Exotic, Adventerous, Unforgetable
R i d i n g V a c a t i o n s o f a L i f e t i m e
Where in the world would you go riding? Why not, say, Argentina? Do you like the sound of Ireland? Or how about the idea of taking a seat on one of the lovely, powerful Andalusians of Spain?
All of these wonderful possibilities are at your fingertips – an indescribably wide variety of riding vacations and experiences have been assembled by a number of long-standing, reputable tour companies, and it’s just worth a look around if you think unique, off-the-beaten path world travel is for you.
Even if you prefer to vacation not too far afield, or you’re most content when your destination is replete with all the comforts of home, equestrian travel-tour companies often offer a number of exciting combinations right here in the U.S. or Canada.
Your trip can usually be over as many days as you and your pocketbook would like, although many packages and tours with destination-oriented itineraries have a specific start and end date. Happily, many tours can also provide you with just a few days of riding, allowing you to dovetail with other sections of your trip or to ensure ample time with your travel companions as you pursue other adventures. As well, you can formulate your riding vacation to be a challenging and exciting educational experience as you ride under the knowing eye of a (often well-known) professional or you can put together a dream outing that has you riding from inn to inn or riding on the miles of trails, over the verdant countryside or into the wide open vistas radiating from your scenic lodging.
Packages can include a full complement of riding -- trail riding or riding in a lesson program with a skilled professional -- one or two times a day, lodging, and all meals. Lodging is often in keeping with the area’s immediate surroundings, and such “native” living, by the end of your time there, along with your immersion in new foods, sights and sounds, will no doubt leave you reluctant to leave it all behind. Many of these packages offer additional things to do in the area on your non-riding days.
Says Karen Lancaster, of Cross Country International, which specializes in high-quality riding vacations in every corner of the globe, “Some of our most exotic include riding trips in Patagonia --we’ve just opened a new, additional trail that takes riders over the Andes and then on into Chile. There’s our ride in Machu Pichu, which bypasses the usual trails and takes everyone on a different approach, so that the only people you’ll probably ever see are the native Peruvians. We are also adding a Great Wall of China riding trip and also a trip in Kenya. But, one of our most popular is right here in the States, in Napa Valley, and we offer trips that accommodate the rider and the non-rider.” For more information: (800) 828-8768 / http://www.equestrianvacations.com/
An authentic Western ranch vacation is not to be missed – these special experiences, in addition to being uniquely American, usually offer something for every age and every interest. Equitours, Inc., based in rugged Dubois [pron. “doo-boys”], Wyo., offers a dude ranch experience at its own Bitterroot Ranch, founded on the edge of the Shoshone National Forest and bordering the largest untouched ecosystem remaining in the lower 48. Here, horses are considered “the focal point” and are well-prepared to meet the variety of guests, each of whom are carefully matched to their mounts. Even serious riders will be well-accommodated, as the ranch program is Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)- and British Horse Society (BHS)-certified.
Equitours is much more than American dude ranch: it offers a nearly unlimited array of tours on six of the seven continents and willingly customizes or makes ‘exclusive’ many, if not all, of its trips. Some of its newest offerings include Morocco by horseback and is offering a fresh itinerary in Costa Rica, a popular winter destination. It also offers ranch experiences in South Africa and Argentina. According to Equitours’ Ellen Vanuga, “There are also some great trips for non-riders in France, in Italy and in South Africa.”For more information: (800) 545-0019 / http://www.ridingtours.com/
In addition to tours that are focused around central lodging and stabling, take a moment to look into the many dramatic back-country and camping trips offered both in the U.S. and other countries. These are especially interesting trips for those who would like to live as elementally as possibly and to have civilization recede, if not disappear. All necessities are provided for, and jaw-dropping scenery for these sorts of tours is included. These riding trips travel deep into remote territory, often on century-old trails that remain nearly unchanged since the days of the original travelers. Although usually offered on horseback, tour operators for these rugged trips can often offer alternative means of transportation, so be sure to enquire. Hondoo, Inc., bases its operations in the expansive plateaus and mountains of Utah, and specializes in nothing short of spectacular back-country trips on horseback, on foot, and for those who prefer, by 4x4. For more information: (800) 332-2696 / http://www.hondoo.com/
For something doubly off the beaten path, consider a women-only riding trip, or a cattle drive, or riding trips that have you threading along the coastline and right onto the beach of the roaring ocean.
If cost stands in your way, state this and ask if the tour company puts up any well-priced, off-season, or alternative travel packages that will fall within your dollars allotted. Off-season travel, such as in the spring or fall, can mean the best weather for outdoor activities and the most opportunity for untrammeled sight-seeing as well.
If you prefer, you can contact directly hotels, castles and riding establishments to make your own arrangements. Ireland and England (in addition to the U.S.) make for some of the most popular equestrian-vacation destinations. Consider contacting Equestrian Holidays Ireland, www.ehi.ie; for England, try http://www.equine-world.co.uk/. For France, www.horse-riding.net/vacations/France can get you started.
Know what you’d like this riding-and-travel trip to accomplish for you. Be sure to research the destinations that interest you, ask friends for their own riding-travel experiences, and then work with a travel professional to put together the perfect vacation. Any of these trips can be an experience of a life-time, so make the most of it!
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Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for qualified travel information provided by travel professionals, nor does it endorse the services of any individuals, companies or websites noted within.
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