Selecting a Horseback Vacation

Tips for choosing a suitable riding holiday


Selecting a horseback vacation:

In this article we unpack what selecting the right horseback vacation means. Amongst the things to consider is matching one with your riding ability, pace of ride and riding fitness, selecting the accommodation level, riding style, types of horses, who is travelling with you and what time of year to go.

Horseback vacation
Cantering along the beach in Catalonia, Spain – Image: Unicorn Trails
Riding Ability required, pace of ride and riding fitness

This is the most important element for enjoyment! All rides should have good well schooled horses. Ideally try to speak with someone who has ridden there and read as many reviews as possible to gauge the actual level of challenge. Remember that if a horseback vacation is based in one location (centre based) it allows the opportunity to have a day off, while on point to point trails you need to keep going. On some of the more adventurous trails there may be walking beside your horse required or you may be riding at altitude. Check help is available if you need it to mount and dismount. The pace can often be deduced from the number of miles covered in a day – 30 miles will have to be at a reasonable pace while 15 won’t stretch most people. There are also many rides which offer a few hours of riding with the balance of time free to enjoy sightseeing and other activities.

Riding style & horses

Riders used to riding western have a hard time adapting to English style, vice versa is much easier. The Latin American gaucho styles are very similar to western. Consider if you would like to ride a certain type or size of horse eg Andalusians, Quarter Horses or even a gaited horse. Local breed are most frequently utilized as they are best adapted to the local conditions.

Horseback vacation
Enjoying the pool in Crete – Image: Unicorn Trails
 Accommodation Level

Check to see if you are camping or staying in guesthouses/hotels. The full range of 5* to basic is available in both camping and hotels, there is no need to go without a hot shower each night. Ask what sort of bathroom facilities will be available, is there a swimming pool? Will you be moving on each day? On many point to point trails with long hours you do not spend as much time in your accommodation and requirements can often be dialled down a notch.


When and Where

Consider the time you have available and choose destinations with easy flight connections from your home if you only have a short time. Check to see if you can contact friends and family via telephone or internet.

Generally speaking Europe is at its best in the summer with a shorter season in the middle of summer for Scandinavia and Iceland. Some parts of the Mediterranean are very hot in July and August.

Horseback vacation
The distinctive architecture of Tuscany – Image: Unicorn Trails




Safaris in southern Africa are at their best in May to September with dry and sunny days and cold nights. Kenya has rains in April but makes a good Christmas break. The migration of the wildebeest on the Masai Mara may be seen in July or August.

For South America (Chile and Argentina) the season is from October to April as it is too cold the rest of the year. Peru has a rainy season from December to April, just the opposite to Mexico which is at its best from October to April.

Horseback vacation
A Ranch based horseback vacation is an unforgettable experience – Image: Unicorn Trails

Working cattle ranches in North America see the majority of their cattle work in the spring and autumn, with northern mountain destinations like Canada and Montana being best in the summer and Southern states like Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are at their best in winter.

It can be complicated so make sure you get good advice to ensure the experience you want is available at the time you want!




If you are travelling with a non-rider(s) consider destinations with many other activities or cultural sightseeing nearby. A rental car will greatly increase a non-riders range of possibilities. Some rides will arrange for walking, jeep safaris or cycling guests to follow a similar route and meet up with riders each evening or have parallel non-riding itineraries. Families and children typically enjoy the bonding sharing an activity vacation brings. Horseback vacations with 6+ hours per day in the saddle and point to point trails are usually too tiring for children under 12, lessons and swimming pools are ideal as are a range of activities onsite. Children are usually fascinated by nature and wildlife on safaris as well as any ranching or farming activities. For very young children some vacations can arrange baby sitting or child minding while you are out riding.

Horseback vacation
Cycling in Ant’s Reserve, South Africa – Image: Unicorn Trails






Tips on selecting a Travel company

The most important is to make sure you get good advice before paying up front for a holiday. Be aware that the internet has made it easy to make claims that are hard to verify of both agencies and destinations. Check reviews and ask around.

Choose a travel agency that visits and selects destinations, who can understand your needs, match you to a suitable horseback vacation of guaranteed quality. Questions to ask your agency:

Knowledge and experience

Are they equestrian specialists? Do they check out all their vacations and know them personally? Do they offer the full vacation package (flights and sightseeing as well as horseback riding)? Is there an emergency number you can call if you have problems while away? Is their website and pricing information current? Will you receive full documentation including packing lists?

Financial Security

How long have they been in business? Are they bonded and insured? Can you pay by credit card? Is the price guaranteed once booked or might the price change when paying the balance due to currency fluctuations?

Red Flags
    • No reviews/bad reviews only
    • cannot pay by credit card
    • prices and dates on website not current


Our Top 5 Horseback Vacations:
Horseback vacation
Sunset on Kenya’s Masai Mara – Image Unicorn Trails

Kenya – The Masai Mara on Horseback

This is probably the best known national park in Kenya and is named after its inhabitants – the Masai tribe – and its river – the Mara. It lies to the south-west of the country and is virtually a continuation of the Serengeti eco-system in Tanzania.

Ride with the largest incredible variety and quantity of game across the plains of the Masai Mara staying in 5 star tented camp sites each night. Experienced riders, English style.

Horseback vacation
Chile to Argentina; a breath-taking journey – Image: Unicorn Trails

 The ultimate adventure, cross the Andes at the foot of Mt Aconcagua via the historic route St Martin took when liberating Chile. 2016/17 was the bicentenary of this extraordinary event.

These are uninhabited places, accessible only on horseback, where huge herds of guanacos roam and the Andean condors nest. This is a classic trek and a “must do” ride for all serious adventure riders.

Basic camping, western style gaucho saddles, fit novices onwards.

Horseback vacation
Riding Uruguay – Image: Unicorn Trails


Uruguay –Estancias and Beaches

Experience Uruguay’s abundant natural beauty, formidable colonial influence, friendly locals and overall laid-back atmosphere. Explore the beautiful haciendas and fine food.

Intermediate riders onwards, western style gaucho saddles.


Horseback vacation
Tuscany’s classic landscapes – Image: Unicorn Trails
Italy – Castellos of Tuscany & Toscana Cucina

A horseback vacation riding through the classical Tuscan scenery on well schooled calm horses is a highlight of this holiday.

Explore this culturally rich part of Italy staying in luxury historic accommodation.

Good riding, exceptional warm and knowledgeable guide and fine food and wines.


Spain – Catalonia vacations

Ride on Andalusian horses and see the real Spain, choose from a variety of culturally interesting itineraries with good local food and fun guides. English style for intermediate riders onwards.

Horseback vacagtion
Riding in the Catalan Region of Spain – Image: Unicorn Trails


This article is brought to you by Unicorn Trails, who give impartial advice on a large range of quality horseback vacation worldwide.

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