Whether you are a seasoned rider or a complete novice, some of the best riding trips can be found across Europe.
Even if you’re not a rider, there are holidays that cater for every possible whim with a bit of riding thrown in as well. Here are some of the best Riding Holidays or adventures that are topping the charts in Europe, from Slovenia to Austra, Tuscany to the Alps and Southern Spain!
1) Rustic Riding in Slovenia
Overlooking the famous Soca River in the unspoiled Triglav National Park is a small cluster of rustic huts where the riding surrounding them is wild. With trail riding across rivers, climbing mountains, galloping across meadows on a beautiful white Lipizzaner pony – a stay at the Pristava Chalets in Slovenia is a must for any nature lover.
The huts have been fully renovated to a high, contemporary standard. Close by you will also find a sauna, fitness area, tennis court and swimming pool tucked away behind the rocks and trees. The restaurant specializes in local organic dishes, a cozy western style bar where everyone meets up in the evenings, and a clubroom with stunning views up the valley.
On top of the trail riding, lessons are available in the friendly riding school and there are ponies for young children. There is also a playground hidden amongst the boulders in the forest.
A trip out to the Lipizzaner stud farm is a must for visitors. During the day out, you will get a tour of the stud farm and stables, a ride in a carriage and pair through the elegant park and a presentation with music in the arena of the Classical Riding School. It’s also possible to ride out on a short hack on a Lipizzaner bred at the stud.
If you fancy a break from riding, try your hand at rafting, kayaking, hydro speeding, canoeing (two seater), canyoning, or swimming near the banks of the beautiful Soca River. A fly fishing license can also be arranged.
Stunning walking and mountain bike trails lead direct from the centre to beautiful lakes, waterfalls and hidden valleys in this 83,000-hectare reserve. There are unforgettable views across the Julian Alps on every excursion.
2) Ride and Spa at a 5-Star in Austria
Tucked away amongst stunning countryside just south of Vienna, the award winning five star spa hotel, Reiter’s Burgenland Resort, offers the largest private Lipizzaner stud farm in Austria. Known for its historical castles and beautiful woodland, the dressage horses can be taken for hacks or carriage rides around 450 km riding trails on varied terrain around the Burgenland valleys in Austria.
After a long day riding, soothe aching muscles with a special, invigorating massage by the resident monk from the Shaolin Monastery in China. Classes in the Chinese martial art, Qi Gong are also given by the monk and a form of Ashtanga Yoga especially adapted to riders’ needs is available.
But if riding isn’t your sport, the resort holds some of the finest golf in the world at Europe‘s first David Leadbetter Golf Academy, Nordic walking, squash and tennis courts.
Just one of two spa hotels in Austria to be awarded top marks for its wellness facilities, Reiter’s Burgenland Resort is built around natural hot water springs with thermal water – perfect for boosting energy and increasing immunity. Enjoy both indoor and outdoor pools filled with natural healing thermal waters, an outdoor whirlpool, saunas and steam rooms, filled with organic herbs or aromas and some even come with flat-screen TVs.
3) Family Riding at the Western Ranch in the Alps
Live like a cowboy as you trek through the wild, romantic terrain in the Alps at the Kroller Family Hotel and Western Ranch.
Families stay in mountain huts and ride Quarter and Paint horses especially imported from South America. While the children learn how to pan for gold at The Pony Hoo, parents can relax at the Indian Spirits spa or take a trip down to the Western Saloon bar and listen to the live music. On a Sunday, everyone gathers together in the Saloon to be entertained by cowboy tails. Two-step Western line dancing is held on a Wednesday, so make sure you take your cowboy boots.
During the summer months there are nearly 15 varying trails to choose from, with lots of refreshment stops in Alpine huts along the way. The Schwarzachtal hut, in particular, is not to be missed, as it is renowned for its music.
The views along each wild trail are stunning and some of the riding is as high as 2000m. The hotel is open all year round for riding, apart from in November and it lies on a high Alpine pass (1300m) with access into the largest ski area in the famous Zillertal Arena.
4) Castle Hopping through Tuscany
You may have heard of island hopping, but what could be more perfect than visiting some of Tuscany‘s magnificent, historic castles as you travel on horseback?
Wander through Italy‘s vineyards, olive groves and cypress trees; gallop over golden undulating hills and along the shores of sparkling lakes. Stop for lunch in a medieval piazza; savour a simple but delicious Italian meal, all washed down with a glass of the local Chianti.
Back on your horse, you venture further into the unspoiled Italian countryside until you catch site of the venue for the first and second night’s stay; the Castello di Proceno, a 12th century castle surrounded by its own tiny walled village, overlooking a flower garden and pool in the shade of cypress trees. It has a superb wine cellar in the medieval vaulted cellars and a restaurant by the pool.
The second castle is the Castello Santa Cristina, set in its own extensive grounds and still in the hands of the original owners. It has beautiful gardens and a large swimming pool with a terrace. At the end of the week, you will welcome the sight of the Fortress of Sorano, perched high above this unique Etruscan town. The rooms are built into the fortress walls and all have spectacular views down the canyon beyond the cliffs dotted with ancient Etruscan tombs. However, you are just a few steps from the centre with its cobbled passageways lined with traditional shops and cafés.
The rides are guided by the charming Cristiano Dolcetti, a competitive endurance rider who breeds horses for the famous Palio bareback horse race in Sienna. Cristiano is also incredibly knowledgeable about the Etruscan and Roman history of the area in addition to the flora and fauna. He also knows the best places to eat and what to order!
The Castle Trail is based in Southern Tuscany, an area rich in culture, tradition and history. It was here that the first Etruscan population settled and marks the northern border of the former Vatican state. Ride on trails used by pilgrims 2000 years ago on their way to Rome from Campostello di Santiago and Canterbury.
The route is commemorated in virtually every village with impressive churches and regal country estates. However, unlike the ‘Chianti’ region between Sienna and Florence, this part of Tuscany is totally un-touristy. You will not have to fight with the crowds in the narrow streets here, but it is every bit as beautiful with many hidden gems.
5) Saddle and Surf in Southern Spain
Gallop along the beach, in just a t-shirt all year round at the Dos Mares in Spain.
This Andalucían equestrian hotel is perfectly located, right on the beach. Watch the sunset in the romantic beach bar, have a go at kite surfing, surfing or windsurfing in the hotels’ own wave school. Have a riding lesson in the sandschool with the most spectacular view – over a sparkling sea to the mountains of Morocco beyond. 20 well trained Andalucían and Andalucían-cross horses.
For experienced riders, there are some terrific full day rides, such as the Paloma Baja beach ride, through pine woods to a deserted coastal region, part of a nature reserve. Another ride will take you up into the mountains to the Sanctuary of the Light, to savour the spectacular views and then ride back through the famous cork forests of Andalucía.
Not to be missed is the sand dune ride. The dunes are situated at the back of one of the most famous windsurfing bays of Europe where you will climb up on the huge sand dunes to slide down the back. Most days end with a magical sunset beach ride – either a gentle stroll through the surf or an exhilarating gallop.
The real highlight of the week for many is the day trip out to see the Foundation of the Equestrian Arts in Jerez. Here you will see the weekly Andalucía Horse Show; an equestrian ballet accompanied by Spanish music with riders in 18th Century style costumes. There are some classical dressage performances and movements used in the country when handling cattle herds.
There is also an impressive carriage driving demonstration and a performance where the horse obeys its rider even when not in the saddle and carries out classical high school dressage exercises such as levadas, voltes, corvetas, piaffer (between pillars), Spanish step and long rein.
If you’re not a rider though the hotel has its own surf school and there’s also windsurfing and kite surfing to give a try too.
For more information and pricing of each of the holidays, please visit www.theridingcompany.com.