Which Horseback Riding Adventure Do I Choose?
I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “Where to next?” I’m not sure where it came from, but it seems to be a theme in my life. There’s always a “where to next.” Except for that time in 2020 when I’d returned from a road trip with my partner in January, and had been casting my gaze toward my next trip, horseback riding in Mongolia in June 2020 with Wild Women Expeditions, when suddenly the world was shut down. There was no next trip on the horizon for the first time since I can remember! While 2020 wasn’t a complete bust for all you travel-loving horse-crazed Wild Women (we did manage to squeeze in a couple of horse treks this year in Canada and the US), the vast majority of us spent 2020 grieving lost trips and dreaming of the trips to come when we’re able to travel the globe safely once again. The Wild Women office has been busy (and I mean BUSY) setting up and registering women for 2021 and 2022 adventures, and the interest in horse trips has exploded.
We now have 21 (that’s right, twenty-one!) trips that include some horseback riding, so there’s lots of choices and things to consider when picking the right trip. While it’s great to have lots of options, it can also be overwhelming. Since I’ve been educating myself on all our fabulous new trips, I thought I’d share some of the highlights with you. I’ve broken down some of the things to consider, as well as summarizing the riding requirements and highlights of the trips to help you narrow down your choices. Your schedule and desire to see a particular country will play into your decision as well; however, it’s also really important to consider the riding and fitness levels required for the trip, so you’re not in over your head and on the verge of panic, or chomping at the bit, disappointed to rarely go faster than a walk.
You’ll also want to consider the type of accommodations and food that you prefer. Some trips are tent-based with simple (but delicious!) camp meals, while others are mostly based in hotels and guesthouses with a mix of home-cooked, local/pub or fine-dining options. Consider whether you’re looking for a more backcountry experience or a more upscale trip. Budget may also be a consideration. Generally, a longer trip with more amenities will be more expensive, depending on the country. Doing a trip in or near your home country can help keep travel costs down.
Scheduling is also a concern for some, where jobs and other obligations narrow the window of opportunity to travel, so you’ll need to consider what will work best with your schedule. See the website for dates for all trips.
As for the riding part of the trip, a good place to start to help narrow down the possibilities is to ask yourself a couple of key questions. “Do I want to do a trip that is primarily horseback riding, or would I prefer a trip that has different activities, but includes an opportunity to ride a horse?” and “Would I prefer a trip that uses Western tack and riding style, or English tack and riding style”? Not sure about the difference? Check out this video in our Facebook Group.
Let’s say you’re interested in a horseback riding trip, but you haven’t done much riding in the past, or it’s been a really long time. Perhaps, you have a busy life and can’t see yourself fitting in riding lessons to prepare for a trip, or you’re not sure your bottom would be happy in a saddle for several days in a row (or your top, for that matter – hint, a good sports bra and padded shorts are your best friends on a horse trip!). Or, maybe you really like riding, but you want to have other experiences on your vacation as well.
If any of that sounds like you, you might consider a multisport trip that includes some riding. We have several options for 2021, and I’ve listed them in order from the least amount of riding to most. All are open to beginner riders, and some have options to split the group for more experienced riders to canter or gallop. Sometimes another activity is offered if you choose not to ride, or you can choose to rest or create your own adventure while others ride. Please note that many of the trips impose maximum rider weight for the safety and comfort of horse and rider. Where a maximum weight is not recommended, it is generally safe to consider 200-225 pounds a good guide, especially for beginner riders (our trips vary a little). More experienced riders can minimize their impact on the horse by moving with the horse and avoiding all bouncing, which is challenging and often impossible for beginners.
A 15-day adventure, full of delights for the body, mind and senses! This trip includes lots of history, old markets, mosaics, art and archeology, with beautiful forests and fields to be discovered on foot. You’ll also take a camel ride through the desert to stay in a luxury nomadic camp, cycle through a palm grove, go on a mountain hike, and participate in optional horseback riding on the beach. Most nights are spent in hotels with transportation between locations and for day trips. Includes a half-day of English-style riding (out of 15), plus a camel ride.
There are many different activities on this adventure, with boat trips, kayaking, surfing, stand-up paddling, hiking, cycling and horseback riding. The horseback ride (half day) is beginner-friendly and travels along grassy trails and beaches. You will be riding English style, with a maximum rider weight of 225 pounds for this portion of the trip. Includes a half-day of riding (out of eight).
This trip is mostly hiking, with a half-day wildlife tour, half-day river float, and half-day of horseback riding, followed by a soak in a hot spring! The ride is optional and suitable for all levels, including beginners. Western tack and riding style is used. Please note that weight restrictions apply for the riding portion of the trip for the overall safety of the horse and rider. Includes a half-day of riding (out of seven).
You’ll see some of the highlights of Iceland by foot, kayak and horseback. The one-day horse trek takes you over a mountain into the Reykjadalur valley, where you will leave your horses with the guides while you soak in a naturally hot river, then ride back along a different route through one of the most geothermally active areas in Iceland. No horseback riding experience is required. Icelandic tack and riding are similar to English tack and riding. Includes one day of riding(out of 10).
This relaxing retreat provides living skills taught by two Cree women, including beading, archery,
natural medicines, food preparation, and horseback riding, among other traditional life skills. The riding day includes groundwork to connect with the horse, a lesson and a trail ride, using Western tack and riding style. Suitable for all levels of rider. Includes one day (out of six).
In the heart of Patagonia, this adventure includes some stunning hikes, interspersed with a rest day with optional yoga or safari. You’ll also enjoy kayaking, cycling, a day of horseback riding and a day of tracking wild horses (how cool is THAT?). I’m told that the experience of tracking and observing the 100+ wild horses who live in this area is an incredible and incomparable experience. The horseback riding day consists of travelling through forests and crossing streams, and passing through five prairies where experienced riders are welcome to gallop! Includes one day of riding and one day tracking and observing wild horses (out of 10).
This one’s a fourteen-day adventure with a two-day overnight horse trek, sleeping in a traditional Mongolian yurt. Another day, you have the option of riding or hiking to Orkhon waterfall. You will also ride a camel for a half day. Other activities include hiking and sightseeing, hot springs, cultural presentations and learning about the Mongolian way of life. Includes two or three days riding horseback, and a half-day camel ride (out of 14).
This trip includes three days of English-style riding and can accommodate both beginner and more experienced riders by breaking up the group as necessary to make sure all riders feel safe and are able to have the riding experience geared to their ability. The first riding day includes instructions and getting to know your horse, and the subsequent two days, trail-riding with picnics, scenic views and a visit to a volcano. There is also hiking, a vineyard tour, and whale-watching on this trip, as well as opportunities to swim in the ocean. You will be riding the famous and ancient breed of Lusitano horses, known for their intelligent and willing natures, along with the agile and graceful movements that have won them notoriety in dressage competitions in the Olympics and World Equestrian Games. Includes three days of riding (out of seven).
If just a taste of horseback riding on a trip would only leave you hungering for more, we have plenty of options to satisfy almost any kind of horsey appetite, from nervous beginner to seasoned rodeo queen or eventing master. Again, I’ve listed the trips below in order of the easiest and least amount of overall riding and ability required to the most advanced riding and skills required. Please note this is not an exact scale. The horse(s) you ride and the weather conditions you encounter can greatly change the level of difficulty of any trip.
This beginner-friendly Western riding trip takes you deep into some of the most beautiful mountainous areas of Canada. Basic fitness and riding skills are all that are required for this beginner-friendly trip. You’ll ride 4-6 hours a day, sometimes leading your horses over rocky or steep sections. The maximum rider weight for this trip is 210 pounds. Includes five days of riding (out of seven).
This trip is suitable for a confident beginner, where you travel through mountainous Incan regions, including a trip to the famous Machu Picchu. You ride comfortable gaited Peruvian Paso horses and saddle mules, staying in hotels, B&Bs and with local families. The terrain is mountains and valleys, and the riding pace is mostly walking and trotting. The saddles used are similar to western saddles, but locally made. They are very padded and reportedly very comfortable for the five days you spend on horseback on this trip. Other days, you’ll explore by foot, so you need to be reasonably fit to ride and hike at altitudes up to a max of 4800 m (15,800 ft). Hotel, B&B, guesthouse, mountain hut and Inka lodge accommodations. Includes five days of riding (out of 10).
This beginner-friendly (we always recommend a few lessons to get comfortable around and on horses) trip will appeal to confident beginner and intermediate riders. You will walk and trot on this trip and maintain a moderate pace. Riding style and tack are similar to Western. Accommodations are in tent and yurt camps with the first and last nights in hotels. Good overall fitness is recommended as you’ll be spending 5-6 hours a day in the saddle. The maximum rider weight is 210 pounds. Includes eight days of riding (out of 10).
On this journey, you’re riding very comfortable gaited Icelandic horses over varied terrain from rocky hills to grassy trails, gravel roads, and a black sand beach. Most days include around 3-4 hours in the saddle, with lots of breaks for the horses to graze. This trip is friendly for beginners if you’ve taken some lessons (using English or Icelandic tack, rather than Western). There are also opportunities to split the group so more advanced riders can feel the speed and stability of the Icelandic horse. Accommodations are a farm guesthouse with 2, 3 or 4 to a room, and two mountain huts where you sleep communally or in rooms of 4-6. There is also time for sightseeing at some of Southern Iceland’s most fascinating natural sites. Includes seven days of riding (out of nine).
Staying in a combination of cozy stone farmhouse and in the quaint town of Clifden on the Wild Atlantic west coast, you’ll get a true flavour of Ireland on this trip, geared to novice and intermediate English riders. Confident riders are rewarded by a canter in the forest and/or a gallop on the beach. You may even have an opportunity to jump a fence or two! Most rides are half or partial days, with sightseeing and cultural tours in between. Includes six days of riding (out of seven).
Accommodations are in a quaint off-grid lodge, and basic tent camping on the 6-day (five-night) horse pack trip. Note there are no showers or amenities on the pack trip. You’ll be riding walk/trot 4-7 hours per day in varied stunning mountainous terrain. Western riding lessons are recommended to help you prepare for this trip, aimed at the fit and adventurous beginner or intermediate rider. Max rider weight 210 pounds. Includes six days of riding (out of 11).
Riding through the mountains, visiting hot springs and ancient Incan and pre-Incan areas, this trip takes you deep into the heart of the country and its sacred and spiritual roots. Riding is mostly walk/trot in varied mountainous terrain, for 5-7 hours a day. Participants should have some riding experience and/or take Western-style riding lessons before the trip. Prepare to be at altitudes between 3000 and 4800 metres (10,000-16,000 feet) while riding and leading your horse. Accommodation is in B&Bs, local homestays, and guesthouses. Includes seven days of riding (out of 11).
Riding the unique Marwari horses, intermediate and advanced riders will love their eagerness, combined with steadiness. The terrain is varied and the days long in the saddle, and riders are rewarded with beautiful views and luxurious remote camps, as well as cultural experiences along the way—English tack and riding style. The maximum rider weight is 200 pounds. Four nights in boutique hotels and 6 nights in luxury tent camps. Includes eight days of riding (out of 11).
Explore the beautiful rivers, hills and valleys of the South Island of New Zealand. You’ll stay in various mountain huts, hotels and other high country stations. This trip requires intermediate riding skills and a good fitness level to be able to sustain long hours in the saddle at walk/trot/canter over widely varied terrain, using Western saddles, using direct rein aids rather than neck reining. Rider weight maximum 210 pounds. Includes eight days of riding (out of 11).
This trip offers some variety, with five days of riding, a day of hiking and two days touring the local area. You stay in the same quaint 150-year old farmhouse the whole trip, and most meals are home-cooked for you there. Horsemanship is emphasized, and time is spent on groundwork developing a bond and communication with your horse. Day trips include exploring the hills and valleys, beaches, cliffs and meadows within a short driving distance from the farm. This trip is for intermediate riders who can maintain rising trot and are comfortable cantering in open fields.
There are 5-6 hours a day riding, English style. The terrain is rugged and good fitness is recommended. Includes five days of riding (out of 10).
This is a fast and dynamic trip, interspersed with sections of walking over volcanic rock and sand. You are riding with around 30 loose horses, being herded along by the guides. Because the days are long and fast, these extra horses allow every horse to have a break from being ridden, so they stay fresh and happy. There’s a layover day to ride without the herd, where there are some excellent smooth paths for extended gallops, should the group be inclined. With the herd, the pace is anywhere from a walk to a fast tolt. Intermediate and advanced riders with good fitness will enjoy 5-6 hours a day in the saddle. Icelandic tack and riding is similar to English-style riding. Accommodation is farm guesthouses and mountain huts with shared or communal sleeping. Includes seven days of riding (out of nine).
Intermediate and advanced riders will enjoy the challenge of long days on the open steppe, riding horses that are used to travelling long distances at a good speed. You’ll walk, trot and canter using traditional Mongolian horses and tack, with a riding style similar to Western. Aside from your first and last night in hotels, this is a rustic backcountry adventure, where you’ll stay in yurts with squat toilets and basic bathing (i.e. washcloth or wet wipe or stream when available), travelling ancient Nomadic routes, with traditionally long fast days. You will spend up to 7 hours a day in the saddle, on various terrain, covering over 40 kms some days! Mongolian horses are smaller, and the maximum rider weight is 210 pounds. Includes ten days of riding (out of 14).
If you’re like me, you want to do ALL the trips we have on offer; however, if that’s not possible, I hope I’ve helped you to narrow down your options, so you can choose your next Wild Women Expeditions Horseback riding adventure with confidence. So, where to next?