As a forward – We have been growing Eat Sleep Ride Repeat on Instagram. If you want more of us, make sure you follow both the team and myself. Both accounts get daily posts with news updates, great photos and lots of video/helmetcam.
Its through the feedback there that I came up with the idea for this post – any time I post photos of my adventures, I get one or more comments “I would love to take my horse to do this!”
Alas, not all adventures can be seen from the back of your own horse, but that shouldn’t discourage you. In fact, this should excite you! Opportunities abound!
Here are some of the reasons why I love to ride strange horses when I go to strange lands.
Import Restrictions and Cost
First and foremost, the reason to go find a strange horse to ride could be because the country that you are visiting will literally not allow horses to enter the country. Banished! This was true when I visited Iceland, we even had to buy new boots to prevent contamination (as you can imagine, I just HATED having to get some cute new riding boots). Icelandic horses are completely disease free and they take their health very seriously! We were told how bittersweet it is when the Icelandic horses leave their country to compete, even if they win the world championships, the horse can never return to their native soil.
Related, is the sheer cost of travel. You think a human plane ticket is expensive? In most cases, you could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars to ship your horse. That’s all well and good if you are competing for money, but an adventure rarely yields monetary returns (unless you find pirate treasure). Leasing a horse is a much more financially viable plan for us peasants.
Improve your skills
Riding another horse, whether at home or abroad will always help riders improve their skills. This could mean working with greenies to improve your communication skills and your guts, or trying out party tricks on a schoolmaster. Maybe you can do piaffes and passages on your horse someday if you work at it (or are already a kickass dressage rider), but why not have a little fun when you are visiting the land of Haute Ecole too?
Learn about foreign horsekeeping
There are some pretty clever tips and tricks you can learn when you travel and ride. There are a lot of standards across the board – mount from the left, don’t haul on the horses face, try to remain on top of the horse. The fun part comes in the little things people around the world have developed to suit their individual horses needs. Climate, breed conformation, available resources, discipline/use, terrain… all things that affect how the horse should be managed. Keep an open mind and pick and choose your lessons, there is lots that you can take home both for mounted and unmounted trials with your furbaby.
Appreciate that these horses were literally built for this
One thing I find so cool, is taking a look at conformation of the horses versus the terrain. Particularly in remote areas where the horses live wild, feral, or on large pasture, the rule of survival of the fittest reigns supreme. These horses have evolved certain traits to help them cope with the local conditions. In Mongolia, we saw the typical conformation of the horses change as we moved from grassland into the mountains. So to be fair, your horse might not be as well equipped for a trek through a foreign land as his domestic counterpart.
They were probably trained for this too
In South Africa, we had to lead the horse down these incredibly steep stone steps. We had maybe ridden our horses a total of 3 hours in training and competition before we approached this obstacle, and we just had to trust that the horse would do it. I know for sure, if my horse had seen this, he would have fired some choice curse words in my direction, plant his feet, and probably try to whip me around like a lasso at the end of his lead before leaping down the bank like it was Rolex. Then there was Gerber, the Boerpoerd I was riding… stepping casually down the stairs as if it were just another ride. He’s seen things, that horse. Thank goodness for that!
You learn to trust yourself and strangers
Before I went to Mongolia, it was me against the world. Well, maybe a few family and friends. Travelling and riding strange horses has opened me up in a way I have never imagined. There is something surreal about getting on a horse you have never met and trusting him to take care of you, and earning his trust back. Its an excuse to act brave, even if at first you are faking it cus “you gotta do what you gotta do,” eventually, you will just be brave on your own.
Then there is the support crew and the people you meet along your adventure. Your parents always told you not to trust strangers, and that’s mostly good advice. Sometimes however, you need to knock on the door of a random yurt and hope they will be kind and let you crash on their floor til morning. It’s a big hurdle, asking for help isn’t easy, but it does get easier.
What exotic lands have you ridden in? What did you learn through your adventure?