High 5: Equestrian Escapes
With the excitement of Christmas and New Year’s Eve a distant memory and the UK weather taking a turn for the worse, January can seem like a miserable month. On the bright side, the long, dark January evenings provide plentiful time to plan (and dream!) about summer sojourns and happy holidays. Personally, I’m keen to saddle up and ride away into the sunset (preferably on a long, empty beach where the only sound to be heard is the beat of my trusty steed’s hoofs). 2014 is the Year of the Horse (according to the Chinese Zodiac) so there’s no better time to take the reins. Here’s my world-wide wish list of equestrian experiences:
Beach trail riding, Australia
Few things are more exhilarating than cantering bareback along a pristine, white, sandy beach and thundering through the lapping fringe of the sea. The unspoiled beaches of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast will not disappoint and the beaches at Noosa North Shore come highly recommended. Experience feelings of wild abandonment and complete freedom as the adrenaline rush sets in. The ultimate equestrian dream.
Horse riding safari, Botswana
Experienced riders should head to Botswana’s Okavango Delta for a fast-paced, equestrian safari. Being the largest wetland in the world, the area is home to a wealth of wildlife and game including buffalo, elephant, giraffe, zebra and wildebeest. Travelling on horseback means you will have access to areas inaccessible by vehicle and you can get much closer to the action.
Western riding, USA
For an authentic western-cowboy experience, stay at a working cattle and horse ranch in Nevada. Round up the cattle, head out on a horse drive or take a pack trip across the open range. Ride a homebred Quarter horse, sure-footed and gentle, through spectacular scenery while gazing at rolling sage hills and alpine mountains.
Traditional trekking, Spain
Andalusian horses are renowned for their great beauty and balance. With a showy walk, high-stepping trot and smooth canter, the majestic Spanish breed is a responsive and sensitive ride. When in Andalusia, southern Spain, ride across mountains from Los Olivilos, Competa to the heart of Jatar along narrow mule tracks. Follow the same route used for centuries by traders to transport items like fish and lemons from the coast to ‘ventas’ in the mountains.
Golden Circle, Iceland
There is no better way to experience Iceland’s adventurous terrain and striking lunar landscapes than on hoof. Visit Thingvellir National Park, the hot springs area of Geysir and the golden waterfall of Gullfoss. The Icelandic horse is a pure-bred descendent of those brought to Iceland by the Vikings over a thousand years ago. Discover ‘Tölt’ – the special gait unique to the Icelandic horse.
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When I first started out travel writing, twenty years ago, I was writing a weekly round-up for The Independent. The first PR agency I ever tapped into for their clients' holiday ideas was Travel PR; they were always full of great suggestions for the column and responded quickly. Over the years, I've worked with them on many occasions and their close association with AITO has always paid dividends. Nothing has changed; some of the best story ideas I get herald from them, and their response time remains very speedy. They are a pleasure to work with.Mark Stratton, Freelance Travel Writer
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