Frequently Asked Questions
How good a rider do I need to be?
There are holidays for all levels of rider. The key thing is to be frank and open about your fitness and level of experience when talking to your tour operator or the riding centre. If you are concerned that your riding is a bit rusty or your fitness is not quite what it was then it’s probably better to book a centre based holiday rather than a trail ride. Then you can always reduce the amount of riding if you are finding it too much.
How do I know the horses will be up to the task?
Talk to a travel company that has visited the ride and check the online feedback. One of the benefits of booking through a travel company is that you will have some redress if the holiday is not as advertised. If booking direct look for the Riding Holidays Quality Mark.
The Quality Mark is an international accreditation scheme that sets standards and instils a culture of best practice amongst riding holiday providers. The mark is obtained by completion of an annual self-assessment questionnaire that covers all aspects of the holiday including:
Can I go on my own?
On the vast majority of riding holidays you can book as a single. Partners and spouses may not share your enthusiasm for riding and it’s common for people to book on their own. This may be preferable to coercing an unwilling participant. On many riding holidays there is no supplement if you are prepared to share accommodation, particularly on trail rides where you are going to fairly inaccessible places accommodation is limited so single rooms may not be possible.
How many riders will there be in the group?
A typical group size on a riding holiday is about eight, although groups on some holidays can be significantly more depending on the country you ride through. Where the ride is through open terrain the groups tend to be larger. You will find that some holidays, particularly trail rides where you ride to a new destination each day, will have minimum group sizes. This varies but is usually around four guests.
Guide to guest ratio is an important factor. A typical figure is around one guide per eight guests, but on some rides this can be up to 11 or 12. On many rides there will be a back-up guide who will often ride towards the rear of the group.
Do I need to wear a hard hat?
We always recommend you wear a hard hat when riding or around horses. On certain riding holidays it will be compulsory to wear a protective hat. Some riding centres will have hats you can borrow but it’s probably not a good idea to rely on this as they may not have one that fits you correctly and you don’t know whether that hat has been involved in a previous fall. There are vented lightweight endurance style hats for riding in hot countries and also wide brims that fit onto hats that will shield you from the sun.
Who else will be on the holiday?
Riding holidays have a broad appeal so there can be a wide range of ages, but most riders are likely to be in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. If there are eight people on a riding holiday you could have eight different countries represented but the nationalities you are most likely to find are British, American, German and French. On many riding holidays there are likely to be significantly more women than men.
What’s included in the holiday?
Most riding holidays include accommodation and meals. Drinks are also often included but check with the tour operator or riding centre exactly what is included. On trail rides meals may not be included on those nights where you are staying in towns, leaving you free to choose from the restaurants available. Centre based holidays at hotels may only include breakfast.
How fast will the riding be?
Even on rides for experienced riders walk is likely to be the pace you will be at for most of the time. This will be interspersed with faster riding where the terrain allows. Mountain rides will invariably be slower paced but this doesn’t mean they are suitable for beginner riders as the riding can be technically demanding.
How long will I ride for each day?
A very general answer is two to three hours in the morning and a similar time in the afternoon but there are plenty of variations. If it’s an instruction holiday where a high degree of concentration is required then you may just have one lesson a day. On expedition rides where you have to make the next overnight stop before nightfall you could be riding for eight or more hours a day. On these long rides a seat saver is a great thing to bring with you. On a typical one week holiday there will usually be a rest day for the horses midway through.
What do I need to bring with me?
The most important things are your hat and boots. Other than that the general rule is comfortable riding clothes that can be put on in layers. You should receive a suggested kit list when you book. On expedition rides most of the camping gear will be provided and you will just need to bring a sleeping bag.
How far in advance do I need to book?
Groups on riding holidays are small so popular rides can fill up quickly. It’s not unusual for rides to become full a year or more in advance, especially in high season. In contrast, if you are flexible with dates and destination then you should be able to find something at relatively short notice.
How do I know the money I pay for my holiday is secure?
Holidays are unlike most other things we purchase. You pay in advance and the item you’re buying is an experience rather than an object so there is nothing physical that you can own. They can also cost quite a lot of money. If you book through a bonded tour operator then you will be able to reclaim your money if the company ceases trading. The most common schemes in the UK are ABTA and ATOL. If you are booking directly with a riding centre then paying by credit card (not debit card) will offer you some protection.
How will I get there?
By their nature riding holidays are often in remote difficult to get to places. Most riding holidays will have designated pickup points, usually train stations or airports. There may well be a two or three hour journey from the nearest airport so transfers are scheduled to fit in with the arrival times of the most popular international flights. When you book your flights it’s important to make sure that you fit in with these transfer times – the alternative of a private taxi will be expensive.
Can I take my non riding partner?
Many centre based rides will have non-riding activities that your friend or partner can enjoy while you are out riding. There may even be activities that you can do together so you can mix these with your riding. But don’t be afraid of leaving your partner at home, if you think they may not enjoy it, see "Can I go on my own" above. Some holidays will have horses suitable for beginner riders if they want to have a go, so it can be a good introduction to riding for some – this is particularly true of ranch holidays and some horseback safaris.
Do I need special insurance?
Many standard travel insurance policies include cover for horse riding but you must check the policy to ensure that horse riding is not excluded. Some policies may require an extra premium and some may stipulate conditions such as the wearing of a hard hat. Jumping, playing polo and competing in races are often excluded from many insurance policies or may require additional premiums.
Can we go as a family?
Many riding holidays are ideal as family get-aways. Just check first with the tour operator or riding centre that they can accommodate the range of riding abilities, ages and experience. If you all want to ride together you also need to be aware that the pace will be dictated by the least experienced family member. Centre based rides generally offer the greatest flexibility with fast rides for those who need a blast and slower group rides when everyone can ride together.
What if I want to ride faster or slower than others on the holiday?
If this is important to you, you must check that this is possible when you book your holiday. In general, centre based rides can offer more flexible riding. Some holidays will split groups according to ability or they may take everyone out as one group and divide off the more experienced riders for a faster detour. Where the ride cannot be split then the guides will only be able to go at a pace that is safe for the least experienced rider in the group.
Will I be safe riding in Africa?
Injuries sustained by wild animals are extremely rare but on a horseback safari you will be riding in areas where there is potentially dangerous game, so there are risks. This is particularly true in big game areas where you might encounter lion, buffalo or elephant. Keeping a safe distance is the overriding factor. The guides will be armed or carry bull whips or bear bangers for use in an emergency. On horseback safaris it is especially important that you do not overstate your riding ability.