A Guide To Horseback Riding Adventures Abroad
Horseback riding has been the way of transportation for millions of people for thousands of years. Why not keep humanity’s traditional alive while embarking on your next adventure abroad? Whether it’s going on a horseback safari in Africa or living the nomadic herder’s life in Mongolia, horseback riding is a great way to see the landscape of the country, explore its culture, and make a hooved friend or two. Put on some cowboy boots, throw on a straw hat, stick a bandana in your pocket, and release your horses!
Horses and adventures can be found on every continent, but temperaments and temperatures are not the same throughout the world. First, pick between deserts, rainforests, and savannahs, then pack accordingly and trot off to meet your new adventure companion.
Zimbabwe. A sanctuary to Africa’s Big Five animals, Zimbabwe offers travelers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel through a landlocked country that is home to some of the most fascinating and rare animals on Earth. There are several ways to horseback ride through Zimbabwe, but one of the most interesting is to sign up for a horseback riding internships or safari (or gallop) through one of the national parks.
Australia. A continent of its own, Australia features amazing wildlife and natural landscapes. Whether it’s riding with a herd of kangaroos or trekking out to Ayer’s Rock, Australia is one of the top places to go horseback riding abroad. With a strong tradition of cattle herding in the Outback, travelers have a lot of opportunities to not only trek via horseback into the hinterland, but also to work on ranches with local Australians. Smother on some sunblock and make your way down under!
Nepal. Have you ever heard of the “ceiling of the world”; mountains so high it feels almost as if they’re reaching into space? Welcome to Nepal. One of the best ways to trek through the towering Himalayas is via horseback. The highest mountains are only accessible by foot or helicopter, but there’s plenty of other guided treks through wilderness, traditional communities, and tucked-away temples to clop through.
Mongolia. Not only Genghis Khan can have fun galloping through Mongolia. Whether you start you horseback riding tour in the iconic steppes of the east, the Gobi desert of the south, or the wildflower-packed fields and forests of the north, Mongolian hospitality will keep your tummy full and your face smiling.
There are a lot of horseback riding opportunities out there for the adventurous, equestrian-minded traveler. Most horseback riding adventures involve multi-day trips that include camping in simple accommodations, so be prepared for an outdoorsy adventure like in the Old Wild West.
Trekking. If you’re looking to adventure travel in order to see the most in terms of quantity scenery and landscape, trekking is the right choice. A few highlights from around the world include watching northern lights of Iceland, mountain trekking through Kyrgyzstan, navigating the jungles of Costa Rica, and galloping over white-sanded beaches of Brazil. No matter where you go, there’s a herd of horses waiting for you. Options range from short-and-sweet day trips to week-long trips that have riders sleeping under the stars, so check program duration and routes carefully.
Ranch Work. Volunteering or getting a temporary job on a ranch abroad allows travelers to really get to know not only their horse, but also the locals and their culture. In terms of immersion, there’s probably not a better way to do so. You can find ranch opportunities in countries that have a strong tradition of herding, such as Argentina and Brazil. Those who choose to do this should come prepared for long work days filled with hard work. It’s worth it though, and not just for the sexy tan.
Training. There are a lot of opportunities out there for equestrians who simply want to take lessons and better their skills in horseback riding. From Africa to South America, riders can find ranches and organizations that are more than willing to give lessons to polish the skills of racers or jumpers from beginners to the most advanced. These are among the most expensive types of horseback riding tours abroad, so be sure to research the price adequately.
The most important thing to keep in mind when doing any kind of traveling is to stay flexible and patient. Horseback riding adventures follow the same principles, so we’ll outline some basic tips:
Don’t expect to do things the same way you did back home. Just like working or cooking abroad, horseback riding overseas comes with different methods and practices. Some ride English, some ride Western. Some ride with a saddle, some don’t. So, even if you’ve been riding since you were three years old, be sure to stay flexible and patient with not only your horse, but your trainer as well (whether that’s a guide, a local ranch hand, or Lucky Luke). Even if you don’t agree with the techniques, you’ll learn something new!
Bring your own gear at your own risk. It might be nice to bring some of your own riding gear, such as comfortable boots or a helmet. However, bringing bigger gear, such as a saddle, might not be used abroad or go over well with the local organization, unless they specifically ask for it. Be sure to research and ask questions before spending big money on transporting your own gear abroad. There are always rental options, and you can use that money on paying for longer trips or more adventures.
Respect the role horses play in local culture. While no one should sign up with a company that doesn’t treat their horses properly (there’s a difference between abuse and lack of organic horse-feed), if your primary concern is animal rights and fighting animal cruelty or abuse, really do your research (maybe even consider an animal conservation program). Different cultures throughout the world have different traditions and relationships with their animals; not always are horses there just for gentle pasture jumping and fancy parades.
No Sore Feet. Horseback riding adventures on treks can let you see more of the landscape in a less amount of time, without having to walk the whole way. You might get some sore thighs, but that’ll go away after the first couple of days and takes faster to heal than blistered toes. As a thank you for your ride, pack some apples or sugar cubes as you sit back and enjoy the relaxing view.
Unexpected Costs. If not riding with a big company or one that is very well-organized, sometimes riders can run into unexpected costs, such as repair of riding gear or feed for the horses. The best way to avoid these challenges is to ask the organization beforehand what travelers have to cover on the road. Another friendly reminder: always save some money for a tip! Guides are usually paid minimum rates, with most of the program fees going to the organization, horses, and managers. If you learned something interesting, saw something beautiful, and had a good conversation, leave a few extra coins upon parting.
Horseback riding tours show natural landscapes not accessible by roads, expands horse vocabulary, and provides travel by one the most timeless and romantic transportation methods in mankind’s history (certainly beats crowded buses and smelly ferries, no?). Reign in your resources, jump over any mental hurdles you may have, round up your adventure plans, and trot into this wild rodeo abroad.