Confidence while horse riding out of the arena and away from home

In previous blog posts, I’ve told you about confidence in the saddle and on trail rides. Recently, I asked you guys on Instagram what you would like to hear more about. Lots of you asked to hear more about being confident in the saddle, and keeping your confidence outside of the arena and on long trail rides. It’s quite a big change to go from horse riding in an arena to trail riding. In this blog post, I’ll tell you all about how to keep your confidence and gain your confidence on horse riding holidays in new countries.

Also read: How to stay confident in the saddle while trail riding

Horse riding holiday in Spain
Horse riding in Spain with Luzi!

Horse riding away from home 

Even if you are used to trail riding at your own stables with the horses that you’re used to, it can be quite a nerve-racking experience to ride all kinds of new horses in a completely new environment as you have to get used to new saddles, new breeds of horses and maybe even new gaits. During most of our horse riding holidays, we use the local tack and the local horse breeds. We do this due to the fact that the local horse breeds are most suitable for the environment that we’re riding in and the saddles are the most comfortable for both rider and horse on long trail rides. Often, a different riding style is necessary on these horse riding holidays, which will be different to what you’re used to, especially if you’re an English rider. Always keep in mind that these saddles, and these horse breeds are designed and bred for the sole purpose of being comfortable, secure and sure footed in the environments that you’re riding in. Something that might help you get your confidence is to understand that these horses do these trail rides very often, and usually even live in the terrain we’re riding through. Whether you are riding a horse for experienced riders, or a beginners horse, they are all used to doing these types of rides and are unlikely to ever put a foot wrong. 

Horse riding holiday in Argentina
Some very comfortable saddles in Argentina

Be clear about your horse riding experience level

This is one of the most important things while booking a horse riding holiday. Make sure to always specify your riding experience as detailed as possible so you get matched with a horse that fits your riding abilities perfectly. One of the quickest ways for riders to lose their confidence on horse riding holidays is when they overestimate or under-specify their riding ability. If you do this, you may end up being matched to a horse that doesn’t suit you, and is likely to be too much for you to handle. When a horse riding holiday is designed for any kind of rider, meaning beginners, intermediate, and experienced riders, that means that you will always be able to do it no matter what your riding experience is, as long as you give us enough information. If you are a nervous experienced rider, always specify this when you’re booking a ride. There truly are horses for everyone, and overestimating your riding abilities is just not worth it.

Volunteering with horses in South Africa
Volunteering with horses in South Africa

Horse riding outside of the arena for the first time 

Even if it is not your first time riding outside of the arena, it is likely your first time to be in the saddle for a long amount of time. I remember when I was growing up that short trail rides would last around one hour, and a long trail ride would be a maximum of three hours. This obviously depends on where you grew up and where you’re riding horses at the moment. Having grown up riding horses in Holland, the country is simply not big enough to go on extremely long trail rides like we do in very wide and open countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Lesotho, and more. It can be a bit daunting to think about having to do four, or maybe even eight hours in the saddle per day when you’re used to just one or two hours in the saddle. It’s really nothing to be worried about and it sounds like a much bigger task than it is in reality. As I mentioned before, these horses, saddles, and riding styles are all specifically designed for long rides. This means that when you are in the saddle for eight hours in one day, you’re not gonna be in nearly as much pain as you probably would be riding hot pony that’s not used to trails, in regular English saddles that are not designed for long distance writing. So, if it’s the distance and the muscle aches that you’re worried about, simply make sure to stretch a couple of times a day and to relax in the saddle as much as you can. It’s also always a good idea to bring some Vaseline or Sudocrem for those of you that have sensitive skin. If we’re riding in warm, humid, or very windy places, you might get some scratches from being in the saddle for very long. Muscle aches usually only happen on day two and or three and quickly disappear when your body gets used to the longer hours. Of course, try to go for as many trail rides as you can at home, before the horse riding holiday starts, but don’t worry about riding for 8 hours in a row at home. When we're out horse riding for long periods of time, we ride in a very different way than you would normally do in the arena. You’ll be a lot more relaxed in the saddle and on most horse riding holidays, you’ll barely even touch the reins or use your legs. This, of course, is very different from your regular English or western arena riding as there’s a lot less ‘working out’ required from the rider! 

Horse riding holiday in Turkey
Horse riding holiday in Turkey

Wide open spaces create happy, relaxed and safe horses

Horses that live in herds on large areas are generally happier, healthier and relaxed. The trail horses we ride on our horse riding holidays all live in fields or paddocks with their herd. It’s one of the most essential prerequisites we have when assessing whether or not we start working with a new partner. Horses that are in contact with other horses and that have enough space, are much safer to ride as their mental health is much better than that of horses that are stabled most of their lives. I’ll explain a bit more about the effects of turnout, trail riding in wide open spaces and more in an upcoming blog post about the changes I’ve seen in my own horse when switching from being stabled at night, to being turned out 24/7. 

Horse riding holiday in Lesotho
Horse riding holiday in Lesotho

Safety on horse riding holidays 

We always make sure we can keep our guests as safe as possible. Of course, we are still riding horses, and horses will always be somewhat unpredictable. I won’t tell you that we’re able to keep all the dangers at bay while horse riding as that is simply not possible. We will, however, make sure that the horses are always properly trained and perfectly tacked up and cared for, so that they are never in pain or uncomfortable, and they will never act out because of any of those reasons. This is also why one of us from the Hooves team will always visit these horse riding holiday destinations before ever bringing guests, to ensure that the horses are well trained, happy, turned out, and in overall good health. If you are nervous about your first horse riding holiday, or if you’re nervous about doing a horse riding holiday in a new country for the first time, I highly recommend joining one of the meet-up trips, where a host from Hooves joins you on the rides. We are able to help you when you are feeling nervous, when you’ve lost your confidence or when you are simply in need of a little bit of help. Everyone who works for Hooves has ridden hundreds of horses in their lives and are working or have worked as horse trainers for several years. We are able to see and assess horse behavior and help you figure out how to better ride your horse if a problem occurs on the trip. We have also all ridden in lots of different environments around the entire world. Meaning we can help you with how to ride your horse through environments that you’re not used to. As an example, I grew up in Holland and if you know anything about Holland, you probably know that it is one of the flattest countries on the planet. When I first moved to South Africa, I was absolutely not used to riding horses through the mountains and was at times quite worried about them stumbling and wondered what I as a rider could do to help my horse navigate through this terrain. Over the years, we’ve all learned how these horses find their footing and how best to help them through these terrains, and we will of course help you with this while you’re on the ride with us. We don’t ever offer our advice or start giving you lessons when you haven’t asked for this, as we are all here to have a good holiday and we completely understand that you’re not here to get a lesson from us. However, you should always feel free to ask us anything about the horses you're riding, the tack, the environment, or anything else that you might be concerned about. We also make sure that there are never any riders, guides, horses or anything else that poses a danger to the group. If someone does make you feel uncomfortable by going too fast without asking or just in general making you feel unsafe while on the trip you should always reach out to one of us as we obviously want everyone to feel as safe as possible. Again, as I mentioned before, it’s extremely important to have a good understanding of your own horse riding experience level. If you book the ride with us to Luxor, Egypt for example, and you’re a nervous intermediate rider or a beginner, you are going to feel uncomfortable on these rides and you are likely to lose your confidence as the ride is just simply not for your riding ability. This does not mean that you’ll never be able to go on that horse riding holiday. However, it just might be a good idea to try some other rides first where you can build up your confidence, better your level of riding, and overall have a fantastic time. 

Working with horses in Namibia
Luzi in working with horses in Namibia

If you are at all worried or can’t quite put into words what your horse riding experience is, please feel free to reach out to any of us. Either the host of the horse riding holiday that you’re booked onto and are in contact with, or via email, Instagram or WhatsApp. We are always happy to help you in understanding what your experience level is, and we can usually establish what your level is by a short phone call, a couple of videos, or sometimes even just a message. Please don’t hesitate to reach out as we want to make sure that you are going on a horse riding holiday that’s perfect for you and your ability, and that you are going to have the time of your life. 

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