Let me ask you this.
Did you grow up riding horses?
Are your childhood memories peppered with double-dinking bareback on your pony?
Or Sunday mornings in your beige jodhpurs at Pony Club?
Being bold and fearless on your horse… carefree… deliriously happy.
But then life happened. Adulting happened. And sometimes adulting is SO tedious – too many deadlines and not enough freedom.
Can I ask… when was the last time you were in the saddle?
Have you been lurking on our website for some time now? ‘Should I? Shouldn’t I?’
I get it, we have some rides that you NEED to prepare for. Think Morocco, Iceland, Mongolia. For those trips, you need to be riding fit and confident in the saddle.
BUT we have other rides that are specifically for YOU. What I like to call ‘return to the saddle’ rides.
These holidays have just the right amount of hours in the saddle and just the right amount of off-the-horse comforts. Perfect, well-mannered guests horses that bolster your confidence and perfect guides to nurture your return to riding.
That said, these vacations are NOT a nose-to-tail experience. That’s just not what we do. Our return to the saddle rides are for a range of abilities, and YES, you’ll be able to get some speed on if you so wish, or not – that’s the beauty of these itineraries. Our super-duper ride partners can split the riding group according to ability, confidence, interests, you name it.
SO here are my recommended return to the saddle rides in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and the USA.
Take your pick – no matter where in the world you are.
The Rainbow Beach, Bush & Cattle Ride, Queensland, Australia
The beauty of working cattle on horseback is that it takes you out of your head, so you tend not to overthink and your instinct and muscle memory kicks in. You’ll squeal in delight as you muster cattle, trit-trot through the countryside, and swim your horse bareback in the ocean – I promise you this. It’s the perfect itinerary for those keen to satisfy their inner jackaroo or jillaroo while riding calm and responsive Quarter Horses. I mean, how often do you get to join a true-blue stockman on his private station for a multi-day adventure?! OH, and the best part is it’s only $3,250 AUD.
The Margaret River Ride, Western Australia
This holiday is the perfect opportunity to reconnect with horses in a safe and fun environment. You can choose how long you spend in the saddle each day, with plenty of off-the-horse activities on offer should you wish to take a break. Our guides in Margaret River, Paul and Fiona, have been making equine enthusiasts grin from ear to ear for over 10 years with rides based out of their gorgeous property, which is also a boutique vineyard. Their team of friendly, well-mannered, home-bred and educated Australian Stock Horses will win you over in record time!
The Grape Horse Adventure, Barossa Valley, South Australia
If you fancy a point-to-point trip without the fuss of changing accommodation or the hassle of camping, this could be your ultimate return to the saddle ride. Jen Clingly and Jeremy Ford and their string of naturally-trained Arabian horses will offer you a gentle yet eye-opening glimpse into the world of natural horsemanship. Based in the Barossa Valley, one of Australia’s premium wine regions, this holiday balances riding time, visits to local attractions, and wining and dining! Oh, and there’s always the option to decrease your riding time day to day, should you need to.
The Shoalhaven Ride, New South Wales, Australia
The Shoalhaven Ride is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Sydney in one of the most scenic regions of the east coast. Your host Tiffany and her team of beautiful Arabian horses will stop at nothing to ensure your holiday is unforgettable. There’s a fantastic variety of scenery, from lush farmland to untamed wilderness to the enticing expanse of Seven Mile Beach. Your days will combine riding with plenty of stops at award-winning cellar doors, restaurants and providore stores, and your nights will be spent in complete five-star luxury at Champagne Hill. Cheers to that!
Twin Coast Adventure, North Island, New Zealand
Now, for this ride you do need to be prepared to ride at all paces over varying terrain, including butter-yellow sand dunes and ancient Kaui forests. However, the riding hours aren’t too long and you’ll be in the hands of two of New Zealand’s top horsemanship clinicians, Ken and Jane Dromgool. And although you’ll be exploring new landscapes every day, you only have to move camp once thanks to Ken and Jane’s ideally situated farm and beachside properties. Comfortable twin share cabins, regional cuisine and a half-day of local sightseeing complement your time in the saddle.
Shell, Wyoming, USA
This ranch is the perfect platform for out-of-shape, not-so-confident riders AND riders who are keen to upskill (perhaps master that canter, or should I say lope!). Why? Well, thanks to the high guide-to-guest ratio, you’ll never be in a group of more than six guests. Plus, groups are co-ordinated according to riding ability. As I said, PERFECT! Even if you’re travelling with a more advanced rider, you’ll both be catered for in every regard. Not only that, as your fitness and confidence develop throughout the week, you can take on more challenging rides.
Castle & Estate Ride, Ireland
To be sure, to be sure. Sign up solo, as a family or with some girlfriends. No matter your travel style, this equestrian wonderland is going to make you grin from ear to ear. Whether you’re keen to get the basics down pat, nail your sitting trot, or maybe even start jumping, the expert instructors and schoolmaster horses will have your back. With three hours of riding a day broken up into estate rides, flat work and jumping, there is plenty of time to enjoy the Estate’s myriad off-the-horse delights and visit the local village (a.k.a. the chocolate shop!).
Dressage in Andalusia, Spain
This peerless equestrian destination offers three itineraries, all based out of a 16th century hacienda in one of Andalusia’s famous white villages. For riders returning to the saddle, we recommend the Train & Trail itinerary, where you’ll ride majestic Andalusian horses both in the arena and along scenic trails for 3.5 to 4 hours each day. No matter your riding level or your (un)familiarity with dressage, the world-class instructors and horses will have you feeling like a natural in no time. Choose between three, four and six night itineraries.
Catalan Coast Trail, Spain
If Spain is on your bucket list but dressage isn’t your thing, this point-to-point ride is the answer. It’s a week long, giving you plenty of time to explore the stunning scenery of Catalonia from the back of your Andalusian steed but also plenty of time to relax and unwind in the gorgeous guesthouses where you’ll spend your evenings. Each day you’ll ride for 3 to 5 hours through incredibly diverse landscapes, discovering Catalonia’s culture, history, and idyllic way of life. (Hint: afternoon siestas are mandatory!) The pace is relaxed, but there are chances to trot and canter should you wish.
The Thirlestane Castle Ride, Scotland
Fancy spending a week in a 16th century castle, riding out across the spectacular Scottish Borders by day and indulging in the many delights of the castle by night? Um, YES please! Scotland is one of our all-time favourite riding destinations and you’ll understand why when you see the picture-perfect farmland, windswept moors and moss-covered forests – not to mention the amazing horses. Your guide, Susy, will split the group according to ability, so you don’t need to worry about biting off more than you can chew. Plus, off the horse there are endless Scottish experiences to be had!
If you’re keen to check out more options, read our post about the best entry-level horse riding holidays here.