You’ve slaved for years at school, you’ve finally completed your A-Levels and you’ve decided to reward yourself with a gap year before starting university. But what to do? If you love horses, here’s just a few ways you could give your gap year an equestrian theme. Pack your bags, grab your passport, let’s go…

1. Learn to play polo

Polo Valley has an eight-week residential polo induction programme in Sotogrande, Spain, which allows you to fully immerse yourself in the game, no matter what your experience. There are 50 ponies to suit all riders, great facilities and a team of professional trainers on hand. Students will experience a varied mix of practical outdoor training and theoretical classroom learning, ultimately studying for the Hurlingham Polo Association rules test certificate. On the farm you’ll have riding and polo lessons, be trained in horse care, stable management, tack and tack management and working with and breaking in young horses. Practical sessions comprise two thirds of the course material. In the classroom you’ll learn horse management, care and health, the rules and history of polo, first aid training and certification, leisure, tourism and guest relations and basic Spanish. Classroom sessions are two hours long, three days a week. Students are housed in the Polo Valley guesthouse located at the heart of the Polo Valley ranch and experience all aspects of life living on a working polo farm. Sharing a comfortable twin room, breakfast will be provided seven days per week, with lunch and dinner provided six days per week. Guesthouse highlights include spacious and comfortable communal areas and a large private swimming pool. This course, which runs from 12 January-9 March 2019, costs £8,500 plus VAT with equipment provided.
Visit: www.polovalley.co.uk

2. South African coast working rider

This trip gives you the opportunity to work and ride with horses all day for four weeks or more on the South African coast for a riding holiday company. Riders should have a good foundation in flat work schooling and be able to ride and work a horse in the correct outline. You get to participate in and be part of the general care of the horses (but with no mucking out as all horses live out!), round pen and ground work, exercise and schooling of horses and the chance to assist on rides and trails in Kei Mouth and Morgan Bay. A normal day is from 8am to 5 pm with an hour for lunch. You spend time caring, working, schooling and exercising horses at the beach paddocks in Kei Mouth.
Visit: www.wildcoasthorsebackadventures.com/

3. Learn how to work on a ranch in Australia

This five-day course in Australia will teach you all the skills you need to live and work on a ranch, from tractor and quad bike driving, to cattle mustering, fencing and horse riding, all making sure you stand out to prospective employers. At the end of your time on the ranch you’ll even be given assistance getting a farm job.
Visit: www.bunac.org

4. Learn about horseracing in Zimbabwe

This course in Zimbabwe aims to develop your horseracing skills to the fullest. Not only will you learn about horse racing, you will also learn what it is like to manage and maintain a racing stable. Days will be varied as you work on a number of aspects that will contribute to your goal of becoming a competent jockey with knowledge of proper animal care. You will undertake chores such as feeding, grooming and exercising the racehorses as well as maintaining the racing yard and assisting at races. Two-, three- and four-week courses are available.
Visit: www.frontier.ac.uk

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5. Teaching riding in the USA

Why not share your equestrian knowledge with children at an American summer camp? You could be teaching skills and giving lessons for several hours a day, usually in hour-long periods, generally in addition to caring for the horses. Riding programmes vary greatly from camp to camp and may consist of simply teaching, some horse care and ring work, or of more advanced lessons plus trail rides. Having equestrian qualifications will really strengthen your application. These include the Pony Club B or C test and BHS qualifications, or the UKCC equivalent, ranging from the groom’s certificate in horse knowledge and care to BHS assistant instructor level one.
Visit: www.bunac.org

6. Become a cowboy/girl in Canada

Live and work on a farm in the spectacular Canadian countryside. Help out around a family farm in exchange for room and board, and enjoy an authentic experience no horseback. Farms are located all across Canada, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, French-speaking Quebec or Atlantic Canada and trips run between two and four weeks.
Visit: www.gap360.com

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