The best five-star saddle-based adventures from Argentina to Rajasthan.
By Charles Starmer-Smith
Last Updated: 4:02PM GMT 06 Mar 2009
Although in Argentina, India and Africa it is easy to find luxurious riding holidays that combine well-schooled horses, stunning scenery and comfortable places to stay, that is not the case in the rest of the world. "Too many riding holidays involve too much damp canvas," admits one operator wryly.
While in the Middle East you can have the thrill of sleeping in the desert under the stars, horses are usually Arab racers and not schooled the English way. In America you can find luxurious ranches and wonderful riding, but rarely both together. In Canada you can ride in glorious wilderness and hunt elk from horseback, but will have to stay in cabins. So where to go if you want everything: fine steeds, exhilarating landscapes, comfortable accommodation, and, most importantly, experienced guides? Here are a few of the best destinations.
Singita Grumeti Reserves - Serengeti, Tanzania
From this spring, experienced riders staying at American billionaire Paul Tudor Jones's Sasakwa Lodge will have access to 18 magnificent steeds on which to traverse his 350,000-acre private property. Game in the reserve bordering the Serengeti is plentiful; during migration, the horses might pass through thousands of wildebeest and zebra and, in the dry season, traverse riverbeds which lion prides regard as home. On a five-day horseback safari, staying two nights at Sasakwa and two nights at the glamorous Faru Faru bush camp, guests ride up to 20km a day with a game guide, swapping a saddle at the end of the day for sundowners and spa treatments.
A five-day riding safari at Singita Grumeti (www.singita.com) costs £4,030pp, excluding air fares.
Don Augusto - Pilar, Argentina
This glamorous private farm, 45 minutes outside Buenos Aires, is surrounded by some of the most famous polo clubs in the world. The speciality here, naturally, is polo; set holidays consist of private lessons each morning and four- to six-chukka games in the afternoon, played with pro Argentinian riders. Although there is the option of staying at a small lodge sleeping up to 40 riders, the most luxurious places to stay are the two country houses, each sleeping eight and serviced by private staff, set in 37 hectares. Rides are also available in the surrounding countryside, as are carriage trips.
Riding holidays at Don Augusto (www.estanciadonaugusto.com.ar) cost from $300pp a day, all-inclusive.
The most popular Indian horseriding holidays, says Ride World Wide, are bespoke Rajasthan trips, taking in ancient forts and hillside villages, and staying in varied accommodation from palaces to Raj-style tents in the deserts, which have proper beds and basic bathrooms with showers and WCs. A ten-night itinerary might take in Jaipur and its Amber Fort, the luxurious Pushkar Resort oasis in the desert, an isolated camp in the mountains, dinner at the Kuchaman Fort, a treatment at the Samode Palace spa, and a final evening in the simple Dera Danta Kila: a hilltop guest house beside a monkey-inhabited fort.
A ten-night holiday with Ride World Wide (01837 82544, www.rideworldwide.com) costs from £5,070pp, excluding flights.
Mount Juliet Estate - Kilkenny, Ireland
This is the place to warm up for the ultimate treat of going to Botswana or Kenya with a specialist such as Aardvark Safaris (01578 760 222, www.aardvarksafaris.co.uk) Accommodation at the 1,500-acre Irish estate is the Mount Juliet House, with its 32 elegantly decorated rooms and fine restaurant. The equestrian centre here has bred 11 classic winners; steeds range from ponies to thoroughbreds. Unusually, at this horse-centric destination, there are diversions such as a spa and a golf course for non-riders.
Two nights' b&b with three hours' daily riding costs from £612pp: In the Saddle (01299 272 997, www.inthesaddle.co.uk)