A horse riding holiday in the mountains of the Pyrenees is an experience that should be high on any horse-lovers’ bucketlist. It’s a unique experience in a totally unspoilt environment that is sure to leave a profound impression on you.
The bond between man and beast grows strong on a multi day trek, especially when the ‘beast’ is the adorable, good-natured Merens breed of horse which is native to the Pyrenees mountains.
These animals have been bred for this rugged environment.They are naturally sure-footed and at ease covering terrain on which a less sturdy animal would struggle.
These steady and reliable animals won’t let you down.
However, in order to thoroughly enjoy your horse trek it pays to be prepared and to know what to expect on a multi day horse riding experience.
Here are our tips on how to prepare for your horse riding holiday.
The Americans call them horse pack trips. On this side of the pond we know them as horse trekking holidays. But they are the same thing, an expedition on horseback on which you’ll experience scenery which many people would give their eye teeth to see.
A multi day horse riding holiday in the Pyrenees will be physically demanding as you may be in the saddle for up to 8 hours on any given day.
The best way to prepare for your trek is to do plenty of physical exercise as far in advance as possible with the aim of being properly riding fit for when your holiday comes around.
But it’s also important to be generally fit as certain mountain sections of the trip may be steep and require you to dismount and lead your horse up or down the slope.
Walking, cycling, running, swimming, they’re all good exercise and will help to strengthen your muscles and cardio system in preparation for your horse riding holiday.
Prepare for camping out
Many of our wilder, back-to-Nature horse trekking experiences include camping out in a pristine mountain environment where all facilities are provided courtesy of Mother Nature!
You’ll refresh yourself and wash in mountain lakes or rivers and use rustic toilet facilities. This is not an environment in which you should be worrying about the luxuries in life.
For this type of horse riding holiday you’ll need to bring your own sleeping mat and sleeping bag which you’ll usually have to carry on your horse.
A headtorch should be on your kitlist along with maybe a penknife.
Otherwise, everything will be provided for cooking over a campfire and eating a meal that is sure to taste way better than anything you’ve ever eaten before!
If your camp happens to be in a location that is accessible by 4×4 then your personal affairs will be transferred between overnights for you.
What to carry on your horse riding holiday
It’s important that you carry the absolute minimum whilst you are in the saddle.
Saddle bags will be provided for spare clothing and extra layers, but a small waist bag would be a good idea to give you quick and easy access to essentials such as lipsalve, camera, snacks and other small items.
Insect repellent, anti-histamines, pain killers, sun cream and sunglasses on a string around your neck are all items you should carry with you on your horse ride, plus of course that all important water bottle too.
Bring a spare memory card for your camera unless your regular one has high capacity. Don’t underestimate the number of photos you will be taking during the trip! The scenery is sure to be spectacular!
A pair of pocket binoculars would also be a good idea so that you can check out the wildlife such as chamois, deer, ibex and birds of prey that inhabit the mountains
Consider bringing a small pocket solar device charger to keep your various devices topped up.
There are a number of them on the market these days and they can be a life-saver.
For your overnight camp in the mountains, a headtorch with spare batteries is essential.
Riding clothing and footwear
Lightweight layers are the way to go as they can easily be added and discarded as conditions dictate. We’re big fans of merino wool which is super lightweight, wicking and, more to the point, un-smelly!
On your legs. jodhpurs or other riding trousers combined with half leg chaps or gaiters are the best choice to ensure maximum comfort on those long days in the saddle.
You should pack a waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers in your saddlebag. It’s best to expect the unexpected!
On your top half, a button-up long-sleeved cotton shirt to protect you from the sun’s rays, with a singlet underneath is the best combo.
A gilet with pockets is an essential item of clothing in cooler weather, along with a buff which has a multitude of uses.
Riding gloves and riding hat are required, although it may be possible to hire the latter from the stables. A wide-brimmed hat is a nice alternative to the standard riding hat when you are on easy going terrain.
On your feet, wear a pair of comfortable stiff-soled boots with a heel, ideally waterproof, that you can also walk in. Just ensure they’re not too wide to fit in a stirrup.
A pair of comfortable lightweight shoes to change into at camp or in your hotel is also recommended.
That way, you can simply relax and enjoy your horse riding in this exceptional part of the world.