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What to Expect on a Trail Riding Holiday?

by Octavia Drughi

The go-to resource for planning your horse riding holidays. Find all you need to know about the top destinations and take your riding skills to new heights.
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Horse riding is a very broad term. It can include a variety of activities, from a short leisurely walk in the rolling countryside to dressage and competitive riding.

If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway in which you can connect with nature and the horse, all the while spending quality time with your family or friends, then trail riding might be just what you need.

A trail riding holiday is an excellent way to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life, explore your surroundings, or discover a new country. Not only will you unwind amongst nature, but also visit remote villages, medieval towns, castles, and monasteries. You’ll learn more about a place’s traditions and wildlife, taste authentic foods, and mingle with the locals while building confidence in the saddle and improving your riding skills.

Trail riding may be one of the most popular equestrian activities, but there’s still confusion about what it actually entails. In this article, we will explain what it is and what happens on a trail riding holiday.

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


What is trail riding?


Image credit: Venabustallen

Just as the name suggests, trail riding implies riding a horse along a trail. This can be anything from an outdoor trail or cattle track to a bridle path or forest road. Trail riding is not practiced on public roads used by motorized vehicles. That said, sometimes you may need to ride alongside sections of such roads in order to access the trails.

You can choose to ride through a wide variety of terrains, from wide plains, vast agricultural lands, and open meadows to rolling hills, woods, mountains, coasts, and even on the beach.

There are equestrian trails for all levels of riders, from beginners to advanced. They vary in length and difficulty and can take anywhere from an hour to several days to complete. You can choose to go hacking in the countryside or venture on an epic pack trip that’s more demanding.

Most of the time, trail riding is practiced in national parks, nature reserves, or wilderness areas. In some cases, you may ride on bridle paths, also known as bridleways, which are specifically meant for equestrian activities. Although these were originally created for horse riding, walkers and cyclists are also allowed. This means that you may encounter other outdoor lovers and that you should be mindful and respectful of the other participants on the trail.


Why opt for a trail riding holiday?


Image credit: Hesta Sport

When it comes to trail riding, a trustworthy trail horse and proper planning are of utmost importance. After all, you wouldn’t want to be halfway through the route when your horse suddenly decides not to cross the river. And you wouldn’t want to underestimate the time and provisions required to complete the trip either.

On a trail riding holiday, everything is taken care of, from the accommodation to the horses, tack, and route planning.

The instructors will take care of all the planning. You’ll be paired with an experienced trail horse, with a smooth gait and comfortable to ride, suited to your abilities and weight, as well as the trail’s challenges. All you need to do is hop in the saddle and enjoy the ride!

Furthermore, it’s always safer to go trail riding with other people instead of by yourself. On an organized trail ride, each group will have a leader riding a highly experienced horse that the others will follow.

No matter your skill level, whether you’re a beginner or advanced rider, you can go on a trail riding holiday. Some holidays are tailored to a specific level of riders, be it beginners, intermediate, or advanced. Others welcome all levels.

Upon your arrival, the instructors will assess your level and adapt the program to your specific needs. Don’t worry if you are unable to ride in all the gaits. Some equestrian trails only require walking or a gentle trot and canter at most.

The trails will vary depending on your abilities. For beginners, not only will they be shorter, but they’ll also be less demanding; the terrain is more even, with fewer challenges on the way.

» Here’s what you can expect from a beginner horse riding holiday.


Types of trail riding holidays


Image credit: French Riding Holidays

First of all, trail riding holidays can differ depending on the terrain. You may opt to ride in the countryside, across vast plains and gently rolling hills that do not pose too big a challenge.

You can unwind on a refreshing beach trail riding holiday. Coastal and beach trails usually welcome all levels of riders. The difference will stand in the way you choose to ride. Beginners can engage in a gentle walk or trot; more advanced riders can canter and gallop to their heart’s content.

» Find out what are the world’s best destinations for horse riding along the beach.

Mountain trail riding holidays are usually more demanding due to the steeper terrain and frequent obstacles, but beginners and intermediate riders can find trails to suit their abilities too.


Center-based vs. point-to-point trail riding holidays

Depending on how immersive you’d like the experience to be, you can opt between a center-based or a point-to-point holiday. Let’s take a closer look at each:


Image credit: Banff Trail Riders

A center-based trail riding holiday implies staying at an equestrian center, farm, or ranch, from where you’ll go out on different trails each day throughout your stay, usually shorter. This is the most comfortable option, as you’ll be returning to the same accommodation each day.

This type of holiday is suitable for beginners and rusty riders who are unsure about their abilities and wish to take it easy. It is also great for families or groups traveling together where there may be different levels of riders.


Image credit: Banff Trail Riders

Point-to-point trails, or pack trips, imply riding from point A to point B. These usually cover longer distances, and you’ll sleep in a different location each night. These can be short two-day trips or they can be long, epic adventures such as crossing certain sections of the Alps, Andes, or the Sahara Desert on horseback, just to name a few examples.

While there are point-to-point trails that cater to all levels, these holidays are mostly recommended for intermediate and advanced riders. To add even more excitement to the pack trip, you can opt to camp under the stars alongside your horse. 

» Here’s what to expect on an intermediate horse riding holiday.


What happens on a trail riding holiday?


Image credit: Buman Tour Mongolia

Before hopping in the saddle and venturing out on the trail, you’ll prepare the horse and study the route together with your guides. Most holidays give you the chance to brush and tack up the horse, check the hooves, and study the map, all of which provide a wonderful opportunity to bond with the horse and get a grasp of how to properly plan a route.

The daily program varies between holidays. Some can also include riding lessons in the arena, horsemanship, groundwork exercises, and stable management. All of these combined will help shape you as a confident horse person.


Image credit: Andes Yoga

If you’ve never ridden a horse before, you don’t need to worry about venturing straight out on the trail. By joining a trail riding holiday for beginners, you’ll be introduced to the basics at the equestrian center. You’ll learn to groom, catch, tack up, and lead the horse. You might ride in the arena first, where you’ll practice the gaits and learn the basic techniques and riding aids.

However, some trail riding holidays only include the treks. On a point-to-point trail riding holiday, there’s usually no time in the arena and the only riding is out on the trails. You will take care of the horse yourself, from grooming and tacking to feeding and horsemanship.

On the route, you will learn to follow proper trail etiquette and will build confidence in the saddle. By riding freely on the local bridleways, sandy shores, rolling hills, or steep mountains, you’ll get a better grasp of the aids, develop an independent seat, and improve your horsemanship skills, which will ultimately help you become a better rider. 

*Cover image credit: Banff Trail Riders

Trail riding doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. You can do more of what you love by opting for budget horse riding holidays.

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