I grew up with horses, and fell head over heels for riding when I was a young girl. Later on in life, I got a similar addiction when I started traveling. My heart is frequently torn in two on just about everything, and I’m always feeling like if I choose one thing I can’t have the other. I used to think, if I choose to have horses, traveling will really go out the window for me, because they are SUCH a commitment… and so for the time being, I have chosen travel. However, I’ve recently discovered that these two passions of mine actually intersect quite beautifully.
At this point in my life, I can’t have my own horse (because of the travel. Oh, and the money. lol), but… I CAN have A horse for a ride. Just someone else’s. Turns out horse trekking is a popular thing to do for tourists, and in New Zealand you can find incredible horse treks around the whole country. This past year I’ve been able to get back into horseback riding, and have fallen in love all over again. I don’t know why it took me so long to realize, but horseback riding and travel are the perfect combination!
7 reasons why I love horseback riding on my travels
1. You get to see a new place from a different perspective
How many times have you been on a walking tour, a train ride, a biking tour, or a roadtrip? Okay, now how many times have you discovered a new place from THE BACK OF A HORSE?! It’s a unique way of seeing a destination. Go on, switch it up. Walking on the beach is great, but cantering on the beach for the first time is something special that you definitely won’t forget. A traditional wine tasting or stop at the local brewery, or riding YOUR HORSE to the winery or pub? I know what I’d choose. Maybe you’re doing something you’ve done before, but riding a horse adds a twist.
2. Normally, you are taking a route not all tourists take
Often times, the horse rides take you on routes not open to the public, or that few people go on. It could be land of the local farmers, and sometimes they have some of the best views out there. Horse tours prefer to take paths that not many cars or tourists are on for a few reasons. They keep the horses calm and they also want you to enjoy the nature, without getting interrupted by a million stares, questions, photos, you name it (trust me on that, horses draw a lot of attention!) AKA: You get to have unspoiled views all to yourself.
3. It feels like a throwback to traveling in the “olden days”
“Olden days” translation: how people traveled until about 130 years ago. So… for most of the world’s history. But none of us have experienced what it must have felt like to get from place to place without the choice of a car. Riding a horse makes you feel like you live another life, even if it’s for a brief moment in time. I’m a dreamer, so maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s fun to fantasize about. Yes, I’m saddling up in order to go to town and have a drink with a friend.
Maybe it’s just me?
4. You get to enjoy a horse without the commitment
For a couple hours, half a day, or even a full day if you’re lucky, you get to spend time with a horse. Without the commitment. Best of both worlds, if you’re frequently on the road. I’ve arrived early to some rides, where the guide lets me groom and help saddle as well, which I thoroughly enjoy. Yes, I love the entire process of horseback riding: grooming to unsaddling, does that make me crazy?
On one particular place I went riding, I really bonded with my horse. It was so cool to get that feeling again… of course, there are no promises, but if you are lucky and get matched with the right horse, you will feel the power of the human/horse connection. I could go on and on about horse therapy, but I’ll leave it at this: working as a team with your horse can do wonders on you mentally.
5. It gets you OUTSIDE
By outside, I mean outdoors and (most times) outside of the city. Horseback riding is a wonderful way to escape the concrete jungle and get to know the rural side of a destination. Sometimes it takes getting out of a super populated place to really discover the culture of another region or country.
In terms of being outdoors, there’s plenty of evidence (here, here, here) of nature’s positive effects on our mind. In our day and age, many people are deprived of spending adequate amounts of time in nature. Not only are you doing your health a favor by getting out into nature, but you’ll be able to discover new plants, landscapes, and animals of your destination while horseback riding on your next trip. This often leads to discussions on conservation as well, because you may or may not encounter some of the current issues on your ride. New Zealand in particular has a lot of issues surrounding the protection of native birdlife, and what better way to educate tourists than coming face to face with it? Generally, conservation is something the local guide will probably know AND care about.
6. You either learn something new, or brush up on an old skill
There’s no better time to do this than on a trip. Technically, you can do this at home. However, I’d argue that sometimes it takes being out of your normal routine and everyday scenery to give you the push to ACTUALLY try something new or get back into something you love. Personally, when I’m in a new place, I have a more open attitude towards trying new things. If anything, my excuse is, “When in Rome!”
7. For horse lovers: it’s fun to learn about horse riding around the world
Most people on tourist horse rides are beginners (and they can be just as curious!), but as an experienced rider, this is something I find particularly fascinating. I love learning about horseback riding in the region that I’m in. I spent my younger years glued to my horse books, studying the different breeds from around the world. It’s fun to hear about the breeds the locals prefer to ride, what competing is like in that region or country, what disciplines are most popular, and what the horsie culture is generally like.
One thing I’ve found: horse lovers around the world are all the same. We’re all obsessed with these beautiful, intelligent, stubborn, intuitive animals, and borderline crazy. Generally (but not all the time) we are female. The men in our lives may roll their eyes or be unable to wrap their heads around the horse/girl bond, but they still support our obsession (by making sacrifices, because of a horse’s price tag). I have to say, these common threads makes me smile every time.
Have you ever ridden a horse on a trip? Have I convinced you to give it a try?!