Springtime brings blossoms and buds and the promise of long stretches of time spent outdoors. Horseback riding has long been a beloved pursuit of mine, one where I can lose myself in the rhythm of the ride and breathe in my gorgeous natural surroundings. Here, a peek at some of my favorite rides:
A Regal Ride in India
A morning spent horseback riding through the Indian hillside is simply sublime. Our friends at Ventours are always coming up with fascinating new rides – perhaps one of my favorites is the easy horse safari along the Aravalli Hills, geologically one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. We rode on Indian Marwari horses, the former mounts of the Maharajas and princes of India, over fertile plains and the wild savannahs of western Malwa and down into the vast Rajasthani Bagar, the semi-desert surrounding the Thar Desert. This was a true introduction to rural India as we passed through small tribal villages where traditional farming practices continue.
The ancient Marwari horses themselves are so special – an indigenous warhorse breed intimately tied to Rajasthani history. While they resemble Arabians, they’re sturdier and have a better temperament. They’re intelligent, brave and a pleasure to ride. Their forth gait, the “Revaal,” is designed to traverse long distances quickly and at great comfort to the rider. They’re also easily distinguishable by their unique, lyre-shaped ears, which often curve inwards until both tips meet.
Worlds away, New Zealand’s Blanket Bay provides the heady opportunity to ride horseback through the rugged high country, where the awe-inspiring views take in snow-capped Mount Earnslaw, crystal-clear rivers and lush forests. Green pastures dotted with grazing sheep, a handsomely appointed stone and timber lodge and stunning views of Lake Wakatipu relax me immediately – it’s a wonder what fresh alpine air and endless blue skies can do for one’s state of mind. Experienced guides Ruth Anne and David Anderson are just as at home with first-time riders as with those practically born in the saddle. The morning of a ride, you’ll join them at their stables, just five minutes from Blanket Bay, and choose from a stately collection of superbly schooled quarter horses outfitted with perfectly maintained Western saddles. Then, you’ll set off to the beach at the head of Lake Wakatipu to start the morning, then across the lodge’s own 4,046-acre Wyuna High Country Station – it’s just you and your horse, or so it seems, taking in this magnificent farm, replete with sheep, cattle and deer and even an occasional wild goat. Rides are available in all lengths, from an hour and a half to a full day – the longer outings take you to the century-old Scheelite Mines high above the lake, and into the Richardson Mountains.
Riding in the UK
At home in my beloved UK, I head straight for Dartmoor, an ancient and compelling landscape in southwest England that makes me feel I have fallen into Tolkien’s Return of the King. Surrounded by tors (exposed granite hills) that break up the horizon, dreamy moors and beautifully colored heaths, we ride past moss-shrouded boulders, twisted trees and babbling brooks. The highest moor is a striking treeless landscape and it’s here I feel most regal astride my forward going horse, chosen for my experience level by my knowledgeable guide. It’s little wonder Steven Spielberg chose this location for his WWI epic film, War Horse.
For in-depth rides, complete with accommodations at country inns and estates, and thoughtfully prepared picnic lunches, I turn to our partners at Original Travel UK – their expertise puts me at ease and I know I’ll be well taken care of, both on the trail and off. They’re also well versed in Cotswolds rides, where I feel I’ve ridden into the nineteenth century and am traversing my land on ancient bridleways. With my OTUK guide, I was able to stay in a private manor house, not normally open to the public, and meet vivacious locals who are as passionate about horses as I am. Next up? I hope to plan a ride along Ireland’s rugged beaches or learn to play polo with leading professionals at a manor house said to be the home of British polo.