Imagine yourself meandering through the countryside of a foreign land, free of long lines and travelers snapping selfies. Why not eschew the normal tourist traps and take a trip that allows you to get a feel for the land and her people, the smell of a place or the way the sun sets over lush, green country sides? The best way to do this, perhaps the only way, is via horseback. And while horse-centric vacations are not the norm, they are far from rare. In fact, there’s a horse vacation suited for every personality type.
As horse lovers, our lives revolve around the blissful view found between the ears of a trusty mount and the perfect exhaustion derived from a day spent in the saddle. Because of this, no other vacation will provide you with as much satisfaction as that of the Horse-Cation.
Instead of shuffling along with a thousand other sightseers waiting to see the Mona Lisa, how about taking in the landscape where Leonardo Da Vinci painted his famous portrait? Or maybe you’d rather wander around the villages and estates that inspired Jane Austen? If that’s not quite for you, then how about an endurance trek through Africa?
To get a better idea of your options, we’ve compiled a sampling of some of the best Horse-Cations available, all conveniently categorized by your individual vacation personality.
So get those bags packed… because you won’t want to miss any of these remarkable trips!
The Romantic – You are characterized by an ideal view of reality. You long for the days when daily living was less complicated and more gentle. You may be a history buff, a sucker for candlelight dinners, wistful dramas and period pieces. Either way, your pace is leisurely. What better way to appreciate the world around you than from the unhurried pace of a horse?
The Heart of England Estate Ride – Romantics will adore this trip and picture themselves in scenes from Downton Abbey or a Jane Austen classic. You’ll wander through the scenic Cotswolds, an 800 square mile area located in south central England. This is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill and where Lewis Carroll dreamt up Alice in Wonderland. So visualize yourself roving through these rolling hills in much the same way people did so many years ago: on four legs with the fresh country air on your face. You’ll ride from estate to estate and past picturesque villages to allow you a more realistic vision of central England vs. the congested streets of London. https://highpointetours.com/ride/heart-of-england-estate-ride/
The Kinnitty Castle Trail Ride – Plan on touring 60,000 acres of forest and returning home to the castle every night to enjoy some Irish whiskey by the fire. The Kinnitty tour pretty much lets you feel like the Lord of the Castle for a whole week! Each day you can ride out to look over your estate and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Irish countryside, so lush and unchanged that you may wonder if you’ve stepped back in time. With this much land to explore in the nearby Kinnitty forest, there’s no chance of getting bored. And well, because its Ireland… why wouldn’t you want to go? http://www.equestrianvacations.com/kinnitty.php
Coastal Rides in California – Many people dream about driving the Pacific Coast highway in a convertible. But wouldn’t it be better to see the California coastline from horseback? Why go so fast, when you can travel at an unhurried pace and smell the salt air? Plan on getting up and close and personal with coastal grasslands and wildflower filled meadows along with the mighty redwoods. This is the perfect ladies weekend getaway with options for extended rides, shopping or winery tours. http://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/ca_coastal_trail_ride.aspx
The Adventurer – You are a thrill seeker. You take risks as easily as the rest of us down our daily vitamins. The unknown calls to you and you willingly answer. There’s a good chance you already have a bag packed by the door because for you, life isn’t well lived unless your hearts racing and your palms are sweaty.
Grand Canyon Winter Pastures – The folks at Equitours do everything they can to make sure you understand this is not the typical and tedious donkey ride down into the canyon. This trek is for seasoned riders and you should view this trip as more of an adventure than anything else. Forget the cozy castles and inns, because you won’t be staying anywhere near one. This is all about roughing it through one of the most precious jewels in America’s vault. You’ll face rough terrain in order to take in impeccable sunsets and each night will be spent around the campfire getting to know your fellow travelers. http://www.equitours.com/horseback-riding/grand-canyon-winter-pastures/
Horseback Riding in Namibia – Equitours offers three different rides through Namibia, which takes its name from the Namib Desert and is home to the world’s largest population of free roaming black rhinos. However, the ride that offers the biggest challenge is The Ride to the Sea. This is a true endurance ride and not for the faint of heart. Vacationers are expected to ride six to ten hours daily for nine days. Your ability as an equestrian will be tested along with your personal stamina and commitment to finish the trip. Each night you’ll camp outside, under the stars and enjoy local meals cooked over an open fire. http://www.equitours.com/horseback-riding-destinations/africa/namibia/
The Exotic – Unusual, strange and mysterious are some of your favorite words. You long to be where the air smells of spice and the people speak in foreign tongues. You find joy in the unfamiliar and despise the well-traveled road.
The Pushkar and Diwali Ride in India – If it’s your goal to see something different, colorful and mysterious, you can’t go wrong with this ride. The Pushkar Fair is unlike any fair Americans have experienced and while livestock is bought and sold (predominately camels) the fair comes complete with Camel Racing and competitions for the longest mustache. The shopping alone draws hundreds of thousands of people to buy textiles and jewelry… right next to the camels. As if that wasn’t enough the second half of the trip involves the celebration of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, which represents a spiritual battle in which light overcomes darkness. Shopping and spirituality in one trip, what more could you ask for? http://www.equitours.com/horseback-riding/pushkar-fair-ride/
Moroccan Coastal Ride – Morocco. Just the word alone provides a thrill to those of us who crave the foreign and unfamiliar and brings to mind desert tents with bright silk hangings and cool moonlit nights. Did you know that Morocco is a Kingdom? And it’s just eight miles from the coast of Spain even though it’s located in the Maghreb region of North Africa? In this coastal ride, you’ll travel across sand dunes and through fishing villages to reach the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Each day is packed with spectacular views and interaction with the Moroccan people. https://highpointetours.com/ride/moroccan-coastal-ride/
The Hunter – You are the quiet seeker, the watcher. You understand your place in the food chain and have great respect for the animals you stalk as well as the land you hunt upon. You take your role seriously and joyfully, understanding its rights and privileges and cognizant of the great hunters who have come before you.
Elk Hunting in Montana – when searching for the perfect Elk hunt, you won’t find anything better than the offering from the folks at Swan Mountain Outfitters. At first glance, their explanation of Archery Elk Hunts is daunting, until you realize these people take it seriously and because of that, you don’t want to hunt anywhere else. They are so serious/adamant about protecting the hunting grounds and preventing over hunting that they only take two hunters in per trip. If you are wanting to get serious about big game, this is the trip for you! http://www.swanmountainoutfitters.com/trip/montana-guided-elk-hunting/
Hunting in Calgary – Hunting in Canada, traveling to and from camp via horses. There’s something to be said about becoming one with nature and packing it in to head to the mountains for an amazing hunt. Anchor D even offers Black Bear hunts for big game enthusiasts. http://www.anchordhighmountainhunts.com/shiras-moose-hunting/
The Connoisseur – You’re an expert in matters of taste; not so much a judge as an appreciator. An enthusiast. Never to be mistaken with snobbery, but completely enamored with the goodness of all things food and drink. You understand that the fineness of anything is not characterized by white tablecloths and silver, but by craftsmanship, good humor and great scenery.
Bordeaux Wine Tasting and Riding Vacation – You’ll be sampling flawless wine from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the world while traversing over the unspoiled French countryside. This week long adventure is perfect for wine aficionados (and let’s be honest, who doesn’t love wine?) while allowing you the opportunity to see a part of France much better viewed from the back of a horse than the window of a touring car. http://www.rideinfrance.com/Rides/bordeaux-wine.htm
A Taste of Italy – The two most popular and well known regions in Italy are Lazio and Tuscany. Ironically, you may have never heard of Lazio because the region itself is dwarfed by its largest city and Italian capital of Rome. On the other hand, Tuscany as a whole is renowned for its pastoral beauty, rolling countryside and picturesque villas. So, how do you choose between the Roman Countryside and quaint villa’s? You can’t! Which is why you’ll be riding cypress lined Roman Roads to ancient fortress towns and seeing parts of Italy few tourists have the pleasure of enjoying. Of course, no trip to Italy would be complete without good food and wine… that’s why this package also includes a cooking class, wine tasting and spa treatment for all those sore muscles! http://activeridingtrips.com/italy/italys-taste-of-italy/
While each of these trips offer some of the finest equine adventures available, there are so many more ways you can explore and travel with horses. Everything from extreme camping and hunting to fine dining and extravagant living. Your personal palate is your only limitation!
Even if you consider yourself a seasoned equestrian, setting out on a Horse-Cation can be different from lessons at home or the occasional weekend show. With that in mind, consider these tips when planning your next big adventure.
- Spend more time in the saddle – Likely you aren’t a beginner, but unless you’re accustomed to spending four to eight hours a day in the saddle, for anywhere from five to ten days consecutively, you’ll get tired pretty quick. In preparation, take longer lessons or head out to a National Park for some longer days in the saddle. Your body will thank you later.
- Break it in – No one has ever gone on vacation without buying new clothes or shoes exclusively for the trip. Trying out something new on vacation may be alright for the average beach trip, but it’s not advisable for an equine adventure. Break in any new boots, chaps, chinks or other wearables before you leave town.
- Soothing the day away – While you may take extra time to prepare, you’ll still be fatigued and weary at the end of the day. The last thing you want to do is spend your free time sitting in a hot bathtub, so make sure to pack all the remedies you’ve found useful for aching bones and backsides. Also, consider how far you’ll be travelling from home and the fact that you may not have the opportunity to get the goods you’ve always relied on, so pack with this in mind.
Trips for you and your Partner (the four legged one)
Sometimes vacation means a trip away with your favorite four legged companions, not just the two legged family variety. While taking your own horse to Namibia isn’t probably isn’t an option, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some R & R with your own horse. Here’s a few of our favorite places to explore closer to home:
Big Bend National Park in Texas – With over 800,000 acres, Big Bend has a lot to offer. You’ll need to get a Backcountry Use Permit within 24 hours of heading out and if you’re planning on doing some camping, you’ll need to make reservations well in advance. Big Bend (and most all other National Parks) have specific regulations regarding horseback riding, open trails and permits so you’ll want to make sure to read up before you two hit the trail! https://www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/bc_horses.htm
Mountain Top Inn in Vermont – Talk about a vacation for two! Mountain Top Inn is simply stunning. They’ve been featured in so many magazines, for such a large variety of reasons that it’s actually difficult to pinpoint an excuse to visit. Mountain Top offers lessons in both English and Western on your horse or theirs and they’ll work with you to plan each day of your trip so you and your buddy are able to enjoy the gorgeous views and landscape. http://mountaintopinn.com/
Leatherwood Mountains in North Carolina – Nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, Leatherwood is a horse lovers dream. Its winding roads lead to cabins that are, well… we can’t call them quaint. More like luxury lodges and picturesque hideaways. At the base of the mountain, you’ll find large stables and plenty of room to ride however, many “cabins” come with their own stable and corrals… if you want to keep your horses close by. There are mountain trails and streams for fishing and tubing and just about any other amenity your little vacationing heart desires. http://www.leatherwoodmountains.com/