There’s nothing quite like sauntering through the wilderness on horseback, at one with the animal below you and the world around you. Dependent on your riding experience, you can descend mountains, join a cattle round-up or canter along a deserted beach. The options are limitless.
Whether you’re getting in the saddle for the first time, or are ready to take your skills to the next level, do get some practice in first – your legs and posterior will thank you!
Indulge your cowboy/girl fantasies. Western riding is perfect for everyone, not least because the huge saddles keep you very secure. Beginners find it much more comfortable too, and – lets face it – we all look cool in a Stetson. Stay on an authentic ranch, whether in Montana, Wyoming or the deserts of the south-west, and you can round up cattle, learn to lasso, or simply relax on a trail ride.
Can't choose between going on a ranching holiday or going on a riding safari? Well, how about combining both? Horizon Horseback is based on the Triple B Ranch in the malaria-free Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, South Africa. This is an unspoilt part of the country but just two or three hours north of Johannesburg. All standards of rider, from complete beginners upwards, are catered for, and horsey activities on offer include horse-back safaris, polocrosse, western games, cattle mustering and swimming with your horse.
Icelandic horses (Dreamstime)
The best way to explore the Land of Fire and Ice is by doing it the way the locals have for centuries: by horseback. The purebred horses here were brought by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago and are small (but never call them a pony!), tough and a lot of fun. Uniquely they also have a fourth gait known as the tolt, which is incredibly fast and comfortable. Trot through the rugged lunar landscapes, past volcanoes and glaciers, in search of trolls. Or visit in autumn to join the great sheep and horse round-ups.
Riding is ingrained in Spanish culture, and there are few finer sights than a noble Andalucian stallion prancing proudly along. These are the horses of many a child's dreams, beautiful and brave, with flowing manes and tails. You'll find yourself sitting straight-backed and haughty, like the Spanish caballeros, as you explore the wild sierras, rugged coast or pine forests of southern Spain.
Riding along the Salkantay Trail (Simon Chubb)
Trekking the Inca Trail is so last year. For a very different experience, ride a sure-footed steed in the Inca's footsteps, along narrow mountain paths, over the Salkantay Pass and along the route towards Machu Picchu (transfer the last section by train). At night you stay in luxurious lodges, soaking away your aches and pains in an outdoor jacuzzi or a sauna, before a fine meal. The horses are keen but well-trained Quarter horses. Note: although the horse is taking the strain, you will still need to be reasonably fit (and confident in the saddle), but this will be an experience to remember.
Small but perfectly formed, Macedonia is mountainous and untramelled, begging to be explored by horseback. Beautiful Mavrovo National Park is home to bears, wolves and lynx, as well as a great horseriding company. Horseman Vasko Velisovski is brilliant at matching riders with the right horse for them, most of which are kind and tough, and equipped with comfy Western saddles. The terrain is a mix of forest paths and high meadows, and you're guaranteed a lot of fun.
The ultimate riding experience is a safari with a difference. The Okavango Delta has carved out a reputation for exhilarating riding adventures. One of the joys of being on horseback is that you can get closer to wildlife, meaning that on a riding safari you can approach giraffes, canter alongside zebras and track elephants. But, given the critters you might meet (including lions) you really do need to be an experienced rider so You're capable – if need be - of galloping out of danger! After a day splashing through the Delta’s waterways, and cantering across open plains you relax with a sundowner in luxury bush-camps.
Wanderlust's Lyn Hughes has ridden in over 50 countries around the world. Despite this (and owning her own horse) her riding hasn't improved. But she does believe that if she can do it, anyone can.
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