In the market for a horsey getaway, but the idea of a gentle trek doesn’t appeal? If an adrenaline rush is what you’re after, try a fast-paced trail ride such as the Catalonia Extreme Trail.
After surviving four days of intense riding at speed, over variable terrain including endless deserted beaches, wooded paths and rolling farmland — plus a whirl round a race track — Polly Bryan shares her top tips for embarking on a hardcore riding holiday…
1. Make sure you’re fit enough – if you ride every day at home, it can be easy to assume that you’ll cope easily with a riding holiday. But being in the saddle for up to seven hours a day, with long periods spent at speed, might come as a shock to the system to the average rider. Put the effort in ahead of your trip to increase your cardio fitness and core strength and, if you don’t ride frequently, consider upping the hours you spend in the saddle in the weeks leading up to your holiday. But no matter how fit you may be, don’t forget to pack muscle rub!
2. Be honest about your riding ability and requirements during the introductions on your trip, to make sure you’re matched with a suitable horse. Also, be honest with yourself about the sort of horse you would like to be paired with — it’s all very well enjoying high-spirited horses at home, but after several hours in the saddle you will definitely prefer something more chilled out.
3. Try to learn a little of the language of the country you are visiting – even if only to be able to thank your hosts, or order a post-ride beer! A little bit of effort goes a long way.
4. Be prepared to get stuck in with jobs such as grooming, tacking up and feeding the horses if required.
5. Remain open-minded, and aware of the fact that horse management and riding do vary across countries. As long as the horses and riders remain safe, happy and comfortable, respect the instructions and opinions of your host and guides, even if some things are not done in quite the same way as you would expect at home.
6. Choose your riding clothes appropriately. Make sure your riding boots are comfortable and sturdy enough to walk in, should you be required to dismount and lead your horse at any point (such as when a fallen tree blocks your path). Choose comfortable jodphurs or breeches with a pocket for easy access to a phone, and opt for breathable, long sleeved base layers to keep you at a comfortable temperature throughout the day, and to protect your from scratches while riding through woodland or down narrow tracks.
7. Take a good, robust camera, preferably one that you can attach securely to a belt or similar to allow easy access when faced with a spectacular view. Action cameras, such as GoPro, are a good choice as they are designed to be used on the move.
The four-night Catalonia Extreme Trail ride runs from March to November in 2018. It costs from £735 when booked with Unicorn Trails (excluding flights and transfers). Visit unicorntrails.com
Don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound magazine for our travel special — including the ultimate horsey haven near London, and find out where you can go Western riding without leaving the UK