The best places to ride a horse on holiday
“This is so relaxing we could almost be on holiday.” So said my fellow novice during our riding lesson in Belfairs Woods this morning. She had a point, give or take a bit of extra bounce on the rising trot and a near miss with an excitable puppy. It got me thinking of the places I’d ridden on my travels and what it was that I’d enjoyed so much. Here are a few of my favourite excursions in the saddle.
Copan Ruinas, Honduras
Honduras’ reputation packs quite a punch, but the sleepy town of Copan Ruinas is about as far removed from the gang-related problems of San Pedro Sula as you can get, yet it’s only a short bus ride away. I did several rides while I was there, the first of which took me from Finca El Cisne, a coffee, cardamom and cattle and ranch, to the hills up by the Guatemalan border. Led by Carlos, whose folks own the ranch, the scene stealer that day wasn’t one of the horses, but instead the family Basset Hound, Chito, who happily bounded alongside us the whole way.
Utah’s spectacular scenery was always going to be memorable, so following in the footsteps of none other than John Wayne himself, we spent a pleasant morning on horseback in the hills outside Moab. We followed the well-worn trail along Castle Creek and surveyed Castle Rock under blue skies and to a cacophony of farts provided by a horse called Gus.
San Antonio de Areco, Argentina
In Argentina a few years ago, I seized upon the chance to spend the day at La Cinacina ranch a few hours from Buenos Aires. From a typical asado to folkloric dancing, every aspect of gaucho life was recreated for us, but the highlight was without a doubt the riding. We novices had a go, with varying degrees of success ranging from inelegant dismounts (most of us) to a stallion who threw his rider (an unfortunate Italian) mid-canter. We dismounted, the experts showed us how it was done as they performed carreras de sortijas where at full gallop, they speared a tiny ring with the shortest of sticks. Now that’s skilful riding if I ever saw it.
Petra is reached through a narrow, dusty fault in the rock known as the Siq, and the entrance ticket includes a transfer on horseback to its entrance. Care needs to be taken when dealing with the horsemen, who can be very persistent in their requests for a tip, and the only equine transport through the Siq is via horse and carriage. I opted to finish my journey on foot, and savour the moment when the Treasury is revealed in all its crafted splendour.
And finally, here’s one I’d rather forget…
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun, so go the lyrics of the famous Noel Coward song, and how I wish I’d heeded those words two decades ago while trying out riding under a strong Caribbean sun. The horse was placid enough, but the sun was a whole other matter, and I ended up passing out from heatstroke in the bathroom of the restaurant where we’d stopped for lunch. That’ll teach me not to wear a hat!