Well, you are in good company! In North America alone there are over 23 million folks that own or ride horses on a regular basis. And of those folks, about 80% travel either with their horses or to places that have horseback riding.
Additionally, there are many folks that rode when they were younger and are just now getting back to it after years of focusing on family or career. And it is a super way to reacquaint with an area of the country or the world or to explore new places you otherwise could never see on foot or by vehicle.
We’ll spend the next few blog sessions talking about the elements of taking a riding vacation. Things like:
- What types of trips are available
- How to choose the right trip for you
- What to look for in a booking agent
- What to expect if you book on your own
- Important Questions and points to consider prior to booking
- What opportunities await you on a riding vacation
If you are considering a riding vacation, chances are you have taken vacations before and done some riding but you may not have taken an exclusive riding vacation – where riding is the main focus. Let’s begin by exploring the types of vacation options available:
We group our rides into two classifications: Trail Rides and Training Vacations.
Trail Rides consist of rides out in the countryside each day. They can vary in length of time in the saddle, pace and terrain. Additionally, they can be further classified as either “Stationary” meaning you stay at the same hotel each evening, or “Inn to Inn” (sometimes called “Progressive”) where you ride to multiple accommodations during the course of the ride.
Training Vacations allow you the opportunity to spend a week with a discipline specific trainer and work on areas of personal development to break through barriers you may currently be facing. Typically, you can find training vacations for the following disciplines:
- Show Jumping
- Three Day Eventing/Cross Country Riding
While there are certainly other types of training vacations on the market, these tend to be the most requested at this time. Do bear in mind that the sport is always growing and changing so keep a lookout for other offerings – and let me know if you see any that look credible!
Let’s spend the next few minutes talking about Trail Rides and Training Vacations.
As previously mentioned, trail rides fall into two categories – Stationary and Progressive. Before you decide which one is the best for you, you would do well to ask yourself the following:
- How long am I comfortable riding for up to 5 consecutive days?
- At what pace am I most comfortable?
While folks often begin with the question “Where do I want to go?”, they often find themselves analyzing these first two questions to determine if the trip is appropriate for them.
The stationary rides tend to run anywhere from 4-6 hours of riding each day and they will most typically be “daisy” rides of about 12-18 miles. That is, the rides will start and end at the same point but they will leave out and make a loop, ending up at the starting point. The next day, the loop will move out in a different direction, still returning to the point of origin, and this will continue in each different direction so that by the end of the week, you have, in effect, ridden in a daisy shape. These are VERY different from “Wheel” itineraries and do beware – a wheel has spokes that radiate out from the center – but to date, I’ve never seen a spoke that doesn’t run straight out and straight back, and thus repeat itself in reverse.
Depending on the terrain, some stationary rides are quite active. For example, if you normally ride on flat terrain at home, with small hills and mostly walking, taking a ride in Tuscany where the hills are up to a half mile long and require more trotting and cantering can be challenging.
One advantage of a stationary ride is that you have the wonderful opportunity to unpack and truly “settle in” to your accommodations. This can be much more relaxing than having to pack and unpack multiple times during the week.
The progressive rides range from 4-7 hours in the saddle each day and will cover upwards of 20 miles or more daily. As a result, they sometimes can be faster paced than the stationary rides and require a particular level of fitness from riders. On the progressive rides we require that folks be able to ride at all gaits (walk, trot, canter (and occasionally gallop) on a trail (outside of an arena) and maintain control of their horse at all times.
Progressive rides generally cover about 15-18 miles daily but some can have days up to 20 miles. They are designed so that you experience long canters and trots – so be sure that you are fit enough to trot for 10-15 minutes or canter for 5-10 minutes. The days are fun and while they cover a lot of ground, the riders are interspersed with breaks and long lunches, so you will have time to stretch and get out of the saddle for a bit.
Within the progressive rides, some travel further and faster during the week and others cover less ground so the pace is more relaxed. One of our consultants will chat about that with you, so no fear that you’ll end up on a ride that’s too fast – or too slow for your tastes.
So this rather long primer is a good start to help you visualize a week of riding. In one of our next posts, we’ll dig a bit deeper into the trail rides and discuss the types of horses, accommodations, meals and other elements that go into making an exceptional equestrian vacation.