Horseback Riding

One of the most pleasurable ways to see the world is from horseback.
By: Gretchen Kelly
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Photo by: Noel Hendrickson

Noel Hendrickson

One of the most unusual ways to see the world is from horseback. Not only do you get to see things at a slower pace, you also get to relive history from a firsthand point of view. A hundred years ago, horses ran the world. Riding vacations give travelers a dynamic horse-eye's view of history. Warhorses, farm horses, cowhand horses -- they all have stories to tell.

Surf the internet and you'll find scores of trail trips for both advanced riders and beginners. But how to sort them out and judge which trip is best?

"Equitours is one well-known, established company that organizes trail rides all over the world," says Lynne Holzhauser, owner and instructor at New York City's Lynne's Riding School.

"Surf the web and look at some sites. Then read the charts that most of the sites have about what trips are appropriate for beginners. Take that list to an instructor and say, 'This is what I need to learn, is this reasonable?'"

Should beginners take some training even before going on a beginner's trip?

"Yes, absolutely," says Holzhauser. "Ride two or three hours every weekend to get these muscles in shape," she advises. "Finally, never underestimate what a horse could do or overestimate what you can do. Good riders always say, 'I ride a little.' It's the braggart who says he's got tons of experience that you have to watch out for. If someone is going to get the horse that spits fire, it's him."

Great Trail Destinations for Both New and Experienced Riders

The Maremma breed of horses that hail from Tuscany are slow, steady and sure-footed. A great trail ride through vineyards and Etruscan ruins won't have you exhausted at the end of the day. And then there's all that fabulous Italian food afterward! The hotel and spa Terme Saturnia has a stable, instructors and a wonderful sulfur spring to soothe saddle sores.

The Lusitano horse, bred here for centuries, was originally a warhorse. Powerful, intelligent and responsive, the Lusitano looks imposing but can be a great ride for a novice. Check out equestrian sites at Equisport.

There's no better place to ride as a beginner than Wales. Children especially will love the small and sturdy Welsh Cob pony, which is indigenous to Wales. Adults will love the charming inns, pubs and romantic vistas that are all part of a trail ride holiday in Wales. Log onto the Horse Riding Brecon Beacons website for more information. Disabled riders will want to check out the Clwyd Special Riding Centre, located in Llanfynydd, Wrexham.

Kildare is horse central in Ireland and also the site of the Irish National Stud. Base yourself at the uberfabulous hotel and spa The K Club and ride at your leisure on Irish Hunter horses around the countryside at one of the many fully-equipped stables in the area. More information at Tourism Ireland.

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