Horseback riding is one of the world's most exciting activities, as well as being one of the best ways to explore new countries and landscapes -- as the popularity of horseback riding vacations worldwide clearly shows. Taking a horseback riding tour is an excellent way of learning new skills while getting close to nature in some of the most beautiful places on earth.
Regardless of your level of skill or experience, there's a horseback riding trip somewhere in the world that's right for you. If you're new to riding, you can find beginner-friendly tours that will teach you to walk and trot in an equestrian ring or on easy trails. If you're an experienced rider, you can take your skills to the next level with lessons in dressage and jumping, or just experience the exhilaration of trail rides in fantastic new environments. Galloping across the pampas in Argentina, or feeling the Pacific breeze while trotting along a coastal trail in Oregon...there's no greater feeling of freedom!
Where To Go
Chile features incredible opportunities for horseback riding tours in a variety of landscapes. Ride out into the Andes mountains for a multi-day riding and camping adventure, or spend a simple afternoon cantering around the countryside outside of Santiago. You can even go riding among the Patagonian glaciers! The best time to visit Chilean Patagonia is the period from October to March (South American summer). Santiago and northern Chile are accessible year-round.
Argentina is a wonderful place to take horseback riding vacations that let you experience the history and culture of the Argentine gauchos, or cowboys. Stay at an authentic estancia ranch, gallop across the pampas, ride among the glaciers, and experience the dramatic scenery of Tierra del Fuego at the edge of the world. The best times to visit Argentina are spring (September to November) and summer (December through February).
There’s no place quite like England for a horseback riding trip. Explore the beach trails in Devon, learn Dressage at a premier riding school in Chester, or imagine that you’ve joined Robin Hood’s band of Merry Men as you ride through Sherwood Forest. Late spring through early autumn (April through September) is the best time to visit England.
The United States features numerous opportunities for horseback riding vacations with both “Western” and “English” styles of horseback riding; riders with an interest in taking a horseback riding vacation will be familiar with the variations between these styles. Canter along the beaches of California or Oregon, try mustering cattle at a working ranch in Montana, or discover formal riding at the Classical Dressage School in Massachusetts. Because the United States is a huge country, the best time of year to visit depends a lot on where you'd like to go. In New England and much of the Midwest, April through October is the best time to visit. In the southern states, temperatures are best from September to May, and in California and the Pacific Northwest the weather is fairly temperate all year.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look for in a Horseback Riding Tour
To find your ideal horseback riding tour, you should consider several factors. First, which region of the world calls to you? Second, what style of riding (Western or English) do you prefer? The answers to these two questions alone will narrow down your search.
As you choose a specific trip, you should look for experienced instructors or guides. Particularly on long distance trail rides, the competence of your guide is paramount. In addition, it’s critically important to choose a tour that prioritizes the welfare of its animals. Make sure that the horses are healthy and well cared for, looking at both the tour materials and their online reviews to check on this.
Average Horseback Riding Tour Length & Cost
The average horseback riding retreat ranges from a single afternoon as part of a multi-activity tour to multiple days, and can vary widely in price depending on duration and location. For example, an afternoon group trail ride will be significantly less expensive than a multi-day excursion with luxury amenities. For a weeklong riding trip, you can expect to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
For a horseback riding retreat, you’ll want to have as many sets of riding clothes as you have days on your retreat, as well as your favorite pair of riding boots. You may wish to bring your own riding helmet as well. Most riding holidays will provide saddles, bridles, and other necessary tack.
As with any other type of international tour, make sure that your passport and immunizations are up to date. For horseback riding tours in particular, make sure that riding is listed as a covered activity in your travel insurance policy.
Qualification & Training
If you’re taking a horseback riding tour, you should probably have some basic riding experience (though there are certainly riding trips that can accommodate beginners). If you’re planning a multi-day riding tour in a potentially challenging natural environment like the Andes mountains, you may wish to do some extra physical training in the weeks leading up to your trip to prepare. Also be conscientious about the impact of altitude on your energy and wellness.
Horseback riding carries the risk potential of any sporting activity, and riding accidents, though rare, can cause serious injuries. Risks can be mitigated by paying attention to your guide, ensuring that all your equipment is in good condition, and following all safety instructions.
In addition to following the instructions of your guide, you should also pay attention to your horse. Particularly on a trail ride, you’ll want to take your horse at a walking pace for a while before urging them into faster gaits. You should also keep an eye on the terrain in case of uneven or rocky ground that can cause your horse to stumble.