

If you go direct to an operators website and find on the website photos are of a poor quality, and agents haven’t picked up the ride – make sure you do your research, and talk to others that have ridden there. If the ride is good, there should be photos that showcase that.

NB. Dont put your trust totally in Trip Advisor or similar reviews. People can and do fake these reviews. Make sure you try and talk to people who have been on the ride, who have seen the location and are trustworthy.

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5 thoughts on “Choosing a Horse Riding Holiday

  1. WHP February 11, 2013 at 12:11 am Reply

    A respected specialist equestrian travel agent should be able to give advice specific to the individual rider’s needs. The owners and sales advisers at these agents should, between them, have visited all of the rides that are being offered. A good agent will understand the importance of growing a clientele, and that means generating repeat trade through selling holidays that clients enjoy. That’s a powerful argument for booking via one of the best middle-sized specialist agents rather than trying to choose a holiday on the internet. Based on experience my recommendations would be Ride World Wide and Unicorn Trails.

    I would be wary of agents with so many holidays on their books that sales advisers can’t give a personal recommendation. I wonder whether some international agents really know all their rides, or care. A few agents are spoiled by greed. Back when I operated riding holidays there was one particular long-standing British agency with a poor reputation amongst outfitters for being interested in volume over quality such as sending mixed-ability groups that caused much frustration.

    Be honest about your ability, your stamina, your weight (!) and what sort of holiday you seek. There is no point booking a holiday that is too fast or difficult for one’s level of skill or confidence. There are excellent ‘cultural’ holidays that don’t require great riding skill. Remember that confidence is as much a factor in how much you will enjoy a riding holiday as technical ability. A good outfitter will not allow a guest to ride if they have lied about their weight and there isn’t a stout enough horse available. (I’ve known riders understate their weight by 10-15kg!)

    It’s worth checking too whether the ride is being sold to families. Other peoples’ children can ruin a holiday. Conversely some rides are a nice way to meet singles if that is what one wants. Booking outside the school holidays may be a good strategy for some.

    Also remember that if you book via an agent you will be covered by their bonding which guarantees you protection in the event of bankruptcy plus means of redress if something goes wrong on your holiday.

  2. ctquarterhorses February 11, 2013 at 8:28 am Reply

    Great points to add. Yes, I think the benefit in using a riding agent is the insurance offered if things go wrong, and the price is the same… so its a win win situation for the client too. The internet today offers so many options, it can soon be overwhelming when booking a holiday- and agents do offer a great, personalized service to each and every client.
    Agree 100% about the weight issue. Always better to err on the heavier side than the lighter as most stables will only have a couple of very big horses, so its better to let them know ahead if you are between 90-110 kg.
    This is especially important in countries where the horses are lighter (India, Arabian countries, even in Italy many horses dont top the 15hh mark in the trekking industry).

    Also agree that if you are not keen on kids, its better to avoid holiday seasons. Im not sure about other parts of Europe, but Italy has a law that children cannot ride out on trail rides which does help with this problem. Kids are expected to take lessons until they are at an age where it is considered safe for them outside in the open space.

  3. WHP February 11, 2013 at 6:31 pm Reply

    I’m surprised about that law on children riding. It’s not the norm in Europe. At what age does a child become an adult for riding purposes in Italy? I’ve taken accompanied children aged as young as 8 on a week-long trail ride. The key is that they can actually ride – these had foxhunted – and that their parents take sufficient rsponsibility. With children one does have to make a few extra provisions – one being that they sucumb to exposure more quickly than adults if the weather is bad.

    • ctquarterhorses February 13, 2013 at 3:24 pm Reply

      Yes the age is actually 14 here in Italy. I agree that many children are better than their parents when it come to riding, and always rode out as a child without any problems.. but it does make things easier on the guide responsibility wise.

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