Thinking about a Family Riding Holiday
A riding trip makes a wonderful family holiday - something the generations can enjoy together.
Should we stay in one place or ride place-to-place..? A one-base stay is often the answer for a mixed family group. Riding hours can more easily be tailored to suit and other activities organised for less keen, or less able, riders. But having said that, several of the ‘place to place’ rides we offer can also work extremely well. Its just a question of picking the right one!
How much riding will there be each day? This depends entirely on the trip you choose. Place-to-place rides often include more 'compulsory' riding, moving from A to B - but all itineraries are carefully thought out. Rides often include some shorter days, or days with the option of less riding - and most place-to-place rides don't move every day which means some in the group can often take a day off if they wish.
First, its important to think about what sort of trip will work best for your family. How much riding will your childen really want to do? Will they be keen to ride long hours every day - or is it best to pick a ride that easily allows opt-outs, the chance not to ride, to do other things, or just ride for a short time, on some days?
Although our own children (all boys, now teenage) enjoy riding, they are not interested in long, slow hours, however stunning the scenery. Spectacular views just don't provide the same refreshing escapism as they do for adults and their preference is always shorter hours, with faster, more intense riding action and plenty of variety.
That said, we've witnessed the sense of achievment and 'togetherness' that comes from completing a journey from place-to- place. It can really make its mark - even if its more arduous than the children might have chosen at the time. Our advice is to think about it carefully before you go, so you know what to expect.
What else will there be to do? Again this depends on the ride you choose. It should be an important consideration in picking your ideal trip. We think a pool is a godsend on a family holiday, particularly if it is hot or if riding will only be part time for some in your group. It gives everyone a fall-back activity and (speaking as a parent) parents a chance to relax, whilst children entertain themselves.
Game viewing always adds another dimension, often increasing the enjoyment of more reluctant riders, tenfold. Without doubt riding safaris are one of the best family holiday choices for all ages. For a group with a mix of riders and non-riders, it gives everyone something else to enjoy together.
You might also like the option to fish, cycle or for other local outings and visits so check what might be available early on.
One aspect we know is always important is the attitude and enthusiasm of your hosts' and local guides - and this is where we can really help. We know our holidays, our guides, the areas and horses very well; we know what 'works' for families and we know our operators' personalities. We know how much they put into looking after their guests and its often that, that will make your family holiday extra special.
How old do children have to be to join a ride? There is no ‘across the board’ minimum age to join our riding trips. Age restrictions vary with destination and always depend on the individual.
Generally 12 yrs as a minimum age is a useful guideline to join a longer place-to-place ride - but this is by no means a hard and fast rule. Size, stamina and riding ability, as well as group numbers, all have a bearing.
Some place-to-place rides include long days riding from A to B in a remote setting. It is difficult to give up half way if you are tired or sore and emergency back-up, if needed, can take a while to arrive. So age restrictions on these rides will be stricter.
Some of our ride organisers are restricted by insurance cover. For example in an area with 'big' game, there may be strict insurer imposed minimum age limits, which will apply irrespective of riding ability.
Ride organisers may be limited by the horses available - many do not have children's ponies so everyone needs to be comfortable (and big enough) riding a horse over about 14.2hh.
Some of our one-base options (for example the Ants Lodges and Horizon Horseback in South Africa) provide fantastic, flexible riding for children as young as 8 yrs and a few places (those included) offer leading rein riding for even younger children. Please ask us for ideas.
What else do I need to think about? As well as riding ability, its important to consider travel and transfer times. If you are travelling with young children, are long haul flights and destinations that include a big time change, going to be practical?
Seasonality is important. Family trips are usually restricted by school term dates - so you need to think when you can go and which destinations will work at the time.
School summer holidays are the obvious family time but Easter and the May and (particularly) October half term dates can be a good lower season option.
December and early January is one of the best and most popular times for much of South America - a fantastic Christmas and new year family trip although you need to book well ahead as flights get very booked up particualrly on the return in early January.
Think also of the social side - if planning to join a set date ride, will there be other younger riders for your children to socialise with and will the daily timetable work for younger children? Long late group dinners may not suit well - would it be better to look at a one-base holiday, where meal times can be more flexible?
Remember too, that if you plan to join a standard ride on which there will be other guests, there'll be less overall flexibility than if you book a private ride or reserve accommodation exclusively for your own group. The latter may not cost much more and will allow you far more choice in what you do, when.
Should we join other guests or book a private ride? Many of our set itineraries can be blocked out and adjusted for groups and this is often the answer for a family trip. There may be little in it cost wise. We’re always more than happy to custom-make family itineraries on request - perhaps cutting riding hours, tailoring the travel side, making special meal arrangements, providing babysitters or extra guides for children. Almost all of our rides can be adapted so if you have somewhere in mind, please ask.
We also organize tailormade itineraries to combine riding with other activities - cycling, fishing, walking, kayaking or time to enjoy the beach. If non-riders in your family want to cycle, why not let us set up a cycling trip alongside?
Why not add to the educational aspect, by including a short city visit or a few days sightseeing before or after? With children, our experience is that, variety - mixing it up, being flexible and ensuring there's something for everyone - is key.
There really are lots of possibilities so why not link up with friends and book an action packed week of family fun. Or let us design the perfect trip to celebrate yourspecial occasion and make memories that will last forever!
Top Family Holiday Ideas
Looking for inspiration for a family holiday? Read this article on a family summer holiday in the Gredos in Spain, featured in Country Life Magazine a few years ago: Country Life; Taking up the reins in Spain
And here are some of our other favourites:
Italy, Santa Cristina, Tuscany:
We love Santa Cristina for mixed family groups. Dates to suit, relaxed, friendly and informal. You can ride, swim, cycle, play tennis or golf, enjoy a burst of culture (or a spot of shopping) in Orvieto & Sorano, try water sports at Lake Bolsena, then wind down over pizza cooked in wood-fired ovens as only the Italians know how. Quality family time. With a choice of accommodation in individual cottages, apartments and en-suite rooms, there's enough flexibility to dip in and out and keep your own space too. Perfect for multi generational family gatherings! 3 to 8 nights and tailored programmes on request. Riders & non-riders all welcome. Please get in touch for example itineraries.
South Africa, Horizon Adventures & The Ants Lodges:
South Africa is a top spot for family travel and the additional excitement of seeing game always adds something extra special to a riding holiday, particularly for children. These 'bush homes' in South Africa are THE experts when it comes to families. Hidden on the Waterberg plateau, a UNESCO biosphere reserve often called South Africa’s ‘best kept secret’, they are an easy drive from Johannesburg (itself a direct, overnight flight from London) in an area that is malaria free. Completely flexible in arrival and departure dates, you can visit for anything from 3 to 10 nights or more, making them a holiday destination in their own right or somewhere to include in a longer trip to South Africa. Riders & non-riders are very welcome, there's a choice of activities, a choice of accommodation, a choice of horses, a choice of food and a choice of virtually everything else! Flexibility, fun and the art of bending-over-backwards are the key to their success. Definitely hard to beat. Ask us for example itineraries
Kenya, Sosian & Borana lodges:
Equally expert in 'family' are Sosian and Borana Lodges in Kenya, our No 1 'bush and beach' destination. Like our other family favourites, Sosian and Borana are privately owned and are all about flexibility, providing fun, adventure and 'R&R' for all - and with their highly personal service they always get the measure just right. Rounding off a safari with a few days on the coast, where the active can swim, snorkel, waterski, fish, paddle-board, kayak and others in need of a rest, can sit back, watch and enjoy peace and quiet, is the way to a totally magical family holiday. Definitely one of our family's best ever holidays!
Wyoming, USA, The Bitterroot Ranch:
A family ranch stay in the USA is high on many wish lists and for us The Bitterroot in Wyoming is a really good choice. Hidden at the head of a remote valley in the Absaroka Mountains, it adjoins miles of untouched National Forest. Flower scattered meadows under Wyoming's big sky; the gushing Wind River, snow capped peaks on every horizon. Learn to fish, sort cattle or head off with pack horses to camp in the hills. Watch a hundred happy horses canter home at night, walk the llamas, square dance or visit the rodeo in town. Staying in cozy log cabins, its back-to-basics family fun away from the intrusion of screens and machines. 7 nights full board from $2915 US per adult / $2185 US per child (under 16)
Argentina, Estancia Los Potreros and Estancia La Rosita
Los Potereros and La Rosita are in different provinces of northern Argentina and both offer a South American holiday that is run along similar lines to our favourite African safari lodges - a stay at a comfortable, privately owned property that has attentive, personal and family flexible service at its heart. This time, the emphasis is on all the wonderful things that make the Argentine gaucho culture so special. Both estancias have a string of lovely horses for exploring; they offer the chance to join gauchos in their day to day activities, working and tending cattle, rounding up horses, learning to lasso. You can learn to play polo, swim, try a cooking or tango lesson, enjoy wine tasting and gather for delicious dinners made from home grown, organic fare. One very special aspect is that both estancias are available to block-book privately for small groups - Los Potreros for a group of just 6, La Rosita for 8 (or less at higher rates) - making them the perfect option for a family celebration or special family holiday. We dream of booking an estancia privately with family and friends, watching our children having enormous fun riding with the gauchos, and stopping for a couple of nights in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires on the way out or back...
The rides above are just a few of the options we offer - but there are plenty of others to choose from. For place-to-place rides, we love the Italian family friendly welcome in Sicily; riding in Romania is a wonderful way to experience a different culture, enjoy superb open riding country and the charm of a bygone age; our village-to-village rides in France's Dordogne & Gironde & the Basque Pyrenees are easy to get to from the UK, one of the best possible ways to really get to know France and ideal for small groups and the Sierra Nevada and Gredos rides in Spain are both super family adventures.
Ideas are too numerous to list but if you'd like a holiday where you won't be left sitting around wondering where to go or what to do next, where you won't be juggling children's opposing ideas of the best way to spend the day but where you'll DO something, SEE something, LEARN something but above all ENJOY something together, we can certainly help. Message us now to talk about your ideas and for latst dates, prices and availability.
Do something together and make magical family memories!