Get on your high horse

To celebrate Cheltenham Festival we take a closer look at some of our favourite riding destinations across the world.

  • SReynolds
  • 12th March 2020

Whether you’re in search of a lengthy trek, sleeping under the stars and saddling up your steed at sunrise, would like to learn how to play polo, or simply appreciate the opportunity to explore your chosen destination by horseback, riding opportunities are in abundance in even the most surprising of places.  

 

SOUTH AMERICA

Chile

Chile - Horseback Riding At Andbeyond Vira Vira Lake District
Stretching from the tropics, 2706 miles through a range of diverse landscapes, south toward the Antarctic, Chile has a hugely varied offering for the travelling rider.

To the north, the arid Atacama Desert is a geological spectacle of note. Combining mountains, geysers, oases, geysers, the Atacama is the only true desert to receive less rainfall than the polar deserts. With dramatic rock formations and an abundance of history and archaeological sites including Inca forts, there is much to view from horseback in this unique setting.

The snow-capped peaks of Patagonia sit in vast contrast to its northern counterpart. Magnificent National parks, comprising lofty mountains, towering over lakes, fjords, and staggering glaciers create an indescribable beauty to behold from horseback. A little further north and less extreme, Chile’s own Lake District offers up further spectacular scenery with treks alongside brilliant sapphire blue lakes, snow-capped volcanoes, lush farmland and endless miles of virgin and ancient forest.

Chile’s expansive wilderness is not always easily accessible, however the gem hidden in each region are often best approached by sure footed hooves and a curious mind.

Argentina

Argentina
Equestrianism is part of everyday life in Argentina, ingrained in its culture and a core element of its industry. From necessity in agriculture to simple ease of access to remote pockets of the country, horseback is a natural place to exist.

Sprawling estancias remain best managed from horseback and the traditions are as strong today as they have been for centuries. With many now opening their doors to visitors, it is possible to gain first-hand experience riding alongside the gaucho’s on an authentic working ranch. Relaxing in home-form-home upmarket surroundings with superb hospitality, riders of all levels can explore the breath-taking local landscapes.

Any trip to Argentina would not be complete without taking in a game of polo. There are plenty of venues to take in the sport but you may also like to try your own hand at a chukka while staying on an estancia. A number of properties offer a week’s long polo specific experience, at the end of which you’ll be playing the gauchos like a pro (though not necessarily winning…

Eschewing the home comforts of the cities or estancia, more adventurous offers come in the shape of remote treks through the magnificent Andes or the fascinating ancient Inca trails. Connecting with nature as you make your way these breath-taking landscapes, while observing the local wildlife.

Whether adding a riding element to your holiday or creating an itinerary including a luxurious ranch stay with a more rugged trek, Argentina opportunity for exploration by horseback knows no limits.

Colombia

Corocora Camp Colombia
Colombia’s diversity of landscapes, from awe-inspiring mountain ranges and scorched deserts to the sparkling waters of the Caribbean coastline, provides much to be discovered from horseback.

The north of the Andes splits into three chains intersecting Colombia with untamed terrain, soaring peaks, deep gorges, expansive highland grasslands and open valleys. Such varying altitudes sustain a huge variety of flora and fauna, with Andean rainforests, deserts and marshes all supporting their own eco system.

Horses are like family in Colombia. The fine stepped indigenous Colombian Criollo, an object of great pride for the Colombian people, is well known for its smooth and fluid movement making them one of the world’s most comfortable breeds to ride. A strong horse, with a surprisingly elegant appearance, its optimized gait, established over hundreds of years of breeding has made it perfect for long distance riding.

With changing seasons affecting the landscape, often flooding plains, horseback is the ideal means to fully explore the very depth of the country and often to transfer from A to B. From immersion into the wild cowboy culture of the vast Orinoco region to following a route dotted with hospitable haciendas, exploring the culture of the horse through engaging with the locals, Colombia’s wealth of horsemanship is impressive, if surprising.

Ecuador

La Danesa, Ecuador
Small by neighbouring standards, yet packed full of variety, Ecuador’s diverse landscapes include an impressive stretch of the Andes, the Amazon jungle, cloud forest, Pacific coast and the magnificent Galapagos Islands.

Typically, riding opportunities originate from family run farms and ranches, known as haciendas, boasting excellent hospitality to compliment the impressive surroundings. Riding on a working property, alongside the ‘chagras’ – Ecuador’s cowboys, you’ll learn why this is not just a title, but a way of life. Chagras are famous for their exceptional horsemanship and their resolute commitment to their steeds. Other trail rides available are suitable for all ages and expereince, from shorter, gentle hacks for beginners to day long treks suited to experienced riders, able to tackle rougher terrain.

Perhaps not a destination for a dedicated riding holiday, Ecuador certainly has more than enough options to incorporate a spectacular riding element into your trip.

 

AFRICA

Kenya

Lewa Wilderness, Kenya
Mobile safaris allow you to explore a range of different terrain each day and in Kenya the opportunity to saddle up alongside the Masai Mara is hard to beat.

Ride across open, rolling plains, tipped with broad shady Umbrella Acacias and views which stretch for miles revealing large herds of Zebra, Topi, and Wildebeest. It will not be unusual to find yourself enjoying a long and breath-taking gallop alongside Giraffe – a true highlight.

Picnic at a suitably stunning spots on the edge of the Mara and after a short siesta under the shade of an old Fig tree, set off to find herd of elephant or zebra gently ambling across the savannah.
Each night you’ll find your tent miraculously relocated during the day to a fresh location where after the luxury of a bush shower and well deserved supper, a welcoming hot water bottle has been placed between the sheets.

Alternatively, horseback opportunities over the Lewa Plains, with safaris can last from a few hours to many days, allow children and novice riders as well as experienced equestrians to enjoy the thrill of riding through the plains among giraffe, hartebeest and impala or into the forest that cloaks the foothill of Mount Kenya.

Further up Mount Kenya at Kisima, a stable of polo ponies suitable for experienced riders allow guests the opportunity to stick and ball at the North Kenya Polo Club, ride through a beautiful farm or ride in the heather covered moorland of the mountain.

For experienced riders, custom-tailored riding safaris lasting from one to four days offer the ultimate horseback experience. Each night is spent either fly camping in one of the community owned lodges or in the cabins of Lake Rutundu on the slopes of Mount Kenya.

Botswana

African Horseback Safaris
The Okavango Delta makes for a spectacular horseback safari destination. Ride with a herd of giraffe or zebra across the plains, track elephant or buffalo from island to island. Be part of this unique herd, cantering and splashing through lagoons of the Okavango Delta with lechwe or simply watch the setting sun whilst listening to the calls of lion and hyena.

Based at a luxury camp, the horse replaces the jeep and allows you to get closer to the action than you otherwise would by vehicle or foot. The riding is varied, sometimes quietly walking, stalking big game and admiring the bird life, sometimes cantering through the water-meadows alongside galloping giraffe.

Alternatively, explore the Kalahari in the same manner as many of the earliest explorers, hunters and missionaries. This wild, exceptional landscape with the vast pans and sprawling open woodlands lends itself to an unforgettable riding experience.

Combine your stay at a fixed camp, with the adventure of fly camping on the Salt Pans, to best discover this vast area.

Whether enjoying the waters of the Okavango Delta or the breath-taking expanse of the Kalahari, qualified guides will share with you their intimate knowledge of the wilderness, using the horses to best effect to bring you closer to birds, game and nature.

South Africa

Cleopatra's Mountain Farm House, South Africa
South Africa boasts a range of terrain and opportunities for equestrians, from Polo on the Garden Route to malaria-free safaris in the Waterberg region of the Limpopo province.

The polo season in Plettenberg Bay spans from December to April and attracts an ever increasing number of international patrons and top professionals from around the world. There are many tournaments held in in the area over the season and these are considered a must-do for both visiting enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport alike. For those who fancy trying their hand at the game, lessons with the best in business are available, while riding through the tranquil countryside and over breath-taking beaches is also on offer.

The Waterberg boasts some of the most exciting and quality game viewing and riding on horseback in Africa. Due to the varying topography and ecology in the area, the bush is teaming with an incredible variety of game species from buffalo and rare sable antelope to herds of eland, nyala, kudu to the fleet footed oryx, to name but a few. The riding pace can vary from cantering with giraffe and wildebeest to meandering along high rocky bluffs watching the setting African sun, or quietly riding through a herd of grazing zebra or family of rhino.

The Drakensberg is another awe-inspiring destination and riding through the beautiful Kamberg Valley on Appaloosa horses is a magical encounter. Suitable for both the novice and experienced, enjoy riding over rolling hills with spectacular mountain scenery. For those whose taste runs more to thoroughbreds, tours of the local race horse studs can also be arranged.

Namibia


The hauntingly beautiful Namib Desert makes for an incomparable riding destination. A combination of rolling orange dunes and dazzling white flats accompanied by the indigenous fauna make this unique landscape a riders mecca.

Namibian Horse Safari’s offer a variety of itineraries, set group departures and private journeys by request.

The challenging 350km Namib Desert Ride, renowned to be one of the toughest riding journeys one can do. A genuine adventure, camping under the stars, a chance to indulge in some genuine escapism and to get back to basics; participants complete the ride with an incredible sense of achievement.

Several other itineraries are on offer for those who would like explore the desert at a gentler pace. One can expect to be spending 5 to 7 hours in the saddle, so naturally fitness and experience are required and all riders must be confident, comfortable and in control on a horse as at times rough or tricky, terrain requires navigating.

Accommodation varies with the ride itinerary but most include nights in simple camps with dome tents, camp beds and meals cooked by the back up team, eaten around the campfire. Other nights are spent in guesthouses and safari lodges and some nights during rides are in lodges and semi-permanent camps.

Hosted and led by Andrew Gillies, one of Africa’s most sought after riding guides, this is an equestrian experience like no other. A fully immersive encounter linking a passion for horsemanship with an obsession for Africa, it’s fauna and one of it’s most striking terrains.

 

AUSTRALASIA

New Zealand

Retaruke Station Ruapehu Paul Abbitt
Few destinations lend themselves as well to a riding destination as New Zealand. The rugged beauty of its wilderness is ideal for exploration by horseback.

From beaches that stretch for miles, to snow-capped mountains and captivating indigenous forests, riding allows you to return to nature and revel in the solitude and harmony of the New Zealand wilderness.

With a plethora of horse trekking experiences on offer in New Zealand, the northland provides opportunities for coastal treks along white-sand beaches while the shadows of Ruapehu’s snow-topped dormant volcanoes make for an otherworldly adventure. Lord of the Rings fans will be fascinated by the many familiar locations of Glenorchy in the South Island, where trails alongside brilliant blue lakes and the soaring peaks of the Southern Alps are reminiscent of many familiar scene.

Australia

Bullo River Station, Australia
Australia’s lends itself to fantastic riding country, offering a variety of landscapes to enjoy from horseback.

Enjoy the World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains, bordered by the Wollemi and the Gardens of Stone national parks. With a diverse natural environment, from grassy plains to the shelter of the mountains themselves, craggy escarpments and dense forests, there is much to see in terms of wildlife throughout the day and across the seasons. Your rides will be accompanied by highly trained, field guides, able to showcase the incredible landscape and from the most prestigious of positions.

For the ultimate outback experience, visit a cattle station where, whilst helicopters and quad bikes are predominantly used in the modern era of Station work, horses are still an important part of the operations. Saddle up on working stock horses and with the expert assistance and guidance of the locals, enjoy station life surrounded by grassy plains, Brahman-cross cattle, wallabies, rugged hills inscribed with Aboriginal rock art and crystal clear swimming holes.

For the more laidback, combine a leisurely ride in the wine regions of the Mornington Peninsula, with tastings in some of the best wineries in the area. Choose from a gentle three-hour ride or a whole day in the saddle and enjoy both the scenery and of produce of this beautiful area.

 

ASIA

India

Rohet India
The Marwari is the indigenous horse of the Thar Desert. Most recognisable by the curved tips of their ears, in the annals of Rajput history, these horses are as famous as their masters. In Rajasthan today, our clients have the opportunity to experience the horse’s sensitive and honest disposition, while riding through the region of western Rajasthan.

With extensive tailor-made equestrian programs ranging from a full day’s riding to a six days’/six nights’ safari exploring the region of western Rajasthan, riders are given a deep insight into the rich culture and traditions of Marwar, as well as offering great game- viewing opportunities. The area makes for almost perfect riding country with its semi-arid shrub and bush vegetation, wide, open spaces and soft terrain. All itineraries are carefully selected so that riding on tarmac roads is totally eliminated. Passing through delightful small villages and Dhanis (settlements), and with the guide’s special relationship with the local village people, you will have the unique opportunity to access every village and home you pass, and experience the legendary hospitality and warmth of the people of Marwar.

In spite of the region being quite dry and arid, it is surprisingly rich in wildlife. Herds of the rare and famous Black Buck antelope, the Blue Bull antelope, and the petite Chinkara are common viewing on the rides. The region is also very rich in bird life with over 200 different species to be sighted.

The itineraries are tailor-made to the requirement of each guest, keeping riding ability and time duration in mind. Overnight accommodation for the longer rides is in the form of fully furnished luxury tents as well as local heritage properties.

 

Indonesia

Experiences Horseback Riding.x64944
Indonesia may not be the first place you think of when it comes to riding opportunities, but we have a surprise in a store. With world-class equestrian facilities, Nihi Sumba offers experienced local guides, a resident horse whisperer, exhilarating beach rides and even equine mediation sessions.

Trail rides include a sunset or sunrise ride along Nihiwatu Beach, or a beach-to-bush venture through local villages, passing paddy fields, pretty streams, rainforests and local homes before breaking for a drink of fresh cocnut water and concluding your ride in waves of Nihiwatu Beach.

A longer ride takes you from the resort to the sister site of NihiOka passing village homes and children on their way to and from school before entering into the NihiOka valley. At the end of the ride you are rewarded with a bush-cooked breakfast on an open fire in the tree house overlooking the rolling waves of the Indian Ocean before being transferred back to the resort by jeep.
To complete your Indonesian equine journey, Nohi’s own own horse whisperer is availablet o guide guests in private sessions of meaningful bonding experiences with horses and the natural world. Whether you are a horse lover or not, the connective experience with your inner self through natural equine interaction is truly life expanding.

 

ARABIA

UAE

Al Maha, Dubai

From breath-taking rides across the desert, to the world’s richest horse race, the UAE affords a variety of opportunity for the equestrian enthusiast.

Traverse the Liwa desert on horseback enjoying Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter, enveloped by an alluring expanse of golden sand dunes. Explore the captivating surroundings with a range of horse riding activities, each of which can be tailored to suit individual abilities.

In Dubai, experienced equestrians have the chance to ride former racehorses, as well as hardy and surefooted Arabians from the private stables of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai. Led through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve by knowledgeable field guides, there are few more magical ways to start one’s day, than watching the sun rise while galloping over the spectacular dunes.

For those who fancy trying their hand at Polo, why not experience the glamour and fast-paced action of the adrenaline-fuelled game and incorporate some lessons into your holiday. If you prefer to take a step back, immerse yourself in play as a spectator, with daily matches between October and April and enjoy a very British afternoon tea served from a chic terrace with a view of all the action.

If racing appeals, couple a tour of one of the of state-of-the-art stables boasting tremendous facilities with a day enjoying the ‘Sport of Kings’, in the company of one of Dubai’s top racing pundits.

 

For more information on riding holidays or to book a  holiday, get in touch.

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We were again delighted to work with Tusk and be involved with the Lewa Marathon, organising the travel arrangements for most of the international runners attending.
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New Nasca Lines Discovered in Peru

Armed with satellites and drones, archaeologists discover new Nasca lines and dozens of other enigmatic geoglyphs carved into the earth.
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October Half Term

You may well be all set for the summer, whether you are planning to make your way to The Maldives, settle in Scotland, pop over the pond or wind your way down to the West Country, but have you...
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Astonishing Arabia!

Exceptional Travel's Susanna Reynolds returns to Oman, visiting Muscat, the desert, the mountains and the tropical shores of Salalah. Read her full trip report here.
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Beautiful Botswana

Head of African sales Lukey Bourne returns from Botswana where she visited a selection of the best camps in the Okvanago Delta. Read her full trip report here.
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