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WHAT'S NEW AT UNICORN TRAILS

Browse through some of our news here, see what new horse riding holidays we've added lately, news from the Unicorn Trails office team, news from the tour in far outposts of the world, and news from recent guest trips. For news at it happens live visit our facebook page: 

 

  1. Blair Horse Trials, Scotland
    Come and visit us at the Blair Horse Trials in Scotland 18-21 August 2011.

  2. Christmas and New Year
    If you'd like to excape the Christmas and New Year season now is the time to book your place! From safaris to seaside, see what's still available here.

  3. We've Moved!
    As of 15 July 2011 we've moved from no 17 The Acorn Centre to larger offices at no.21 The Acorn Centre. We've upstairs now and enjoying the view. The only one to grumble has been Ralph, our cat, who does not like the stairs!

  4. Unrest in the Middle East/North Africa
    March 2011. The political situation in Tunisia/Morocco/Egypt/Jordan is quiet again. We have recently had riders return from each of those countries and all have reported very positive experiences with absolutely no problems and hardly any tourists in many cases. To reassure clients with any lingering doubts we are offering no penalties for cancellation in the event of unrest to all these rides for the rest of the year. So book now and if, 6 weeks before departure, the FCO advises it is not safe to holiday in that country or area, we'll refund all your money including the deposit no questions asked.

  5. Orla Rose Collingwood
    We're delighted to announce that Leah has givben birth to a beautiful daughter. The proud parents and Orla have visited the Unicorn offices.

  6. Calling all Scribblers!
    We're big readers here at Unicorn Trails we'd love to read your stories about riding all over the world, so we've launched a fun and rewarding (we hope!) competition...read more

  7. NO VAT increase at Unicorn Trails
    The 2.5% VAT increase announced by the government to take effect on 4 January 2011 will be absorbed by Unicorn Trails, leaving your holiday prices unaffected.

  8. New horse riding holidays for 2011.
    We hope you'll enjoy these rides as much as we enjoyed finding them!
        Adventure: for the ultimate adventure try our Pamir Mountain Expedition in Tajikistan.
        Europe: New ride in Romania (a Royal Trail), 2 new itineraries in Iceland (Sheep Roundup and Northern Odyssey), in Portugal we have some fantastic dressage tuition in the Algarve and in Hungary the Puszta Trail is new.
        Africa: here we have a new game lodge in Namibia
        Latin America: new rides in Ecuador (2 trails and a hacienda), Chile and the Dominican Republic

  9. Staff News
    Our wonderful Leah Collingwood will go on maternity leave in April 2011 and during the year Bridget Walker has joined our accounts team. Bridget has plenty of accounts expereince having works for Lloyds bank and managed our local Biggleswade Post Office in the past and is enjoying learning about the travel business!

  10. Olympia Horse Show 14-20 December 2010
    Visit us on stand N10, upstairs near the VIP boxes, to pick up our new 2011 brochure.
    See the Olmpia Horse Show web site









  11. Falling pound rates - what does it mean for you. The weakening pound continues into 2011 and with the Bank of England getting ready to print more money each pound in your pocket is worth less.  Read how Uicorn can help you.
    Unicorn Trails Guarantees price on booking

  12. Help on Working Holiday!
    If you have ever considered a working holiday then our host in Kefalonia is looking for someone who can help with her trail rides. If you are interested please contact Rachel, Danni or Leah.

  13. Recession Busting Holidays
    Stretch your holiday budget with these excellent value rides

  14. Worldwide horse DNA appeal
    The Long Riders Guild are preparing for a world ride with one of the aims to collect DNA from every horse breed in the world. Read more about the DNA appeal...

  15. Eastern Europe is still a must see destination on the traveller's list. Read more on riding in Eastern Europe....
    Unicorn Trails offers the best selection. Visit our ride in Russia, or old favourites in Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria or Poland .
    See also our article on Eastern Europe

  16. Loyalty Discounts
    Loyalty rewards for repeat clients: receive £50 off the third ride booked in 2 calendar years (not applicable on short breaks). We also offer 5% discount if you go on the same horse riding holiday a second time. More on what Unicorn Trails offers

  17. Online Booking
    You can now check availability and book most of our horse riding holidays online. With a secure server and most major credit and debit cards accepted booking your riding holiday couldn't be easier. See any of our rides.

  18. BBC's Radio 4 explores Equestrian Travel with Wendy Hofstee, founder of Unicorn Trails, Christina Dodwell and Robin Hanbury Tenison. See www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/excessbaggage the web site of the programme, or click to listen or read more...

  19. Book recommendation:
    Grand horseback adventure in Ecuador. Read a book about 3 girl friends who bought horses and went trekking through the Andes read more

 

 




 

THE WORLD RIDE DNA APPEAL
The Akhal-Teke, Turkmenistan
No one has ever gone all the way around the world on horseback and Basha and Chuchullaine O’Reilly plan to be the first. They are superbly qualified to take on the journey: founders of the Long Riders Guild, they have both individually ridden through some of the most challenging parts of the world. Basha rode her Cossack stallion Pompeii from Russia to England, and Chuchullaine has a history of incredible adventure. In the eighties he fought with the Mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and he has ridden all over Pakistan and Afghanistan. Between them they have several different languages and a lot of experience.

Their planned route follows what Chuchullaine has called the “equine equator”, a wide belt of grasslands where horses are thought to have evolved and prospered. They will start at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, pass through Western Europe and into Russia the ex Soviet republics of Central Asia. They will fly to Canada, cross Canada, fly to Scotland, ride south through the British Isles and finally back to Paris. They want their ride to be more than just an incredible adventure. They are planning several projects along the way to give something back to the many people and horses who have helped them over the years.

The Vyatka, RussiaThat is why they have started the World Ride DNA Project. They are planning to collect DNA samples from every breed of horse they encounter on their travels. And this is where you come in. They obviously can’t collect horse DNA from all the world’s breeds, so they have launched a world wide appeal for horse DNA samples.They want tail or mane hair samples as well as photos of each horse and owner. So if you think you know of a horse breed that is missing from their list, or you have access to a rare breed of horse, contact Team Equus. Led by the incredible Andi Mills, grandmother of five and Long Rider herself, Team Equus is the international band of volunteers who are collecting and storing samples. Why collect all these DNA samples? The O’Reillys have recruited two world renowned equine DNA experts to help coordinate the scientific study of the DNA collected: Dr Matthew Binns (Royal Veterinary College of London) and Dr Gus Cothran, of Texas A & M University.

Dr Binns believes the samples will be useful in two ways. Firstly, differing degrees of genetic variation will show how closely horse breeds are related and thus give us information on horse domestication and the The annual Chincoteague Pony Swim, Virginia, USAsubsequent spread of the horse through the civilized world – and thus on human history. Secondly, it will help in conservation of endangered horse breeds. Breeds with low genetic variability (a small gene pool) are more at risk. Knowing about their genes helps us to develop management plans for at risk populations. Some breeds are more prone to developing certain diseases than others, and if we can isolate the genes involved it may help to developing new treatments and vaccines, as well as allowing us to breed out some of the more negative traits. If you would like to be a part of this historical project, check out www.theworldride.org.

 

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Late availability with easy flights

While some of our rides are sold out, there are still some great ones available. Browse the selection below for some with availability and easy high frequency flights.

Spain, Andalucia Mountain Retreat - fly to Malaga for this relaxing getaway, all abilities.

Morocco, Essaouira Beach Trail - a welcome relief from the heat of the plains and desert of Morocco, fly to Marrakech. intermediate riders onwards.

Morocco, Central Atlas Summer - another easy flight to Marrakech, Morocco and experience the adventure of camping in the High Atlas.





Unicorn Trails Guarantees Price on booking!

GBP vs EuroThe drop in the value of the pound has been widely reported. Unicorn Trails guarantees the price of a holiday on booking. After enjoying an extended period of very strong values, the pound dropped against almost all key currencies by a considerable amount in the course of 2008 and has remained low since then. This trend is set to continue with the Bank of England printing money to help us out of the recession. Since 2008 the value of one pound has dropped by 25% against the Euro (graph right) and, by 30% against the US dollar (graph below).

The problem for holidaymakers is firstly that spending money is a lot less than than previous years year. When changing money there is a noticeably smaller amount. Everything abroad has become more expensive.

However along with this the cost of the holiday has also gone up. As tour operators usually sell holidays in pounds, but pay the suppliers of the services abroad in other currencies such as Euros and US Dollars, the price of holidays increases as the pound drtops in value.

GBP vs US DollarWhen a currency drops as quickly and steeply as the pound has, smaller tour operators can invoke something known as “supplementary invoices” or “surcharge invoices”. Notice of these charges are usually happily relegated to the small print and are not needed under normal circumstances. However in extraordinary circumstances such as the present financial turmoil you may receive one if you have booked a holiday more than a month before a significant currency change, even if you have paid in full. The good news is that once a holiday has been booked with Unicorn Trails the price is guaranteed and supplementary invoices will not be issued.

What can you do to ensure you get the best value this year?

  • Guarantee the price - if you book a holiday with Unicorn Trails we guarantee the price in pounds and will not surcharge in the event of exchange rate movements. The normal deposit is payable and the balance of you holiday is due 10 weeks before departure as per normal. Sometimes flights need to be paid earlier or occasionally special offers require payment in full at the time of booking.
  • Book early to make sure you receive todays price. This way if the exchange rate deteriorates you have locked the price in!

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RECESSION BUSTING RIDING HOLIDAYS

As the the pound remains at near record lows against the Euro and the US Dollar, the recession is becoming reality to many people as they look to book their annual holiday. Here we've listed 9 of our best value rides - easy to get to, good quality and affordable even at today's record prices.

  1. Poland - Baltic Coast Ride
    A comfortable hotel with many facilities including and on site spa and riding centre that can cater to all levels of rider. Riding in the woods or to the coast for more experienced riders. Again there are some amazing bargains to be had with Ryanair to Szcesin and Gdansk and the full board week costs only £579 outside peak season.
  2. Portugal - Western Style Algarve
    Amazing value riding holiday on the sunny Algarve. Bag a bargain flight to Faro and enjoy a week's western riding from only £605 full board.
  3. Greece - Beginner Riding Week
    Learn to ride in the sunshine. Accommodation is in a beautiful hotel with endless views, empathetic instruction on kind horses and hosts who can't seem to do enough for you. This half board week is a bargain at £529 and can be tailor made to your requirements too.
  4. Morocco - Central Atlas Summer
    Explore the High Atlas on magnificent ArabX Barb horses in this vehicle supported camping trip for intermediate riders onwards. With Easy Jet now flying to Marrakesh, prices begin at £765 for the week full board.
  5. Turkey - Cappadocia Camping Trail
    A very different destination riding through the contorted rock formations of Cappadocia, surrounded by history and speeding along on your Arab X horses. Our recession tip is to bag a bargain flight to Istabul and take the overnight bus to Kayseri. With the ride costing from £715 for the week full board this is tough to beat.
  6. South Africa - Zululand Private Reserve
    A 5 star luxury lodge set in a private reserve with wonderful riding from only £1,365 sounds almost too good to be true. This is for full board including transfers for two or more people, from Johannesburg. There are some real bargains to Johannesburg at the moment from some of the European airlines, so if you've always wanted to treat yourself to a safari you can still do so.

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BBC EXCESS BAGGAGE EQUESTRIAN TRAVEL

For centuries, before the arrival of the motor car, the main means of individual travel over any significant distance was on horseback. Nowadays there are plenty of people who like nothing better than to saddle up and ride on their holiday from pony trekking to equestrian exploring. Sandi Toksvig talks to three keen riders who have travelled thousands of miles across all the continents.

Travel writers Christina Dodwell, Robin Hanbury-Tenison and equestrian holiday organiser Wendy Hoftsee are all members of a club called the Long Riders' Guild. They recount tales of nights under the stars, robbers, horses rescued from the knacker's yard and discuss the bonds they've formed with the animals that have carried them on their backs. Click to listen

Presented by Sandi Toksvig

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Eastern Europe

Romanian village streetEastern Europe is the next hot place to visit. The countries out there are fast adapting to the western values, but particularly in the countryside retain an almost medieval way of working the land and a very distinct culture. This is a startling contrast. Many of these countries have recently joined the European Union and are easily accessible by many low cost airlines.

In general these areas are far more rural and less mechanized. They rely on horses to do regular work and even for transport in rural areas. Consequently almost everyone has some knowledge of horses, much like the UK 100 years ago. The countryside is also very horse friendly, with minimal fences, fields criss crossed with tracks and paths suitable for horses and an acceptance of horses a a means of transport. No problem then to find a pub that has a place to tie your horse, or a B&B with stables or a field. Horses also provide a handy conversation topic with locals. Talk of a nice sized horse that is a "good doer" or a good farrier is as common as a motoring conversation in England.
Rural workers Romania

On the cultural side there are two aspects to Eastern European countries. One is the post Soviet culture. Behind the iron curtain there was a the completely different world of communism and collective farms. The legacies are still clearly seen and a hot topic of conversation with the locals. On top of this many countries are now rediscovering national identities long suppressed by Soviet culture and revelling in expressing them. National dress, food and traditions are more strongly supported than ever. This makes for a fascinating mix.

Sheep and shepherd RomaniaPost Soviet cultures did not have many consumer items and goods and their economies were not as monitized as ours. Consequently goods and services tend to cost a lot less out there. This era of cheap travel in Eastern Europe won't last forever. As these countries integrate their economies into the EEC prices will rise and eventually largely equalize. Since joining the EEC, the labour markets have opened up and hundreds of thousands of young Eastern Europeans come to Western Europe to seek well paid jobs. These jobs are only well paid by their standards, by regular UK standards they offer an excellent hard working, well educated service at low rates. Most send their money home and after a few years go back, buy or build a nice house and start their own businesses, raising standards and prices in the process.
Riding in Hungary
This mutual fascination is a two way exchange. The increasing numbers of Eastern Europeans coming to the UK not only work hard and earn money to improve their lives back home. They also take back with them a taste for UK culture - music, clothes and consumer lifestyles. While all this accelerates the rate of economic development in these countries, it also heralds the decline of the traditional lifestyles and dilutes cultural differences and increases costs. Given this, it makes sense to visit these fascinating places now while they are still very different, easily accessible and low cost.

See our riding holidays in BulgariaHungary, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic and keep and of course Russia.

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New Book about Horseback Travel in Ecuador

Book CoverThe book is called "Why Walk When You Can Ride - How to Find and lose a horse in Ecuador" and is written by Tania Krupitza, a vet from New Zealand. While in England on her usual antipodean tour she met up with two other friends who were both enthusiastic riders became seduced by grandiose visions of explorers from times gone by. They decided to buy horses and ride them through Ecuador. Despite a queue of charming Ecuadorian gentlemen eager to help, they ended up with one horse that looked like a mule, one that liked to go backwards instead of forwards and one that turned out to be Houdini reincarnated.

Determined to prove that girls can do anything, they decline offers of machetes and bodyguards and set off. They slogged through rivers of mud and soaked in steaming hot pools in lost Indian villages. They saw sunrise over snow capped volcanoes and galloped over vast plains at 4000 meters above sea level. They met lonesome cowboys, Colombian hippies and ferocious patriarchs.

They discovered how difficult it is to find horses in Ecuador and how easy it is to loose them.

To order this book please contact the author Tania Krupitza on taniakru@xtra.co.nz. To discover for yourselves what riding in the Andes is like, see our new rides in Ecuador.