If you yearn to explore the world on horseback, then check out these fabulous equestrian holidays. They’re for intermediate to experienced riders only and don’t come cheap — but talk about the holiday of a lifetime! Are you ready for an adventure?
Argentina is world-famous for polo; all the living 10-goal players in the world are Argentinian (apart from David Stirling, who was born in Uruguay — although he plays for Argentina, too). So, if you want to learn this glorious game, or improve your polo skills, there’s really only one place to go, isn’t there? Available through In The Saddle, Estantros Los Potrestos offers five or seven night Learn to Play Polo holidays, or Polo Weeks for the more experienced player. Guests stay, full board, on a 6,500-acre working cattle estancia and stud farm that dates back to 1573 and has been owned by the same Anglo-Argentinian family for four generations. With a herd of 80 riding horses to choose from, you’re sure to find your perfect partner. The estancia is set amidst rolling, grass-covered hills through which wild boar and deer roam, and you can hack out and enjoy the stunning scenery, or herd cattle with the gauchos, when not polishing your polo skills. Or take a dip in the pool, try some of the local wine, or hang out in a hammock with a book — the choice is yours.
Costs: From £2,149
Visit: In The Saddle
From snow-capped mountains and blue glaciers to thermal pools and fiery volcanos, Iceland has some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet — and there’s no better way to see this stunning land of ice and fire than from horseback. Icelandic horses are thought to descend from horses brought to this region by the Vikings. They have a legendary fourth gait, the tolt, which is like a running walk and helps these hardy little horses cover great distances — which of course makes them perfect hacking ponies. Not for the faint-hearted, Unicorn Trails offers a fabulous glacier trail through the heart of Iceland, taking in extinct volcanoes and wild glacial rivers — all accompanied by a herd of loose horses that run with the group. You’ll be expected to change your mount at least once a day, and the whole group stays in wooden cabins in the hills — so if you’re addicted to your creature comforts, this may not be the ride for you. If on the other hand you’re addicted to adventure, it definitely is…
Cost: From £1,845
Visit: Unicorn Trails
A Khan-do attitude
It’s said that “A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without wings.” Legendary warrior Genghis Khan conquered the world with his mounted army — and centuries on, horses are still central to Mongolian culture. Indeed, their population of three million horses outnumbers their human population. Mongolia itself is breathtaking, and a nine-day pony trek through the Orkhan Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site, takes you up rocky mountains, across vast expanses of open steppe and into the Gobi desert. You’ll visit the ancient ruins of Genghis Khan’s capital Kharkorin, bathe in hot springs, and mingle with the nomads who freely graze their herds of yaks and horses. The tour starts and ends in the city of Ulan Bator, and there are plenty of opportunities to explore before you head off into the wilderness with your team of guides. Accommodation is mainly camping; some of the camps are permanent, and more like “glamping” in yurts, however, you’ll be staying in a good old portable tent for some of your stay. All the food is catered by the guides. If you’ve ever considered doing the Mongol Derby, this would be a good starting point. Just be warned that if you try the national alcoholic drink, airag — it’s fermented mare’s milk.
Cost: From €1,490 (approx. £1,270), not including flights
Visit: Mongolia Trips
Life’s a beach
If your idea of the perfect ride is galloping down a pristine golden beach, with the wind in your hair and the gentle lapping of the waves in the background, then the Surf and Turf Wild Coast Ride in South Africa is literally your dream come true. The Wild Coast is one of South Africa’s most unspoilt shorelines, stretching from East London to Port Edward and boasting mile upon mile of untouched golden sand. You’ll also see loads of shipwrecks. Accommodation is at two lovely beach hotels, with the final two nights spent at the Miarestate Hotel & Spa, a luxury boutique hotel set on a private game reserve. There are no dangerous animals here, but you can explore the estate by horseback, looking out for antelope, zebras and giraffes. Afterwards, a soak in the spa should ease your aching bones. Bliss!
Cost: From £1,842
Visit: African Horse Safaris
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If you love Arab horses, then you’ll understand the thrill of riding them in their native environment. Jordan boasts some truly extraordinary desert scenery, as well as the rose-red ancient city of Petra, which is thought to date back to the fourth century BC and was home to a civilisation known as the Nabateans. Carved into the face of the valley wall, Petra is known as one of New Seven Wonders Of The World. Ride World Wide offers eight or nine day rides from Petra to the Wadi Rum — the Valley of the Moon, as it’s known in Arabic. Home to Bedoin tribes, who’ve been climbing these spectacular sandstone cliffs for centuries, this is where the classic film Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, as well as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — and it’s a wonderful place for long canters. The horses are mainly pure Arabs, originated from Jordan or Syria, averaging about 15hh to 15.2hh. You’ll stay in three-star hotels at Petra and Amman (with an option to upgrade to five-star if it’s opulence you’re after), but the rest of the trip is spent camping under the stars in simple tents. Don’t worry though – your backup team includes a cook.
Cost: From $1,590 (approx. £1,500)
Visit: Ride Worldwide