If you are pondering where to go, which trip to embark on or how best to see some of the world by horseback this year then hopefully comments from our past clients will help make the decision easier! In our latest blog, we hear about trips across the globe, from trekking in Spain to thought-provoking challenges in Romania…
Somewhere that is not often considered as a destination for horseback riding is Romania, however Peter Lewis had a fantastic adventures when he booked the Equus Silvania centre based ride. “I thoroughly enjoyed the riding and rode four different horses over the five days.” He tells us. “All of them were well behaved, responsive and forward going. As someone who hasn’t been riding for long, but keen to improve, I found the mix of paces excellent and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to “let the horses run” – although my legs were feeling it a bit at the end of the week!” “Transylvania was great riding country, with quite a lot of climbing through forests to beautiful view points and the chance for faster riding on the lower meadows,” Peter explains. “Although the accommodation was not “five star” it was perfectly appropriate for a riding holiday – clean and comfortable with en-suite facilities and the food was filling and tasty. Juliane, Ame, Tilmann, Tabea and Theresa were very friendly and made me feel completely at home .The visit to the bear hide was great (we saw 11 bears) and the site seeing at Sighisoara and Viscri gave a great insight into Romania. I was also able to squeeze an extra half day sight seeing at Brasov.” Sounds perfect for combining riding and some cultural experiences to learn more about this wonderful country!
Another destination that is still relatively undiscovered for horse riding is Hungary, and if you like varied riding then take note of what Mrs Winup says… “The countryside was excellent, long sandy lanes perfect for long canters and gallops, beautiful woods and wide open fields and common grounds where you could let the horses go. Accommodation was in a rustic farmhouse – think white washed walls and local knick knacks – simple but clean and perfectly in tune with the local surroundings.” As with any riding holiday fitness can make a difference, as Maria Harvey found out. “The riding in Hungary was fantastic, but you do have to be fit. Expect your muscles to ache, but a great massage will sort them out midweek. I rode 6 different horses and felt completely safe on all of them, although I did have a favourite!”
Spain is well known for its equestrian culture, exquisite food and great wines, and all of our In The Saddle trips to Spain combine these important elements to create the perfect horse riding holiday. Although well known for it’s fantastic beach riding, Spain has other hidden treasures as Sarah West found out when she took part in the Alpujarra Ride in the Sierra Nevada. “My husband and I had a fantastic holiday,” she says. “The scenery is absolutely stunning and each day brought with it very different views and terrain. The group was a perfect size and lovely mix of ages and riding experiences, giving us plenty of conversation along the mountain tracks, not to mention in the evening over a glass of Tinto de Verano.”
Of course having the right horse always makes a difference and this is something that is carefully thought out. “Dallas has such a good understanding of the personality of each of the horses,” Sarah goes on to say. “She was able to brief us all on our allocated horse before setting off. By the end of the week we all understood the personalities of each other’s and agreed we’d been perfectly matched. The riding challenged us all in different ways with long canters along mountain tracks, steep inclines/declines, narrow mountain paths, and a good number of hours per day in the saddle. We each finished the week having learned something from our horses. If I didn’t have a flight home booked I might have stayed forever! “
If a week is too long however, why not do what Amanda Volkmer did and book onto the Poqueira Sierra Nevada Short Break. “This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever been able to be a part of,” she says. “I would do it again in a heart beat… Dallas and Janette were wonderful people and guides and the stables and horse were beautiful and well maintained.” What more could you want?
Going a little further afield, Costa Rica is thought of for beautiful colours, sunshine and a tropical vibe – but also, for Dawn Burdyshaw, as a haven for horse riding! “The entire holiday exceeded all expectations,” she says. “The country is amazing. Our guide, Hector, has unlimited knowledge and explained everything with great understanding and enthusiasm! Anna, our cook, produced the best food, was accommodating, friendly and took very good care of the house and guests. The horse master, Stanley, was the BEST! He was fun, witty and took us on fabulous rides! It was hard and sad to leave!”
They do say that horse riding is addictive and far more than just a hobby, and for Helena Broad a recent trip to the Azores was, in her words, life changing, and rekindled her passion for equestrianism. “Although I had chosen a learn to ride week (I was returning to riding after an 8 year absence), Christina and Steffy scheduled half day rides for me so I spent less time in the indoor school,” explains Helena. “This was exactly what I needed! Christina and her team spent a great deal of time and thought matching riders with mounts. They took into account what I’d asked for when I filled out my rider profile form, and after seeing me ride, they challenged me a little more each day. It was a privilege to see horses so well cared for and loved, many of them have had an unfortunate start in life and bear the physical scars but have certainly fallen on their hooves living at the Quinta!” “São Miguel Island has some fabulous scenery, and the ride leaders always checked that the riders were happy,” Helena says. “Steffy happily chatted away about the flora and fauna, and told us about life on the island. I was in a fairly advanced group and we had some fantastic canters and gallops, particularly next to Sete Citidades. The meals were fantastic and always ready on time, and you must take the time to give Vivaldi an apple or pear in the evening. I am so pleased I chose this holiday, I had a fantastic time and it has reignited my passion for horses. I will return to Quinta da Terca.”
For a trip that is as spectacular out of the saddle as it is in the saddle, then Suzanne Segerstrom recommends Castellare di Tonda in Italy. “Riding through the Tuscan landscape is so beautiful, it’s almost surreal,” she explains. “Jess and Matteo made sure that we had an amazing experience both in and out of the saddle – they took great care of us out riding, but on days we were rained out, they were our tour guides to experience other sides of Tuscany. Long views across valleys and long canters across a field or up a road will feed your soul and the food was so good that my trousers don’t fit anymore”.
And last but by no means least, the Balkan Rides in Bulgaria is a ride that was introduced to us in 2013 and has proven to be an insightful adventure, as Eleanor Green explains. “I loved my horse, who was forward going but easy to stop and didn’t pull,” she says. “The horses are mostly Arabs and Shagya Arabs and all seemed capable and happy. They are pretty tough animals and are very used to being tethered at night or during lunch breaks. There is quite a lot of cantering so you do need to be a confident rider and the terrain is a mix of open fields, woods and heath/scrubland. You ride through some pretty dense undergrowth so long sleeves and chaps are a good idea! It is rural Bulgaria so the food is rustic, it’s not haute cuisine and the service is pretty informal (and slow on occasions) but portions are large and as a vegetarian, I had no problems. Bulgarians love cheese and it is in everything so it helps if you like cheese! Each day had some non-riding activities, visiting caves, monastery, preserved villages and craft centres, Veliko Tarnovo and the waterfalls so it is a good holiday if you are interested in the region and want to learn more about the country as well as riding. The countryside appears to have been almost completely depopulated with lots of abandoned and neglected land and villages which was a bit sad to see, but it does need make for good riding! You need to be fairly laid back and accept that rural Eastern Europe is in a time warp in terms of some elements!”