Holidays

My favourite aspects of a riding vacation anywhere in the world are experiencing the spectacular scenery of a new country from the back of a native horse, and glimpsing the true culture and everyday life of the local people. The Wild Andes Expedition Ride with host Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda La Alegria, which I found through Unicorn Trails, offered a close-up view of life in the mountains at all elevations in the Ecuadorian Andes.

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“Whoa up,” I called. One of the pack horses had broken loose and was causing havoc in our seven horse string. It was the first day of a three-week pack trip and all the horses were antsy, particularly my Spanish Mustang, Chocolate. He wasn’t happy being tucked in behind horses he didn’t know, leading one he didn’t like. I hopped off Chocolate and foolishly left him loose, breaking one of the golden rules of backcountry travel: always hang on to your horses.

My colleagues sometimes ask about my commitment to overseas riding holidays. Why would someone who rides horses all day travel overseas to do more of the same? Why not go sit on a beach in Cancun and sip fruity beverages? Let me answer that, but first I should confess that as I write this, the buttery evening light slants across the trellised hillsides of a classical riding school in Tuscany wrapping up a good day in the saddle.

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The Flying U Guest Ranch, one of North America’s only unsupervised riding ranches, is a horse lovers’ dream. Over 100 horses graze on the expansive Cariboo pastures that extend from the large barn, which was constructed 150 years ago. The barn stands central to the hustle and bustle of the stockyard, paying homage to the region’s rich history.

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Along with my travel mates Ali and Heather, I leave the Calgary airport in our rental car, stock up with snacks and refreshments, and head to The Grandview Stage Inn just outside of Rocky Mountain House, AB, where we bed in for the night. The next morning, we start off for the Cutoff Creek Staging area in the Bighorn Backcountry. The herd of wild horses grazing in a small clearing at the side of the road is so complacent with our presence that the foals remain lying down as we snap photos. Upon arrival, we spot a group of women gathered in the staging area, their gear laid out on the grass. Introductions reveal that our fellow riders are from Manitoba, Winnipeg, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, and as far as Australia and New Zealand. Most are new to Wild Deuce Outfitters, and a few are repeat visitors like me, although it was eight years ago.

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Travel to exotic places is a dream for so many people. France, Italy, Mexico, Kenya, New Zealand, Ireland and so many more are destinations filled with tantalizing historic, cultural, geographical and scenic wonders that would enthrall any traveller. But, as an equestrian, what if your trip was a horse riding vacation where you could ride wonderful locally-bred and trained horses, stay in beautiful accommodations in fabulous locations and enjoy mouthwatering food prepared in culturally rich cuisines?

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The Big Creek Lodge is located in the remote and beautiful wilderness of British Columbia’s Chilcotin ranges. In every season visitors can experience pure nature and Canadian wilderness, and enjoy incredible views of forests, water and mountains.

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Riding Vactions in California with Jec Ballou