Horse riding holidays in Rajasthan

Our equestrian odysseys

It should not be surprising, really, that horse riding holidays in Rajasthan are considered by many to be the thoroughbred of saddle-led getaways. The clue lies in the item that is top of your packing list: jodhpurs. One of Rajasthan’s most stunning cities, Jodhpur is also the place where these traditional riding trousers were first donned. Based on the traditional Indian trousers known as churidars, they were made baggy at the top to keep one cool in this desert state, but also to allow freedom of movement while riding. They were tight around the calf and ankle, with stronger fabric used on this part to protect the leg when riding. And riding was, of course, a prestigious sport and pastime of the Rajasthani royals, in particular Pratap Singh, son of the Maharaja of Jodhpur. It is said that he perfected the design of the jodphur, thus the name, which was then taken up by Saville Row designers inspired by the ever chic ‘catwalk’ of polo playing princes, in both India and back home in England.

The Marwani horse

For many years, horse riding in Rajasthan was, therefore, considered an elitist pastime. The Marwari horse, for example, is named after this region of Jodhpur, previously known as Marwar. Bred as long ago as the 12th century by the Rathores, then rulers of Marwar and famous cavalry fighters who were led by their beloved and sometimes considered sacred Marwari horses, they are now a feature of horse riding holidays in Rajasthan. Recognisable by their inward turning ear tips, the Marwari breed was almost lost over the years – the British colonists preferring their own thoroughbreds – until a movement was put in place in the 1990s to protect it. As you ride one of these beauties across the Thar Desert, a landscape that the Marwari horse was bred to cope with, mixing the Indian pony with a hardier Arabian horse, you can immerse yourself not only in the beautiful landscapes but also in this extraordinary equine history.
It’s not all desert in Rajasthan, however, and you can trot, canter or gallop through a variety of fine natural heritage here. Such as the through the foothills of the Aravali Mountains, which literally means ‘Line of peaks’. This ‘line’ provides a luscious green belt across the otherwise desert state, the highest peak being Mount Abu , a place of pilgrimage in Rajasthan. The hills are alive with the sound of wildlife, and travelling around here by horse enables you to quietly follow in the trails of monkeys, langurs, sloth bears, spotted deer, sambar deer and many more.

Landscapes & wildlife

There are wildlife sanctuaries to visit on horseback too, and not ones that you hack around for a couple of hours. Jagnath Wildlife Sanctuary, for example, stretches for 180km2 where safaris on horseback will take you through habitats where gazelle, antelope, desert cats, leopard and the striped hyena roam. By day you will have a chance to see some of these, as well as over 200 bird species, from imperial eagles to Eurasian vultures. By night, swap four legs for a 4X4 jeep to venture out on a night safari to see which animals comes out to play. This sanctuary also provides luxury camping, so you can spend days exploring this wildlife filled wonderland without missing the chance to watch the sun rise or set.
Another wildlife sanctuary to welcome keen horse riders is Taal Chapper Blackbuck Sanctuary in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. Again with state of the art glamping accommodation, enjoy your days exploring the surrounding bush, desert, waterholes where nilgai or blue bulls gather, or find picnic oases under the ker trees to rest and take in these unique landscapes. The Sanctuary itself is famous for its herds of blackbuck – or Indian antelope – that thrive here as well as superb birdlife, highly visible on the open plains with several species of eagle, black ibis and demoiselle cranes keeping a beady eye on the proceedings.
You will need your cowboy/girl look of hankie tied around your face for the horse riding expeditions that take you right out into the Thar Desert. Here the dust blows and the desert moves before your eyes, as do antelope and gazelle. You will pass through sandy valleys, climb dunes, visit Bishnoi tribal hamlets, trek through the Bhadrajun Mountains with their eponymous 16th century fort and camp at magnificent desert sites. Landscapes where only one other item of clothing is compulsory, really: your jodhpurs.
If you'd like to chat about horse riding or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700
Photo credits: [Top box: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere] [The Marwani horse: BOMBMAN] [Mount Abu at sunset: Selmer van Alten] [Striped hyena: Nirmal Dulal ] [Blackbuck: Koshy Koshy] [Bishnoi people: VD]
Written by Catherine Mack
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Photo credits: [Page banner: Di Jones]
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