Horse riding holidays are known to be expensive, and for a good reason. Good guides have high rates, setting up beautiful camps takes a lot of time and money, and as us horsey people know - buying and maintaining horses well is incredibly expensive. Somehow I managed to participate in over 50 horse riding holidays in more than 15 different countries before turning 24. In this post I will tell you exactly how!
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!
First, of course, you want to see the list of countries, so here you go. In brackets is how many horse riding holidays I’ve had the pleasure of going on in each destination.
South Africa (10+), Lesotho (10+), Namibia (1), Botswana (1), Zimbabwe (2), Mozambique (1), Malawi (3), Egypt (1), Morocco (1), Turkey (1), Spain (1), Switzerland (2), France (1), Wales (3), Poland (1), Mexico (2).
Also, please do understand I was legitimately broke for about twenty percent of the time and kind of broke for eighty percent of the time. You could argue that forced me into even better experiences though.
I cannot stress enough how volunteering saved my ass time and time again. Usually broke and most certainly not able to afford a plane ticket to Europe, I ended up in some of the most amazing places as a volunteer with horses. In every place I volunteered, I learnt something, met amazing people and animals and made memories I will never ever forget. It also usually turned into a job opportunity, as I proved myself as a volunteer and would eventually start getting paid. All while guiding horse riding holidays and loving it! As a volunteer in the right place and in the right season, you will be able to guide (or be a backup guide) on lots of horse riding holidays. Yes, you’ll have to “pay in work hours”, but you don’t need to spend your actual (non-existent) money! I’ve done over 50 horse riding holidays this way and those were probably my most memorable ones too. I have written about how to volunteer with horses before, and will again, so for now I will just tell you that google, instagram and workaway are your best friends! Instagram allows you to create a network and approach trail riding businesses in a personal way, and this way you can ask those incredible places if they would please take you on as a volunteer. Workaway is lovely and usually the hours are a lot shorter than for your regular horse volunteer program, which allows you to do some online work too! Please don’t tell Workaway the next bit, but I usually was too broke to pay for the membership fee… So, I would do a facebook/instagram/google deep-dive to find the hosts on there and ask them directly instead (shhh! (it works really well though)).
Usually broke and most certainly not able to afford a plane ticket to Europe, I ended up in some of the most amazing places as a volunteer with horses.
PS: Volunteer programs are not always free, especially not in Africa, and especially not with horses. These businesses, in such a harsh environment, need more money to keep their horses happy and healthy at all times, so they will usually ask for a small fee. Keep in mind that these volunteer fees are always significantly lower or sometimes only a fraction of the price of a guest booking a horse riding holiday with that very same company. And you, as a volunteer, still get to experience that same thing! It all depends on your budget, whether you choose a free volunteer program or one where you need to pay a fee.
My favourite volunteering program on the entire planet: Imire in Zimbabwe. This volunteer opportunity requires you to pay a fee (which by the way is extremely worth it) to contribute to their wildlife conservation programs and their horses’ welfare. Click here to get a five percent discount code.
Also read: Volunteering with horses in Namibia
But how did you eventually stop being broke?! You got me with this one, and yes, it took me a while. For the longest time I didn’t care that I had no money in my bank account, I was enjoying life to the fullest and having meaningful experiences almost every day. I got to spend all my time with horses and go on horse riding holidays and safaris weekly, I had literally nothing to complain about. Eventually, I did want to save up to buy a flight back to the Netherlands and see my family for a bit, so I had one look on Skyscanner and figured out that that wasn’t in the cards for me at the moment, or anytime soon. I was already living cheap, as I was volunteering, and even getting some pocket money so I didn’t have to spend anything (not that there actually was anything to spend but sure…). Nothing was coming into my account though, and that had to change. Those 23 euros weren’t going to buy me a plane ticket anywhere. I started working online in my spare time, and before I knew it I had saved up enough money for a flight to the Netherlands!
You can also choose to work online full time and opt to live in a country where costs of living are low, such as countries in Africa, South America or Asia (Asia by far being a digital nomad’s favourite… I recommend Africa and South America for horse lovers though).
Slow travel allows you to spend less money on transport. Or, having less money for transport forces you to travel slowly. Flights are usually expensive, buses are usually cheap. In Africa, even renting a car by yourself and paying for border crossings is cheaper than flying to the next country. You’ll need to travel slowly to save as much money as possible. Money that can be better spent on a horse riding holiday! I also highly recommend staying in the same place for a long time, and either volunteer to get that horse riding holiday of your dreams, or house sit (free accommodation!) while you save up.
Work as much as you can in a country where wages are decent and costs of living aren’t too high. Sure, the wages in the US are higher than in Spain, but the costs of living are also ridiculously high. Wages in Spain are lower, but costs of living are almost nothing compared to the US. You need to find that lovely middle ground, and if your personality and mental health allows you to, work your ass off for a good five or six months to save up those big bucks and travel the world on horseback.
I used to rough it in between horse safaris, staying in tents that wouldn’t allow me to fully stretch my legs when lying down (I’m quite short, who are these tents made for??), sleeping on a mattress on the floor of a termite infested house, all that jazz. You definitely don’t have to go this far and I definitely left saving up too long, as I could have been working online the first three years of my adult traveling life too (and could've maybe afforded decent accommodation). You will sometimes have to rough it just a little bit though, but keep in mind how worth it it eventually will be! At some point, you’ll also be saving up more than needed for those precious horse riding adventures and you’ll be able to get a nice AirBnB instead of having to sleep yet another night in that tiny tent... You might have even earnt the money for that nice AirBnB by renting out your own home!
This is probably the ultimate way of working online and traveling. Most start-ups nowadays are online businesses, and mine is no different. My dream for a long time has been to inspire people to pursue their passions of horses and travel, and this online business is designed to do exactly that. Not everyone wants and has to be an entrepreneur, but if you want to, you can! It’s never been easier to build your own website or online store, and it doesn’t matter if you’re selling a service or a material thing, you can do so on the world wide web. There will be a lot of competition, so you have to be unique in what you do. Thankfully every single one of us is unique though, and with perseverance and determination you’ll be able to successfully run your online business as you travel around the world riding horses in hundreds of different destinations.
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