Anyone who knows me will know that I love both horse-riding and travelling with a fierce, almost obsessive passion. I always try to find local breeds of horses when I travel so I can see these new and exciting lands from the back of a horse – it adds an extra special dimension to my holiday! There are so many other travellers (and travel bloggers) out there like me who feel the same way so I decided to ask my fellow riders about their best riding experiences around the world…
Galloping alongside giraffes, swimming through crocodile and hippo inhabited rivers and silently creeping up on a huge herd of buffalo are some of the thrilling moments you can expect riding in the Okavango Delta.
The Okavango Delta is a UNESCO world heritage site and often described as the ‘Eden of Africa.’ It’s a changing landscape, hot and dry for half the year, flooded and lush for the other half. Best of all, the delta is a relatively undiscovered wilderness meaning that you can explore in total seclusion, just you, your horse and your guide – a total privilege in Africa and quite different from the more crowded game parks of South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania.
The days start at dawn, horses and riders fed a hearty breakfast then you’re off for a five hour ride through the bush. Riding along game trails, through flood plains and riverine forests the guides are always keeping an eye out for game, pointing out things mere mortals may miss and telling stories of the bush along the way. Suddenly the signal will be given, a herd of elephants is in front! Quietly approaching with the wind in front you’ll creep as close as possible, then let your horse graze whilst you soak in the sight of such magnificent animals. A lunch time picnic under the shade of some trees, a swim in the river and a long siesta provides plenty of time to rest your weary legs in the middle of the day, then it’s a short ride back to camp during which you may spot Leopard, Giraffe, Zebra, Hippos, Lion or even the endangered Wild Dog! Night times are a happy blend of delicious food, gin and tonics, campfire stories, and a well-deserved sleep, whilst the sounds of the African Bush infiltrate your dreams.
If you love riding, nature, adventure and the wilderness the Okavango Delta is impossible to beat. Try and visit in May or September when the flood waters have arrived, the days are warm but not scorching and the game is plentiful. It’s really impossible to describe the thrill of riding in such a place, I suggest you go and check it out for yourself!
We are horse people. These horses were well taken care of, and happy, which in turn made us happy to support such a great place. We were given canvas bags with water and carrots for the horses, but the bags also came in handy to store our cameras and sunscreen – and they hooked right onto the saddle! The ride was amazing, and the guides knew so much about the land, the history, and plants and wildlife. It was a great way to spend the day!
While riding in Western Mongolia was one of the most challenging rides I’ve ever been on I wouldn’t change it for anything. This was the first riding tour I’ve ever been on and it was quite the experience. I spent my time riding Mongolian horses through the Altai Mountains, spending time with the Kazahk eagle hunters and learning how they train and hunt with their eagles. The Kazahk hunters are amazing riders, and it was an educational experience watching them gallop full speed down a mountain on their horses. I was much more tame with my riding, but still enjoyed the views and beautiful weather.
Arriving in style has different meanings around the globe. In Egypt, it meant a camel or horse ride through the desert. Not only would it bring me back to my childhood days of horse camp and riding lessons from my neighbour, it would also lead me to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. I made a pact with the cowboys offering guided rides: if we could go fast, I’d be more than accepting of a tour. Done! At Giza, I spotted three pointed objects looming in the background as I saddled up for a run through the desert. The Egyptian cowboy who was to accompany me looked at my small frame and questioned my ability to hold it together at high speeds. “Try it,” I assured him, “If a smile turns to a frown, we slow down.” The smile stayed the whole time. We ran and we flew. It felt like we were on a magic carpet ride through the great oasis: the imagined notions of both Aladdin and The Alchemist bottled into one morning.
I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I started riding horses, but it was definitely at a VERY young. I’m a Texas girl, it’s sort of in my blood. For most of my life I’ve ridden western but recently started riding english and love it. I’ve ridden through the Blue Ridge Mountains, I’ve ridden through national parks and along sandy beaches. I like riding horses because they can transport you to so many more places than you could go by mass transit. Give me a horse and I will ride it!
One of my most memorable riding experiences was in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina just before Christmas. My mom and I were staying at the resort on the Biltmore estate. We had a guide take us out one frigid morning on horses going over hills and through the forests of the palatial estate. Seeing smoke rise off peaks and out of chimneys, the way the light came through the trees and over the hills was beyond magical. It was one of those times where you just feel so connected to everything and in the moment. We rode for several hours and covered much of the estate. Riding horses is honestly my favourite way to explore beautiful places!
It was a hot day and my horse was not impressed. While backpacking in Guatemala, a friend and I decided to take a horseback tour around the pueblas near San Pedro, Lake Atitlan. We guzzled some coffee and set off to explore atop our majestic beasts. Most of the 3 hour trek was up hills and this HUGE horse was clearly struggling under my weight. I spoke in soft tones to him and scratched his neck, but he just blew air out his nose and ignored me. He was going so slow, I literally almost got off and walked a few times. Mind you, I am not a large human. I might have a little extra “cushion,” but I am by no means a “wide load.” Meanwhile, my friend the horse whisperer is galloping along, barely even having to use his reigns. The views around the lake were beautiful and regardless of a sore bum, it was a nice day. But I’ll never forget the day a horse made me feel like a fat ass.
Without a doubt, horseback riding through the South African plains of Swaziland is one of my favourite memories. As a small group of 4 beginners, we set off through the desert, forest and fields, walking so close to zebra we could almost touch them. Time seemed to slow down while taking in the breathtaking views and the other animals seem to feel more at ease while you’re on the horses and act naturally, rather than being more nervous around safari jeeps.
Riding a horse up a volcano in Guatemala!
I love to ride, and have ridden all over the world, but one which really sticks in my memory was a canter across the beach in the tropical paradise of the Dominican Republic. Most of the people stuck to a safe walking or trotting pace, but my trusty steed Pinto and I decided to ‘buck’ the trend (sorry) and go for a canter and a gallop. Utterly thrilling.
Easter Island is a small island and you are able to see the complete island in 5 days. One of the best ways to get a birds eye view is by horse. We each had our own horses – who were spunky – and a a guide – who spoke little English. We went for two hours and were able to have free rein on a path with no one else. It wasn’t even a path, it was open land, where you could see the heads from afar and see the coast all around. Once we were at the summit you could do a 360 turn and see the whole island. Not many trees on Easter Island so it was an easy view. Breathtaking. A moment where time stand stills and you take it all in. Once we were ready to head back, the horses knew and were not holding back. It was amazing at the freedom to ride and that it was kid friendly and addictive. It was a highlight of the trip!
Kristina – ZANZIBAR
First through the coconut plantation then on the beach at sunset. Pure magic
Inge – ARMENIA
Horseback riding at the Apaga Resort near Ijevan, Armenia is wonderful because of the scenery. I stayed there in April and had a wonderful time. The resort is in the spectacular high mountains!
Have you been riding anywhere exciting? Let me know in the comments below, or feel free to email me with your experience (and a photo) and I’ll add you to the article! Thanks to Girls Who Travel for putting me in touch with all the girls featured in this article!