Responsible tourism on horse riding holidays

Horse riding holidays can be some of the most responsible around. You’re travelling on four hooves, not four wheels; you’re helping to perpetuate ancient traditions; and in many cases you’ll be visiting far flung places which will be hugely grateful of the income from tourism. You do need to do your research, however, to ensure your holidays are as ethical as they appear. This means asking questions about animal welfare, checking if hosts and guides are local, and ensuring you follow local etiquette as best as you can.

Happy horses

Horse riding is a great way, perhaps the best way, to experience and understand the landscapes and cultures of a country. But while the comfort of guests is always important to suppliers, on our trips the welfare of the horses always comes first. At the end of the ride, they’ll be provided with the food and water they need to be ready to go again next day, and if you want to lend a hand, all the better.

Sadly, horses and donkeys in the tourism industry are not always treated as humanely as they should be. Dehydration, exhaustion and stress are common symptoms of overwork and bad practices. At Responsible Travel we believe things don’t have to be this way, which is why we’re sharing animal welfare charity Brooke’s Code of Conduct for happy horses:

Choose an animal that matches your own size. They’re not always as strong as they look. Take a closer look. If you can clearly see the horse’s backbone, hips or pelvis through its flesh, it’s not healthy. Check for injuries, open sores or wounds. These may be hidden under the saddle or harness. Read the comfort signs. A happy, healthy horse will stand evenly, have ears facing forward and head held high. If you see mistreatment, report it, and make sure the owner knows why you won’t be using their services. For more detail, read the full Happy Horses Holiday Code.

Safety, patience & respect

On many horse riding holidays, you’ll be staying in family homes, on working horse farms, or both. As such, you’ll need to take a fairly relaxed approach to communal areas. As anyone that’s ever looked after horses knows, it can get a little messy at times. Out-of-the-way places see little in the way of tourism, and your visit helps to support traditional customs and ways of life. While local people such as the Tsaatan reindeer herders of Mongolia will usually be very pleased to meet visitors and show them around, it’s important to demonstrate respect, such as by asking permission before taking photos, and sticking to defined trails.

Accessible horse riding holidays

Tourism should be accessible for all, and we’re pleased to be helping lead the charge. We recommend horse riding destinations such as Catalonia that are perfectly set up so that people with mobility issues, or problems hearing or seeing, can still enjoy the experience of horse riding in a safe and motivational environment.
Fiona from our supplier Mas Pelegri:
“The horse riding centre adjacent to our accommodation is fully registered to look after people with special needs. Their staff are trained and they have a lot of experience as well. They take everyone as an individual and help them achieve as much as possible. It is a can do, we want to help, let’s find a way attitude, which is crucial for helping people with special needs. We are in the countryside, so a quiet relaxed area for anyone with mental health issues. Even people who live very stressful lives in the city of London arrive and unwind and relax. We see a change very quickly. The environment is very important to help people feel at home and relaxed. Our accommodation is also very accessible for those with mobility problems.”
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Di Jones] [Happy horses: Chiemsee2016] [Safety, patience & respect: Jeanne Menjoulet]
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