By Jenny Richardson, BHSAI
Why are riding holidays often booked in January? If you flick through the pages of the horsey magazines on the newsagents’ shelves, including ‘Pegasus’, you will see that riding holiday companies like to showcase their holidays at the beginning of the year.
As business manager at Castle Leslie Estate in Ireland, I think it is because we all experience such a busy, time-pressured month in December that we feel we are ‘owed’ some riding time to ourselves. Plus, at a time of resolutions, improving our riding skills and also simply relaxing and doing the thing we love most in a relaxing environment is at the forefront of our minds at this time of year!
Obviously I am a fan of equestrian vacations – they offer many benefits, from improving your riding skills and making new acquaintances, to developing fitness and challenging your own boundaries. Riding trips are popular with single travellers as they are safe and well managed – and you are bound to make friends – so if you have never travelled alone, this could be the ideal first trip.
Here are some tips for anyone looking to take a riding holiday:
Be honest about your experience. In a training setting you will be regularly assessed, however if you’re joining a trail ride, there may be more emphasis on what you’ve told the providers about your riding experience.
Get riding fit. Probably the biggest issue that riding holiday guests face is a lack of fitness appropriate to their trip. If you can find time, try and get in some general fitness work before you leave home, or increase the amount of riding you are doing. If you’re taking a training break then you can discuss your limitations with your instructor, and the lessons can be tailored to your needs – however a trail ride can mean long hours in the saddle.
Pick a trip that meets your needs. There’s no use craving fast canters if you have booked a trip that involves trekking through rough woodland; and truly adventurous rides may actually be very slow, due to difficult terrain, while beach rides can be fast and furious. If this is your first riding holiday, a training centre-based break is probably the most sensible option, as there will be more focussed training, including aspects like mechanical horse rides as pictured below, and you will come away feeling that you have improved your skills.
Pack carefully. You should ideally take your own riding helmet meeting safety regulations. Some providers may supply hats, but their fit will be questionable. Plus, not wearing a helmet is likely to compromise your insurance cover. Also, don’t forget several pairs of jodhpurs, riding gloves, polo shirts with collars for protection from the sun if you travel at a hot time of year, and a waterproof coat. Here in Ireland, the weather is very changeable! For jumping, take a body protector meeting BETA standards.
Castle Leslie Estate, pictured above, is one of Europe’s finest equestrian playgrounds, and is located in County Monaghan, nestled in 1,000 acres of undulating Irish countryside. If you’re planning to visit us in spring, you will be greeted with vibrant yellows, blue hues and pastel flower shades that fill the grounds with hopes of warmer weather – the beautiful bluebells, tulips and bright daffodils will surely be welcoming you to the Estate and filling you with inspiration! If you need to hone your skills, why not investigate Castle Leslie Estate’s fabulous ‘Get Back Your Confidence’ riding trip? Our dedicated team of experts, which includes myself, coordinates a five day package that includes three hours’ of daily lessons. Guests can choose the type of lessons they want, based on their individual needs. Visit www.castleleslie.com