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What to Expect from an Intermediate Horse Riding Holiday

by Octavia Drughi

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Have you mastered the basics and would like to develop your horse riding skills even further? Are you craving an epic adventure on horseback, covering long distances, riding across various terrains, and visiting remote places?

An intermediate horse riding holiday can give you all of these and more. You can go trail riding and work on your technique while bonding with the horse amidst pristine nature. You can perfect your dressage skills in the arena. Or you can do both!

Never been on a horse riding vacation before? Not sure what to expect? Read on and find out what happens on a holiday for intermediate horse riders:

» If you’re still relatively new to the equine world, find out what to expect from a beginner horse riding holiday.


But first, how do you know if you’re an intermediate rider?


Image credit: Palac i Folwark Galiny

Horse riding ability is a rather vague notion. There are those who’ve been riding for years, but only on rare occasions, and are still beginners or novice riders. And there are those who’ve been competing for years yet still consider themselves intermediates.

That said, assessing your level does help when being paired with a horse, as well as when choosing the most appropriate horse riding holiday.

An intermediate rider has already taken lessons, has a solid foundation, and is confident in all the gaits. To be considered an intermediate, you should have ridden several different types of broke horses, can take care of a horse independently, and can ride a less experienced horse. You may ride in a specific discipline or more and may or may not compete.

As an intermediate rider, you have a firm grasp of the basic horsemanship skills, have a firm seat, are balanced in each gait, and can give the basic aids in the walk, trot, and canter.

You are able to withstand longer days in the saddle and can venture on longer trail rides, cover greater distances, as well as handle tougher terrains and steeper climbs/descents.

With that being said, please note that some holidays only offer either English or Western style riding. If the holiday only offers English tack and you’ve only ridden in a Western saddle and have never taken English style lessons, you might be considered a beginner.


And why opt for a horse riding holiday?


Image credit: French Riding Holidays

A horse riding holiday is a great way to experience the natural, cultural, and historical highlights of a new country or region, travel at a slow pace, venture off the beaten path, mingle with the locals, and taste traditional meals.

It’s an experience, which includes more than just lessons or trail rides. It can be a truly authentic vacation in which you’ll get to see the world from a different perspective, meet like-minded people, ride and bond with new horses, all the while improving your equine skills.

A horse riding holiday is, truly, an adventure!

While there are several types of horse riding holidays, offering different programs and styles, each of them is a package deal.

You’ll enjoy comfy accommodation, you’ll be paired with a horse, get full English or Western tack, safety equipment, and tuition or guidance. You’ll spend time in the arena or go on guided trail rides. Most of the time, you’ll get both!

Some offer daily breakfast or full-board, while others may include extra activities, such as, for example, a horse riding and yoga holiday.

Simply put, everything is taken care of, except for the flights/transportation to the destination, which are not included.

» Find out what are the different types of horse riding holidays and what you can expect from each.


What happens on an intermediate horse riding holiday?


Image credit: Venabustallen

Before the first lessons or trail rides, the instructors will assess your level, discuss your experience and your expectations, and adapt the program to your needs. For example, you might wish to improve your riding skills, learn some new dressage techniques, or simply enjoy hacking during your stay.

You’ll be paired with a responsive horse, suitable for your riding ability.

On a trail riding holiday, you’ll ride on tracks and bridle paths through natural parks and rolling countryside. Depending on the trails and your experience, you might spend up to six hours a day in the saddle, sometimes even more. Don’t worry if that’s too much for you – the programs are flexible, and you can opt for shorter rides.

If you’d like to go on a trail riding vacation but haven’t ridden in a while, some centers give you the option to ride in the arena or even get a short refresher training session before venturing off on the trail.

Some holidays only offer trail riding, without any time in the arena. In this case, there will be no lessons, although the instructors will give tips and feedback as you ride along the trails.

You may choose to focus solely on dressage. Some programs include a short trail ride in the morning (usually one to three hours) and hold lessons in the arena in the afternoon.

Most horse riding holidays are center-based. This means that you’ll be staying at an equestrian center with comfortable accommodation and ride in the arena or on the trails in its vicinity. But you can also opt to embark on point to point trails, in which you’ll travel on horseback from point A to point B, spending each night in a different location. You can even choose to travel with pack horses and camp under the stars along the way.


What will you learn?


If you’re past the beginner/novice level and have mastered the fundamentals of horse riding, it’s time to fill in the blanks and take your riding skills to the next level. It’s not imperative to ride only in the arena in order to perfect your technique. You can do so on a trail riding holiday too.

You’ll learn more advanced techniques to stop and steer the horse, develop an independent seat, and become more confident in all the gaits by practicing on different terrains and through efficient training in the arena. Here’s what you’ll delve into:


Master the riding aids


As a beginner or novice rider, you learned to use your seat, hands, and legs to give simple cues to the horse in order to steer and change gaits.

As an intermediate, you’ll learn how to use the aids together, effectively coordinating them when changing gaits, rhythm, or direction, as well as when transitioning between gaits and performing certain movements.


Practice the smooth transition between gaits

If you’re confident and well-balanced in the walk, trot, and canter, it’s time to learn to transition between gaits smoothly. For this, you’ll practice using the aids to execute upward (to a faster gait) and downward (to a slower gait) transitions.

If you’re interested in dressage, you’ll also learn to transition between the different types of gaits: the medium, free, collected, and extended walk; the working, medium, lengthened, and extended trot and canter.


Learn the half-halt


Progress from the simple stop and steering aids and learn to perform the half-halt, one of the building blocks of riding. Just as its name suggests, this is not a full halt. A well-executed half-halt re-balances the horse for a change of pace or direction.

The half-halt is used to put the horse on the bit, change gaits, adjust the riding speed or length of stride, as well as for dressage movements. Its execution differs between gaits and also depends on the rider’s physical stature.


Develop an independent seat

Developing an independent seat is of utmost importance if you wish to improve your riding and learn more advanced movements. You’ll practice moving each body part independently and balance over the horse’s center of gravity without tilting or gripping.

If the holiday you choose also includes time in the arena, you might get to practice having an independent seat by riding without reins and stirrups.


Ride in proper circles and other figures


If the holiday includes time in the arena, you might practice riding in a proper 20-meter circle, starting in a trot and then progressing to a canter. The smaller the circle, the more the horse will have to bend.

Riding in a circle, serpentine, or figure-eight is not only beneficial for the horse’s training but also a great practice for steering correctly and developing an independent seat. These training concepts are the foundations for advanced riding skills.

*Cover image credit: Venabustallen

Ready for an epic adventure? Go off-the-beaten-path on an unforgettable trail riding holiday!

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