We’ve all been there: several hours in the saddle and a few too many gulps of coffee and you find yourself silently praying that someone will shout the words ‘toilet break!’ before things get squirmy. It’s a tad awkward to discuss, but in this blog we’re going to cut the crap – so to speak – and give you an honest guide to toilet etiquette on the trail.
The bush wee
First things first: if you need to go, you need to go. Unless you’re galloping away from a bull elephant or three minutes away from the next designated pit stop, it’s perfectly okay to call a halt! Surprisingly often, we find the majority of the riding group are thinking the exact same thing (‘I need to pee!’) so when someone speaks up and asks to stop, everyone lets out a sigh of relief. Chances are you’re not the only one who could do with a break, whether it’s to duck behind a bush or just to get some sunscreen out of a saddlebag. We all have bladders, and we all know how it feels to be busting. Don’t tie yourself in knots about stopping for a wee, and if you feel awkward about it, try laughing! It feels so much better to have a chuckle at the absurdities of life than to beat yourself up about a small and unavoidable issue.
Of course, it’s best if you can find a place with a bit of cover, but in dire circumstances, the best way to get some privacy is simply to tell the group where you will be, e.g. ‘I’m just going to walk towards that hill,’ so that all riders can politely turn away. A big jacket can also work wonders if you need to drop your pants.
For ladies, there are now a number of products designed to make bush-weeing less of a hassle, foremost among them the Shewee. Here’s a great guide to female urination devices (not the catchiest name, but they sure are handy!).
Toilets of the world: a brief summary
On your horse riding holiday, you may encounter many different kinds of toilet, from drop dunnies to high-tech thrones. Toilets vary hugely depending on the type of ride (point-to-point or centre-based), the country, the region, the accommodation and the local culture. In Mongolia, for example, you’ll find yourself developing some serious quad muscles from squatting over drop dunnies on the trek, but enjoying the familiar comfort of ceramic seats back in Ulaanbaatar. Here are some rules-of-thumb to help you navigate toilet territory like a local:
- Leave it as you would like to find it: the most universal lore of toilet etiquette. We all know the horror of discovering a less-than-clean toilet – cleaning up your mess as best you can undoubtedly brings us one step closer to world peace.
- Pack a couple of packets of tissues just in case you find yourself having to BYO toilet paper.
- I can almost guarantee you that a small bottle of hand sanitiser will come in handy at least once on any horse riding holiday. And these days, there are plenty of options out there that actually smell nice. Thankyou has a good range.
- Drop dunnies: also known as pit latrines, vault toilets, composting toilets and dry toilets, this group of loos is characterised by the fact that they don’t flush. Instead, everything falls down the hole and is collected, composted, drained or left to decompose, depending on the system. It’s best to avoid putting non-degradable products such as sanitary pads in these toilets if you can help it.
- Squat toilets: some flush, some are drop dunnies; you either love ’em or you hate ’em. Top tip: have your toilet paper in-hand before you squat.
- Flushing toilets: just because they flush, doesn’t mean they flush everything! Did you know that even in Europe, there are countries and regions where flushing your toilet paper can cause serious plumbing issues? Check out the map below – red = don’t flush, orange = it depends, and green = flush. And if you’re still unsure, head to wheredoiputthepaper.com for a country-by-country guide!
Inconvenient it may well be, but getting your period on a horse riding holiday doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Preparation is key: be sure to pack painkillers, as well as any creature comforts that help you get through, such as chocolate or a hot water bottle. And of course, bring an ample supply of sanitary items. Most women prefer tampons or menstrual cups to pads when riding, but it’s a personal preference and there is no wrong choice. It’s especially important to maintain good hygiene while on your period, so hand sanitiser is an absolute must-have. Fragrant nappy disposal bags are a great secret weapon to keep in your saddle bag, as you can’t see or smell the contents. And as per the toilet etiquette discussed above, you should carry your waste with you until you can dispose of it properly in a bin.
While far more inconvenient to deal with on the trail, poos are yet another inescapable fact of life. Do your best to take advantage of convenient opportunities to relieve yourself, and stay hydrated to help keep your body running smoothly. We have a fantastic health guide written by globetrotter and medical professional, Anna King, which we highly recommend casting your eye over. Among other vital info, Anna covers gastro, diarrhoea, constipation and hygiene. Check it out!
Whew! Sorry if that was all a bit long-winded (ha-ha) but it’s good to put these things out in the open. We hope you’re feeling more confident about the private side of your horse riding holiday, and if you would like any more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Got any other toilet tips? Share them in the comments!
Image credits: Iris Veldwijk