Arranging your horse riding routine in your home country can be hard enough, with organising shares, lessons and competitions. Transporting yourself abroad for a work opportunity or simply for the experience of living in another country can create even more anxiety if you are someone that loves to have riding as a regular part of your lifestyle. This was a big factor for me when deciding to live in New Zealand for a year. Looking back, I remember how nervous I was at the thought of leaving behind my share horse (Joy) and wondering how I was ever going to get that same level of riding time when I was living away. Now that travel is opening up more, it will not be long before fulfilling your dream of living abroad can start to become a reality again. Here are 4 tips to help you mitigate the riding worries you might have if you are thinking of travelling abroad and are concerned about how to keep up your riding passion.
This guest post is written by Noori Husain of www.ethnicequestrian.com.
This article contains links, some of which are affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I earn a commission which allows me to fund this blog. I only post links of products and services I have used and enjoyed and that have truly benefited me on my travels!
Set your expectations
The first thing I learnt on arriving in New Zealand was that every place does things differently. This is true for other countries that I have travelled to as well, for example Singapore. The culture of a place really affects the way that riding is managed and perceived. What do I mean by this? At home in England, I am used to horse shares in livery yards, however in New Zealand, livery yards are pretty much unheard of because everyone has enough space to keep their horses in their own backyards. In addition, the culture is very relaxed and so there is a lot of informality when arranging trying to view a horse to share or loan. Don’t expect the same types of riding disciplines to be as popular as they are where you are from: for example, dressage was just a normal part of my riding routine at home in England, however in many other countries other interesting disciplines such as mounted games, endurance riding, barrel-racing, camp drafting, driving and polo can be more popular. So, it is important to appreciate different cultures when you are looking for a horse to ride. If you have moved to a Middle Eastern country for example, you may benefit from talking to expats that are similar in background to you so that you can find out where offers the same style and level of riding that you are used to.
In summary, don’t create an expectation that limits your opportunities. It is worth deciding on a budget and how much time you would like to spend (e.g. 1 hour weekly) but I would definitely recommend being open to new things as this will give you the most chance of having life-changing horse-riding experiences during your trip.
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Networking in the horsey world is so important. Recommendations by word of mouth are common in the riding community as often they all know each other already. Things you can do to get started are join Facebook groups in your local areas, go to the local riding equipment store and talk to the people in there, and generally ask around with anyone that knows the local community well. Many riding facilities are advertised on websites that tend to be country specific (e.g. Gumtree or Trademe, etc) so it can be worth finding out what is being used to advertise horse shares, loans and lessons.
It can be worth creating an advert which outlines your horse riding background and ideally what you are looking for. On Facebook, I put out a post asking whether there were any local opportunities for me to ride a horse regularly, and I received a message from a lady who said that she was offering natural horsemanship lessons nearby. At first I was quite sceptical, however I ended up spending a few months with her and learning so much, and it was an incredible experience.
Knowing roughly how long you are planning to living somewhere can help a lot with working out what you would like to achieve with your riding while you are away. Riding schools can be a good option if you are simply looking for a regular straightforward and reliable place that you can turn up each week for a lesson. Going to events such as horse shows, competitions or festivals can be a good way to learn about the local riding culture and get involved. In New Zealand I attended Equifest where I had the chance to watch barrel racing and vaulting (horseback gymnastics). In Singapore, I had lunch at the Polo club café which was a great place just to watch and meet people. Sometimes, just getting these little horsey fixes can tide you over while you are still hashing things out with your own regular riding plans. Volunteering is another great way to get involved with horses while you are abroad and open up the chance of meeting more like-minded people and finding opportunities. If there is a Riding for the Disabled association or similar enterprise it can be worth helping out, and spending some time around horses if that is what you would like to do. Find out whether there are any horse riding holiday companies that are operating tours in your area. Although this may not be a sustainable option that you could do every week, it can be a fantastic opportunity to create some once-in-a-lifetime memories. For example, in Australia I booked on to a 5 day cattle drive horse riding trip which was phenomenal. There was also a place that I drove to which offered trail rides, and this ended up being a great place that I would go to every month or so, just for a bit more of a canter as a change to my gentle weekly natural horsemanship lessons. In my opinion, being a well-rounded rider comes from trying your hand in different disciplines and on different horses, with different people. Definitely don’t be afraid to go solo, as I can attest to what Sanne mentions in her post, it is incredibly liberating.
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Lastly, an important note is knowing the safety regulations of the country you are living in. Some countries are very relaxed about horse riding safety which may not be a good thing, as at the end of the day, riding can be a high-risk sport and especially when you are away from home it is unwise to put yourself in danger unnecessarily. Always be sure that the place you are riding at has good reviews and is well known, and if you are going on a trail ride that someone knows where you are. Riding hats are not required in every country (they are mandatory in England) but I would always recommend wearing one when riding as the risks vs benefits of wearing a riding hat are undeniable. If you don’t have one, you can always ask to borrow one where you are riding. If you buy a new hat when travelling make sure that it receives the appropriate safety tag from the shop, e.g. a kite mark, especially if you do plan to compete. Appropriate footwear is always a must as it affects the stability of your foot in the stirrup. Travel insurance is essential and be sure to check the fine print as not all companies cover horse riding; or they may cover certain aspects such as just trail riding in walk and not necessarily a jumping lesson, for example. I usually use Cover For You as they do have options to cover lots of different horse related activities. When going for a ride, if you feel uncomfortable or unsafe for any reason it is always a good idea to communicate this with whoever you are riding with. Nearly all of my experiences have been amazing but there have definitely been a few times where I felt unsafe; although sometimes a bit of uncertainty can make you a better rider and give you an adventurous story to tell when you get home, sometimes it is worth being sensible and asking for a horse that is safe for beginners, or mentioning your concerns about a particular aspect.
Remember to find out about the horse you are riding as well, as not all horses are the same. I tried out an ex-racehorse in New Zealand and the lady forgot to tell me that he was impossible to stop once he gets into canter! Well I have to say, I found that out the hard way while I was already riding him, but managed to somehow dismount gracefully during canter and landed standing up (still not sure how that happened!).
I hope these tips encourage you to take the leap to follow your dreams and create some amazing opportunities on your travels!
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