Planning your equestrian vacation

A riding vacation doesn’t have to be a far-off dream – get started on planning your trip with these tips from the pros!

Many of us dream of a vacation in a warm and exotic locale, complete with beautiful horses to ride across sandy beaches and breath-taking terrains. While such a vacation may sound exclusive and difficult to plan, it doesn’t have to be! Let’s take a look at some of the things you’ll need to consider, and tips to get you started.

 What is your riding ability?

Determining your riding ability and how much riding you actually want to do on your trip will be one of the most important things to think about. No one wants to be miserable in the saddle for days on end. Remember that vacations based in one location give you the opportunity to have a day off if you need it, whereas point-to-point trail rides mean you need to keep going. Some of the more adventurous trails may require you to walk beside your horse for portions of the ride, or you may be riding at altitude, which can affect stamina. Be sure to check if help is available to mount and dismount, if you need it.

The pace of the ride can often be deduced from the number of miles you’ll be expected to cover in a day – the longer the ride, the more reasonable the pace (generally). If you can, try to speak with someone who has gone on the same riding vacations you’re considering, and read as many reviews as possible to gauge the actual challenge.

Riding style and horses

Any reputable riding vacation should have good, well-schooled horses available. The discipline you are accustomed to may also affect your decision when determining which vacation to choose. You probably don’t want to switch things up too much on vacation – trying to ride in an unusual saddle for hours at a time each day will only make you sore! Western riders often have a hard time adapting to English tack — vice versa is much easier. The Latin American gaucho styles are very similar to western.

Consider if you would like to ride a certain type or size of horse – for example, many people dream of riding Andalusians, Quarter Horses, or even a gaited horse. Local breeds are most frequently utilized, as they are best adapted to local conditions.

Accommodation level

Check to see if you will be camping or staying in guesthouses/hotels. When choosing a vacation, there is usually a full range of accommodations available, from five stars to basic, in both camping and hotels — there is no need to go without a hot shower at night! Ask what sort of bathroom facilities will be available (including while on rides), and whether you will be moving accommodations each day or staying put. If you are doing a point-to-point ride with long hours you will not spend as much time in your accommodation, and requirements can often be dialled down a notch. If you are staying put at one location and just riding a bit each day, you may want your accommodations to have more amenities.

When and where to go?

There are so many destinations to choose from for riding vacations that it can be hard to pick one! To help narrow it down, consider the time you have available. Destinations with easy flight connections near your home are ideal if you only have a short time.

Generally speaking, Europe is at its best in the summer, with a shorter season in the middle of summer for Scandinavia and Iceland. Some parts of the Mediterranean are very hot in July and August. Safaris in southern Africa are at their best from May to September, with dry, sunny days and cold nights. Kenya has rains in April but makes for a good Christmas vacation destination.

In South America (Chile and Argentina), the best season is from October to April as it is too cold the rest of the year. Peru has a rainy season from December to April, the opposite of Mexico, which is at its best from October to April.

Working cattle ranches in North America do the majority of their cattle work in the spring and autumn, with northern mountain destinations like Canada and Montana being best in the summer. Southern states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are at their best in winter. It can be complicated to figure out optimum travel times for parts of the world you are unfamiliar with, so make sure you get good advice to ensure the experience you want is available when you go!

Travel companions

If you are travelling with a non-rider, consider destinations with a number of other activities or cultural sightseeing nearby. A rental car will greatly increase a non-rider’s range of possibilities. Some destinations will arrange for non-riding guests to go on hikes, jeep safaris or cycling trips that meet up with the horseback riders each evening.

Families and children typically enjoy the bonding that sharing an activity vacation brings. However, days with six or more hours in the saddle and point-to-point trail rides are usually too tiring for children under 12. Riding lessons, brief trail rides and swimming pools are more ideal for kids, as are a range of other activities onsite. Children are usually fascinated by nature and wildlife on safaris, as well as any ranching or farming activities.

With a little thought and planning, you and your travel companions can have the equestrian vacation you have always dreamed of!

This article is brought to you by Unicorn Trails, who give impartial advice on a large range of quality horseback vacations worldwide.


Wendy Hofstee is a veterinarian who became obsessed with travel on horseback after spending 5 months riding across Ecuador in 1996 with two friends. In 1998 she founded Unicorn Trails, a company dedicated to bringing riding experiences to as many people as possible worldwide. Unicorn Trails is now one of the largest equestrian vacation specialists worldwide and have a dedicated team who give impartial advice on a large range of quality horseback vacations worldwide.