ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Avoiding A Bad Riding Experience When Traveling

Updated on March 5, 2013
The Anchor D ranch facility in Alberta, Canada, with picketed horses.
The Anchor D ranch facility in Alberta, Canada, with picketed horses. | Source

Riding On Vacation?

Many people like to ride horses while on vacation. Some go even further and book a specialist riding vacation or riding tour.

Getting in saddle time while in another place, or even another country, sounds like a lot of fun. Unfortunately, most people who do it have at least one horror story about getting to the establishment and finding things not to their liking.

Examples might include underweight, sick, or lame horses. Or bits you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Unsafe practices might also occur...such as allowing a teenager to ride a horse that has a medical problem without proper supervision or even telling the rider the problem is there (Yes, this happened to me).

How, then, do you find a good stable, bearing in mind you can't go and look at the place? Here are a few tips and thoughts on the matter.

The Website

The first place most people start looking is the internet. However, the worst establishment can have a fantastic web site. Photos can be doctored or altered to make things look better than they are. Or, they may be taken at the start of the season, before the establishment wears out that year's batch of horses.

If you do look at the photos, it is generally best to ignore whether people are wearing helmets. Although I believe that helmets should be worn every ride, in many parts of Canada and the United States there is still a strong cultural imperative against helmet use. Most dude ranches do not require or provide helmets. In most of Europe helmets are legally mandated, and thus people wearing them only means that the establishment doesn't want to be fined - or even shut down. So, the culture and laws of the area, country and region affect helmet use far more than individual establishment policies.

Do look at the condition of the horses - note that horses that are trained and conditioned for long distance riding will be leaner than most riding horses you see, but they should not have visible ribs, nor should they have the greyhound look of a racehorse. They should look lean, but solid. Pay attention to the condition of any dogs or cats seen in the pictures too.

Do look at whether the customers in the picture are appropriately mounted. People should not be riding horses that are too big or too small. (Do bear in mind that if you are looking in parts of Northern Europe you will see adults mounted on very small horses or ponies. This is particularly true in Iceland. These ponies and small horses are very tough animals quite capable of carrying more weight than the average American horse.)

Look at the overall professionalism of the site - is it cleanly designed, are there a lot of typos? Does it have sparkly glitter all over it? (This is often a bad sign with business sites of any kind).

Customer Reviews

Search for the stable you're interested in on the internet. Look for customer reviews or for blogs and photo blogs from somebody who rode there recently.

Again, look at any photos...horses should be neither excessively skinny nor fat, for example. Read the reviews. People are often willing to say both good and bad things. Do they have anything to say about the suitability of the ride for beginners? What complaints and negative comments are made?

Although it can sometimes be hard to find reviews, barns that are either particularly good or utterly terrible will tend to attract higher numbers of them.

Grand Canyon saddle mules take a break at Indian Garden.
Grand Canyon saddle mules take a break at Indian Garden. | Source

Call Them

This is probably a strange piece of advice for most but call - not email - the stable you intend to ride at before booking.

Don't be afraid to grill them. Ask them how many horses they have. Ask them where they buy most of their horses. (Some of the best dude ranches still breed their own mounts). Ask what happens to their retired horses - one of the most common shady practices is to buy a bunch of horses at auction in the spring, work them until they're pretty much done, then send them back to the auction in the fall.

You can learn a lot from the attitude of whoever is on the phone. Generally, it will be a receptionist or barn manager - but few people work with horses even indirectly without learning to appreciate them.

Find Out Their Safety Rules

Do they provide helmets? (If not I recommend getting your own - a basic schooling helmet costs about $40 and I've even seen them in Wal-Mart. Do NOT wear a bicycle helmet for riding - or vice versa. They are rated to provide specific protection for the specific sport).

What do they say about shoes? A reputable barn will require closed-toed shoes with a bit of a heel. Riding in sneakers is generally a bad idea, especially English.

Reputable barns will also not allow people to wear shorts or the like (unless it's a beach ride and you plan on swimming with the horses). They will provide information about the climate and weather and advice on how to dress. If they recommend gloves, then do not wear normal woolen gloves - either buy proper riding gloves or wear cycling gloves, which are cheaper and work well. Normal gloves, especially natural wool, will slip on the reins.

While you are at it, make sure there are no customs regulations about bringing riding gear into the country. (I recommend disinfecting all used riding gear that cannot be laundered both before and after your trip - especially your boots). Also make sure that their insurance considers helmets from your home country adequate - the safety standards can be slightly different. If unsure, use one of their provided helmets rather than your own.

A good barn cares about two things ahead of their bottom line: The welfare of the horses and the safety of the customers.

Have you ever had a bad experience when horse riding while on vacation?

See results

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)