Do you usually spend your holidays laying by the pool or feeling the sand beneath your feet at the beach? We can’t deny the allure, but have you ever considered getting closer to nature?
Columbus Direct offer free horse riding travel insurance, so if you’re looking to see more and do more on your break, whilst meeting new people and eating great food – a horse riding holiday might be right up your paddock.
We spoke to In The Saddle founder Olwen Law about horse riding holidays – and why everyone who’s seeking adventure should spend their break seeing the world on horseback. She’s an authority on the subject, as she set up her business 21 years ago after deciding to combine her passion for travel, riding and photography.
After setting up riding holidays in five countries, In The Saddle now offers over a hundred trips in 40 countries. However, what if you’ve never ridden before?
“We have plenty of destinations suitable for beginners, or people who have never ridden before,” she explains. “We also offer more challenging rides for experienced riders.”
“The majority of our customers are women, around 75%, but we get a good mix of people of all ages. We don’t have any set age limit and our oldest customer was 90 – she went to South Africa with her 63 year old daughter!”
Has there been a surge of interest? Why are more people choosing horse-riding holidays?
The rise in popularity of riding holidays has been gradual rather than sudden, and has grown in line with the overall increase in adventure holidays. In the early years, people weren’t as confident about the quality of the horses abroad. I think convincing people that there are good, stable horses in these countries has been our biggest challenge over the years.
What are the benefits of a holiday on horseback?
I may be biased, but I think they’re perfect holidays. Typical group sizes range from 6-10 people, so there are always other people to talk to, but you’re not going to get lost in a crowd. You’re doing something active during the day, but you don’t have to think too hard - you can relax and watch the scenery go by. It’s brilliant escapism for anyone with a busy job. Plus, as you’re on horseback, the views are just that little bit better!
How do these holidays let people experience travel in a different way?
There are so many types of riding holidays. You can book beach rides, ranches, horseback safaris, instruction holidays where you can improve your dressage, and expeditions, to name a few. Ranch holidays have always been popular. On a working ranch, you become part of the team and there’s a real feeling of achievement. We’ve had customers who have seen videos of cantering with zebra and learned to ride, just so they can go on a horseback safari.
In Spain, we have a wide range of trips from rides on the Costa de la Luz in Andalucia to trail rides through the Pyrenees on the French border. On a riding holiday you have a connection with the country you are visiting that you just don’t get with other holidays. Many countries around the world have a long equestrian tradition that’s quite different from the UK. It’s fascinating to see how different cultures have shaped it in their own unique way.
Do you get many families and groups of friends taking part?
We get a complete mix of families, friends, couples and lots of singles. Riding holidays are particularly good for people travelling on their own as you’re joining a ready-made group with everyone having a shared interest.
Is it affordable – and can it be just as cheap as a beach holiday?
There is a misconception that riding holidays are expensive. It’s true that you don’t get really cheap riding holidays because these are small group trips with a lot of personal involvement, and there is the added cost of feeding and keeping horses. There are some great holidays in France and Spain for less than £1,000, including all meals and flights. The big factor affecting price is the level of accommodation and, for those who have that kind of budget, there are plenty of rides with luxury accommodation.
Do people stay in the same hotel every night, or do you move around? What about food and drink?
There are two basic types of riding holiday. There’s those which are centre based, where you stay at a lodge or villa, ride out each day and return to the same place each evening. Then there’s the trail ride, where you ride to a new place each afternoon. The centre based rides are great for less experienced riders, as you can choose to do shorter rides or take a day off from riding, which is more difficult on trail rides where you have to get to the next hotel or lodge. On most holidays everything is included, even drinks, but sometimes if you are near a town it’s nice to go and choose a local restaurant.
Do people get very attached to their horses, and form a bond?
Developing a partnership with your horse is key to the riding holiday experience. We tell the guides as much as possible about each rider’s experience and preferences, so they can match them up with a suitable horse. In most cases they get it right first time, but occasionally we need to change horses after a day or two. Some customers like to go back to the same destination each year and they will often check first to make sure their favourite horse is available. We also have quite a few customers who’ve completely fallen in love with their horse, bought it, and arranged to have it brought home!
How do you treat newcomers, and put them at ease? What about more competent riders?
We have developed a colour coding system so that you can see at a glance whether a ride fits your level of experience. We encourage customers to talk to us first before booking just to make sure that the riding will meet their expectations.
Is there time for lounging on the beach or sitting by a pool, or are people riding all day every day?
Typically, you ride for about four or five hours a day, so there is plenty of time to chill out. If you are on a week’s holiday, there is usually a rest day for the horses. The centre-based rides allow more time for relaxing, as moving accommodation on the trail rides takes up quite a bit of the day!
Would you say it’s a good way to see the world differently, and spend summer holidays more productively?
Definitely. Give it a try - you may be converted to a very different type of holiday!
Did you know that Columbus Direct's travel insurance covers horse riding for FREE? Our policies include over 150 sports and activities as standard, so we’re the ultimate travel partner if you have a taste for adventure. You can enjoy every minute of your riding holiday and feel secure in the saddle, knowing we’re just a phone call away if you should need us.