Horseback riding is an excellent way to get lost in nature while your travel. If you have ever imagined yourself galloping across a golden beach or climbing up a misty mountain searching for Mordor – this is your post. Guided tours are available all over the world. Most farms cater to visitors of all experience levels. One thing that seems to be missing in the travel blogging world are tips and tricks to turn your riding experience from night-mare (horse pun) to a rainbow unicorn. There are thousands of travelers who have never touched a horse but, sign up for treks. This is fantastic! Allow me to make your ride a little less stressful.
Who am I to give riding advice?
I grew up on the back of a horse and attribute most of my wanderlust-y ways to my experience with horses. Riding brings out this primal side and inspires me to press on for undiscovered adventure. I have trained in English and Western styles. My specialty is groundwork and saddle breaking young horses. Horses require a delicate balance of acting as an alpha and acting with kindness. They are herd animals and are prey in the wild. This causes their fight or flight instinct to be at the forefront of their decision-making process. You have to act as a team because there are two brains at work.
It’s my personal goal to ride in every country I visit. So far, I have taken treks in Ireland, Iceland, and Scotland. I could be doing better with my goal I must admit.
Research Your Farms
Take into consideration the length of time, the difficulty of the ride and the number of riders they accept for a typical ride. Check out the About page. Find out the experience levels of the guides. A respectable company will have complimentary reviews. Some key points to look for in reviews include: behavior of the horses, if the riders felt safe and quality of the guide. Corporate and private owners are normally required to carry some sort of liability insurance as horse riding is an inherent risk. Inquiring about insurance is reassuring but, usually not essential. Normally, the day of your ride you will be required to fill in a liability waiver. Be sure to answer the waiver truthfully.
Wear a Helmet
For the love of the equine gods wear a damn helmet. I don’t care if it ruins your hair and I know it makes you look like a mushroom head. Take advice from the girl who was wearing a helmet and still had her brain scrambled in a freak accident. Ride enough, you will experience the premature dismount. Don’t let your trek in the Italian country side end in disaster. If the farm doesn’t offer you the use of a helmet you are under no obligation to ride. You may want to look for different accommodations. Wear a damn helmet!
What to Wear?
As far as tops go it really doesn’t matter. Take into consideration temperature and weather. A loose-ish pair of jeans are typically the best for a ride. Shorts I would advise against unless you wish to experience the worst chafing of your entire life. Sport pants or yoga pants are okay, but they don’t offer much grip. It’s also important to pick the right shoes: sneakers will do, hiking boots are ideal, sandals are a no-no.
Rule #18 Limber Up
Take a minute to stretch out before you mount and after you dismount. You will thank me later. Cowboys walk all bow legged for a reason. Touch your toes, a quad stretch, maybe a runner’s lunge – anything to wake those legs up!
Shoulders, Hips, and Ankles
The secret to staying balanced and center: pretend there is a straight line from your shoulders, hips to ankles. Keeping this position will firm up your center of gravity. Inexperienced riders tend either sit too far back or too far forward which causes your legs to swing too far forward or back. Results: premature dismounting. Keep upright and centered with your shoulders square for best balancing.
Show No Fear!
The likelihood that the owner of operations would willingly pair you with a dangerous animal is slim but, you should always remember that any 1,500-pound animal is dangerous. Fear is healthy but, remember that the horse knows what it is doing. Freaking out or raising your voice is only going to make the situation worse. If you are having an issue alert the main rider in a low, calm voice. If you truly believe that your life is in danger, dismount.
Yanking on the Reins Leads to a Pissed-off Pony
Those leather pieces you hold in your hands? Those are attached to a metal bar inside your new friend’s mouth. Refrain from pretending to start a lawnmower to steer. Instead, if you wish to turn use short, slow pulls in the direction you want to go. Want to look like a pro? Press your opposite leg into your horse’s side. Viola! Steering. To stop, the normal cue is to pull back slowly on both reins at once and say Woah.
Don’t Drink and Ride or Engage in Risky Behavior
Risky behavior can include riding and taking pictures. It’s all too tempting to whip out your phone and snap some photos. Use your better judgment and disconnect from the world for an hour or two. Consider this too, it’s risky when you aren’t paying attention but, even more, risky for your phone if you drop it. Farms are not responsible for your technology if it gets ruined.
These creatures are gentle and don’t deserve to be treated badly. I swapped horror stories with owners about individuals on holiday (particularly stag parties) drinking while on a trek and hurting the animals. Be sure to listen and respect your guide – it’s their job, after all, to keep you safe! Regarding the mistreatment of any animal:
Horseback riding is my favorite thing to do when I travel. Remember to keep safe and have fun!
What is your experience with horses while traveling?