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Happy Trails - Taking an Equine Vacation

By: Ann Compton

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Sometimes with daily stress unfolding, it may not seem like there's much to look forward to except months of more work and household chores. You can do one of three things at this point: sulk; sift through equestrian catalogs and order things you don't need; or give yourself something to really look forward to – an equestrian vacation.

If you choose the vacation, you might want to spend some time perusing brochures that describe some exotic locations to visit on horseback. Cross Country International Equestrian Vacations offers trail-riding trips or training jaunts. If you don't have a traveling companion, don't worry. You will probably be in a group of fellow equestrians with similar riding interests. It doesn't matter whether you ride English or Western – there are accommodations for both.

United Kingdom Adventure

From March through October you can book the Killarney and The Ring of Kerry Trail trip where you can explore the beautiful coastline, rugged mountains, forests and highlands. The brochure touts "galloping along the beach of golden sand at Rossbeigh...riding past Ross Castle and over the Windy Gap trail. This is a fascinating and heroic part of Ireland where knights, Vikings and smugglers once ruled." Nights are spent in guesthouses or bed and breakfast inns where your luggage awaits you at the end of each daylong ride.

The Kinnitty Castle Trail Ride, the Galway and Clare Trail, and the Wicklow Inn-to-Inn rides offer spectacular views of the Irish Sea from the many green hilltops. This area is known as the "Garden of Ireland," and the trip takes you through diverse countryside, along river banks, over rugged mountains, through huge pine forests and along gentle lake shores.

If you're yearning to visit Scotland, take the Rob Roy Trail, which winds through the highland trails traveled by the man himself to steal cattle and escape capture. Accommodations vary from an historic drover's inn vintage 1708 to the Hostelry at the head of Glen Coe. Scotland also offers the Argyll Castle Trail Ride through the country's highlands, rife with ruins and historic significance. Mounts include Scottish hunters, native Highland or Cob horses – true mountain ponies.
The Western Coastal Trail ride in England passes through Exmoor, and the famous National Park, which is home to wild ponies that have survived thousands of years in their natural habitat. This ride promises a swim with your horse.

Spanish Luxury

Some of the best European riding may be found in the Andalusian country of Spain. The world famous Andalusian horses are typical mounts when you choose this trip and the Epona Hacienda is a sun-drenched Spanish paradise, complete with a private swimming pool for guests. The hacienda was once owned by Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and was a hideout for an infamous band of pirates, so there is plenty of history and local color to go along with the luxury. This equestrian facility matches the beauty of its surroundings and is the only one in Spain that is approved by the prestigious British Horse Society.

European Jaunts

If Italy is your dream trip you can take the Tuscany Trail Ride through an area renowned for its glorious landscape. This package includes great food, excellent wine and an appreciation of the outdoors. Riders are based at Il Poggio Equestrian Center not far from Siena, with private rooms and bath.

If you venture to France you may choose the Dordogne Trail Ride in southwest France where little has changed since the Middle Ages. The itinerary promises rides "through and around wheat fields, breeding pastures, strawberry fields and plum and chestnut orchards...passing farmhouses and castles that have stood in place since the 13th century."
France also offers the Provence Wine Country Ride, with beautiful scenery, a wonderful horse, fantastic food and tastes of local wine. The rides wind from winery to winery through vineyards, olive groves, lavender fields, fruit orchards and small villages. Picnic lunches, with "serious French food" are the norm, followed by a siesta before remounting.

There are a wide variety of other rides offered in exotic locales like Portugal and Greece, as well as training vacations. Prices start at about $1,100 per person up to $1,600 and include most meals and accommodations. Packages do not include airfare and transfers.

If you'd like your own brochure, call Cross Country International Equestrian Vacations at (800) 828-8768 or email xcintl@aol.com.

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