By Tom Yeager

The Castle Leslie Estate is comprised of 1,000 acres adjacent to the village of Glaslough in County Monaghan, Ireland. The estate has miles of horse trails and hundreds of cross country jumps to try on park land with meandering streams, forests and lakes. There is also an indoor horse arena for jumping and dressage lessons.

The Leslie family has lived on the property since the 1660s and have opened it to others to enjoy. I stayed in the comfortable hunting lodge overlooking the stables.

Every day we went riding in the morning and in the afternoon. We rode in the forest and countryside, walking, trotting, cantering, galloping and jumping with the wind at our backs.

From my week at Castle Leslie and a week traveling around Ireland, I learned the Irish are passionate about their horses, their football, and their Guinness beer!

From Susan Siroto, 2017

I returned from my Equitours Caribbean Tropical Trail in Costa Rica and wanted to share my appreciation for having a magical time while there! My accommodations were comfortable, clean, and I had a spectacular view of the jungle from my front deck. Every morning over cups of delicious, Costa Rican coffee I could observe colorful frogs, a variety of geckos, butterflies, birds, and monkeys – and, on my final day, two separate sloth sightings.
There was always something new to hear and/or see – vibrantly colored flowers, plants, trees. Terry Newton and her family were wonderful hosts. Knowledgeable and engaging, they were able to share information about Costa Rican culture, the region, the flora and fauna, and food and fruits indigenous to the area.
Terry herself is an incredible horsewoman. She is an accomplished rider and trainer and her horses were a pleasure to ride. All were in excellent condition, well-cared for, responsive, sensitive, friendly and willing to please.
The experience of riding along the beach, my main reason for going on this trip, was all I had hoped for. No little strips of beach for a quick trot; this was the real thing! Miles of open sand and sea, the sound of the waves, birds, and – frequently – monkeys. We went for a swim in the ocean on the beach rides and then enjoyed a delicious and healthy lunch that we carried in our saddlebags.
Mentioning food, all meals that I had during my stay were excellent! Lunches and dinners were freshly prepared and incorporated fruits, vegetables, and seasonings grown locally. I enjoyed tropical fruits I never encountered in the United States! And, to my surprise, horses enjoy certain tropical fruits as well…
In addition to riding, I was able to check out the town of Puerto Viejo, its shops and vendors, as well as relax on the beach. On one of the non-riding days, we went to the Jaguar Rescue Center and that was a real treat! I was able to see baby sloths being fed by volunteers, multiple species of toucans (who knew?), owls, a collared peccary, and many more animals in the midst of being rehabilitated or permanently housed.
For my final ride, I asked Terry if I could have a lesson. She has a wonderful riding arena and I wanted to take advantage of her dressage trained horses and her expertise. As she is skilled in the healing arts as well as horsemanship, she helped me to more effectively tune into the horse. We did groundwork and breathing exercises beforehand, also part of the lesson. I would certainly go back for more lessons of this sort; a nice complement to the beach rides.
All in all, this was one of the best trips I’ve taken. Riding, relaxation, new experiences, acquiring new skills, learning, good food and good company… Thank you!

Vermont and Quebec are not so very far apart, and our two rides in the area share some similarities, but also offer very different experiences.

The riding in Vermont on the Sugarbush Tolt Trek is designed around the Icelandic horse breed, allowing you to learn about and experience their unique characteristics. These horses are wonderful, and it is a perfect opportunity for those who want to experience their distinctive gait, the tolt, for the first time. The riding begins in the arena with instruction of using the correct aids, giving you the chance to experiment with and feel for the comfortable 4 beat lateral gait.

Here I’m quite pleased with my first Icelandic horse experience!

The rest of the rides are in the vicinity of the farm, much along the quiet, hilly dirt roads in the rural country. You also use trails built and maintained for snowmobiling during Vermont’s long winter, and see small maple syrup gathering operations along the way. Given the steep rolling hills and terrain, it is a mellow-paced ride, plenty of time to relax and enjoy the scenery, and also numerous opportunities to perfect your tolting skills.

There are two rides each day, with lunch at the farm in between, and you have the opportunity to ride a variety of horses, as they are only ridden once a day at most.

View of the pastures and arena

Awaiting lunch outside of the barn

The horses are so well cared for, with all staff very attentive to the highest quality of care. Veterans of years of being breed ambassadors to curious guests, many of these horses originally came from Iceland and have enjoyed long lives at the farm.

The area of Waitsfield, Vermont is lovely, and the inn accommodations ideally situated a short drive from the farm. The weather allowed for our breakfasts and dinners to be taken on the beautiful outdoor porch with its idyllic pastoral views. The food is fantastic, and the accommodations comfortable and atmospheric of the old fashioned Vermont country life. With your own car, you can easily visit the small town for drinks and souvenirs, and you have the opportunity to also sample local restaurants on nights dinner is not provided at the inn.

Overall, the experience is a very comfortable, fun, and relaxing way to meet Icelandic horses and spend time in the New England countryside.

A short trip north brings you across the border into Quebec. I took the bus from Burlington airport into Montreal, a city well-worth a visit. From there another bus took me to Trois Rivieres, where I was collected by the host, Bernard, for the St. Lawrence ride. Bernard’s affable attitude and playful banter with our other wonderful guide, Gen, provided much entertainment throughout our week’s stay.

Bernard giving us our briefing

Home base is Bernard’s farm, where you stay the first and last nights of your trip. The guest house has several bedrooms upstairs from the two shared bathrooms with showers, with lots of Western equestrian décor and artwork from the years the farm has operated.

Our farm guesthouse

One of Bernard’s many pieces of horseshoe artwork

Each morning you will tack your horse, with however much help is needed to become familiar with the Western gear.

Your first day of riding is on the farm’s green rolling hills, through farmland and pasture with the opportunities to canter and get to know your horse.

That night you transfer by a short drive to the cabin in the nearby woods, where you and your horses stay for the week. The description by some as “as close to camping as you can get without a tent,” is a bit of an overstatement, as there are bathrooms with hot showers, stoves for cooking and battery operated lights. It is a basic and remote experience though, with no cell or internet service, and not much beyond the necessities of single beds and a long table for meals and companionship.

The cabin in the woods

The riding from the cabin is through the park around the Gentilly river, through forested paths and across the river’s banks and dunes. The days are pretty fully spent in the saddle, with trotting and cantering throughout, so although you don’t need to be an expert rider, you should be prepared for long days with some faster paces. The horses are well-trained on the trail and take good care of their riders. Each morning you make your sandwich for lunch and stop along the way for a picnic meal. Breakfasts and dinners are impressive affairs, with dinner made on the farm and shuttled to the cabin. You have the opportunity to purchase drinks on the way to the cabin, an option which can be appreciated after a long day in the saddle, and enjoyed while Bernard serenades the group with his guitar in the evening.

The tacking pavilion in the woods

Both Gen and Bernard have helmets decorated with horsetail ponytails or mohawks

Your last night is spent back at the farm before your final day of riding, with an introduction to cattle work. This day will likely have several day riders to join for the experience, as you split and herd the cattle with your group from their pasture to another area of the farm. If you’re lucky, as we were, to have a rogue cow with her own agenda, this includes much gathering from wooded and low visibility areas before continuing to the designated route! After lunch, your task is to herd them back to the pasture, with time for a shower before departure that evening.

Working hard after the rogue cow

The other guests with me on the ride drove from Boston and New York, respectively, and it is a good option for those on the east coast looking for something close to home. Pretty evenly located between Montreal and Quebec City, it would be a great addition to a wider Canadian visit. (Perhaps brush up on some French first; I was unprepared at how French the region is, and should’ve practiced with some French Canadian phrases before traveling!) With wonderful hospitality and lots of riding time, the St. Lawrence ride offers an escape into the world of the Quebec cowboy.

Depending on the type of experience you are looking for, one of these trips in the northeast could be a wonderful option for your next summer adventure in North America!

  • Written by ride consultant Megan Barrett

Dreams Coming True in Tanzania

Text by Tom Yeager

Pictures by Darci Rutherford and Tom Yeager

 

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Waiting at the airport in Saigon for my flight to Bangkok, Nairobi, and then onto Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania, I felt my familiar anxiety facing the unknown and was comforted by the flight attendants saying “sa-wat-dee” (welcome) as I boarded the plane. 

I realize this Kilimanjaro Safari is an “if not now, then never” trip for me, because I have the time, good health, and money to make my dream come true, but sitting by myself at the airport gets old in the middle of the night as I waited for time to pass to board the plane.

I fell asleep somewhere over the Indian Ocean and felt much better as I woke up in the morning, seeing the sun coming up out the window and viewing Mt. Kilimanjaro through the clouds.

Day 1: Saturday, July 1st

Met by Jo, our safari guide, as I walked out of the Kilimanjaro Airport, I learned about her love of Tanzania while she drove me to Kili Villa to rest and eat a healthy and tasty lunch of salad, spaghetti, fruit, and a dish of ice cream for dessert.

Sitting with the other riders by the bonfire we enjoyed our first dinner together. There was Jane and her daughters, Darci and Piper, from Australia, Anne, a well traveled psychologist, and all of us listened to Jo as she gave us a briefing on the week ahead. 

We all enjoyed our soup, tender chicken and rice with gravy, and vegetables, with wine and storytelling over dinner, all laughing and full of anticipation of our ride, I felt at home talking about my favorite subjects…horses..riding, and politics.

Day 2: Sunday, July 2nd

It is six in the morning when I wake up ready for a new day, putting my suitcase outside by the door to be collected and put into the jeep for our safari trip, our horses were waiting for us when we arrived at the Arusha National Park.

I was introduced to my horse “Phoenix,” a warmblood and veteran of many safaris and polo matches. I learned from him that his past was full of riders who were not sensitive to his mouth, and decided it was best to be his friend and not his trainer.

An enjoyable day with the only problem being when Phoenix stepped in a hole, causing his front legs to go down to his knees, so instinctively I sat back and we both recovered.

Soon we were riding in the rainforest passing zebras, giraffes, monkeys, and African buffalo as we made our way to the Maio Waterfall for lunch.

My daily challenge was cantering through the rain forest and trying not to have my legs hit the trees on each side of me, all the while looking ahead to follow the riders on the trail ahead of me, feeling excited and comfortable standing in my stirrups at the hand gallop.

When we reached our lunch destination the crew put the horses on a string line to get a well deserved rest, taking their tack off, checking their temperatures and shoes, giving them food and water, while the riders sat on a nice carpet eating lunch on comfortable pillows “roughing it! “

Jo, who I nicknamed Lara Croft, because of her fearlessness and how she could make her Hungarian Bullwhip sing, was always paying attention to what was going on in the bush and making sure our horses and selves were not in danger.   

We made it to the first camp before the sun went down and were each introduced to our tents, very spacious with a comfortable cot inside and conveniently placed next to a small tent with a portable potty and shower.

I looked forward to our evening before supper, sitting by the bonfire as Mareso, the leader of the crew, offered us the drinks of our choice while our horses enjoyed their dinner tied to the string line.  

We enjoyed our dinner with fresh ingredients prepared by the staff chef, eating a local fish, vegetables, potato slices with a brownie for dessert, and lots of wine making for lots of laughs.

At 10:00 it was time to crawl into bed with night time temperatures of mid fifties, thinking to myself that bringing my long underwear was “so smart,” sleeping like a baby and comforted knowing the horses had guards on duty all night to keep them out of danger.

Day 3: Monday, July 3rd

At 6:00 AM I made my way to the shower and as I was standing naked under the shower head, I pulled the string and much to my surprise there was no water…(oops). So I tracked down Ali and he explained that I needed to tell him when I wanted to take a shower. He then heated the water in a drum placed over a fire and filled the container full of hot water, lifting the container into the air using a rope and pulley and with the miracle of gravity, I got my wonderful hot shower in the bush.

After breakfast at eight o’clock we were ready to go riding, exploring in the rain forest, so lush and green, walking, trotting, and galloping and keeping an eye on Jo for her commands, with Stephano in the rear keeping his eyes on the riders and their horses.

We stopped at  Lake Momella to view on Mt. Meru at about 2000 meters (7000 ft) and we looked over the valley towards our destination, Kenya. Later that morning we rode under Fig Tree Arch, stopping for pictures by Stephano.

We stopped for lunch by a waterfall that we called Shangri La, resting ourselves and horses with a nice nap laying on the carpet and my head on a pillow, before getting up to continue our ride North.

The night was spent in a new camp in an area called Nyumbu, named after its usual frequent abundance of wildebeest, who will  become part of  the greatest migration on the planet in February when they cross  the Mara River into the Masai Mara to fulfill their destiny.

Day 4: Tuesday, July 4th

In the morning we saw the Masai herding their cows and goats along the road and Jo, who speaks Swahili, explained how a young boy becomes a Masai Warrior and about their transition into manhood, living their purpose of enjoying each day and being happy.

As we came down the mountain, passing rivers and  streams, the greens turned to brown and barren with shrubs, we continued our ride north towards Kenya, across the vast and harsh land, an exciting time to be in the saddle and sleeping under the African skies.

I had ridden for six hours and  after lunch decided to take the jeep Safari with Huntsy to the night camp, a new and different experience for me because I didn’t have to convince the jeep to cross the river or go over a ditch.

At our next new camp it was very quiet in the evening and the birds were singing as the sun set in the background,with Mareso setting the table for the guests who would arrive on horseback, and soon the riders appeared on the horizon galloping into camp to beat the setting sun.

After our dinner we went to our tents to sleep in our camp that was located between four powerful  mountains, Mt. Meru, Namanga, Longido and in the shadow of the legendary Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Day 5: Wednesday, July 5th  

We woke up in the morning to a bowl of warm water to wash our faces and enjoyed a hearty and healthy breakfast before starting our ride: eggs of our choice, sausage and bacon, juice, tea or coffee with sweet milk and conversation with a touch of excitement for the day.

Each day Jo would bring extra horses who would run free with us so they can get used to being out in the bush, this morning three wanted to run free as the wind and took off on their own, so Stephano chased them down and brought back home.

We saw a big bull elephant today who was about 50 years old, eating the vegetation when we approached, along with a mother and her young calves. He looked at us and we looked at him, and he decided to keep eating.

We rode about five hours in the desert, fulfilling my dream of galloping with the zebras and herds of wildebeest, and at the same time trying to avoid the prickly oltupai plants with thorns on steroids that the elephants chew to get moisture.

Day 6: Thursday, July 6th  

We started our day at 8:00 in the morning and all of us became concerned when Anne fell off as she slowed down to find her stirrup at the canter, so Jo had her taken back to camp in the safari jeep, reminding all of us that riding hard and fast in the bush can be dangerous.

Sarah and Adam, friends of Jo, came to the camp at lunchtime and all of us enjoyed avocado salad, Mediterranean salad with mousaka, and a delicious dish made with cheese, eggplant, and very lean masai meat under an African umbrella tree.

On our ride we saw gerenuk hiding in the bush, along with giraffes, zebras, antelope, jackals, spotted hyenas and monkeys running between the trees, all pointed out to us by our guide.

I was tired with sore muscles and dust from head to toe as we crossed the dry Sinya riverbed waiting for the winter rains, meeting the physical challenge of  riding six hours a day – covering 300 km or about 180 miles in six days.

Sinya riverbed

Day 7: Thursday, July 7th (Last riding day)

Phoenix had a leg injury and was being rested in the morning, so I started playing polo for the first time on another horse. We divided into two teams and had great fun, finding yet another way to enjoy riding and horses.

Then we rode along the Sinya Riverbed, chasing the elephants and following their tracks, jumping logs along the way and feeling like kids playing follow our fearless leader.

We then rode to the Kenya border and took a picture next to the marker before heading back to our camp and making a cavalry charge with all six horses galloping together so a camera mounted to a drone could capture the return of the conquering heroes.

 

Kenyan border marker

It was our final night, so we rode to a hill near the camp and climbed to a high spot to witness the setting sun, while the horse crew took the horses back to camp. We enjoyed eating fresh goat meat prepared and cooked by the Masai.

For me this trip was a challenging ride, riding across different types of African landscape, from the rainforest to the savannah to the grassy plains, walking, trotting, cantering, galloping, and the thrill of  jumping logs.

In the evening I thought about how my challenge had been met, making my dream of riding in Africa come true, and it was now time to go home, so we packed our suitcases to be ready to be picked up in the morning.

Day 8: Friday, July 8th  

After our breakfast, we all signed the guest book and I wrote down my thoughts, “Jo, thanks to you and your crew for taking such good care care of us. What impressed me the most about you and your crew was that you cared about your horses as much as your guests.”   

The entire crew

It was then time to jump into our four wheel vehicle and drive back to civilization, to drop off Jane and her daughters at the Kilimanjaro Airport, saying goodbye to Anne, who went on to do more traveling, and I went back to the Killa Villa to wait for an evening flight back to Saigon.

After taking a short nap, swimming in the pool, and eating a delicious lunch with tilapia fish and vegetables prepared by Chappie, I reflected on my unforgettable  experience and what I learned.

The importance of a guide on any new journey, knowing and respecting your own limitations, and being willing to learn more about the world.

We were all blessed to experience Africa and see magnificent  animals, both predators and prey, in their natural world, to witness the world of the Masai, their friendly nature and the stature of warriors, who live their lives with “Hakuna Matata”  meaning  “no worry for the rest of your days.”

Sundown on the African bush

Based on the enthusiastic recommendation from friends of Equitours, we are eager to check out for ourselves the riding and gorilla trekking in Uganda. We have scheduled an exploratory Nile riding safari with Mel Fox February 11-18, 2018, which will be followed by gorilla treks in the Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest National Park, February 18-21, before continuing on to Tanzania for the Serengeti Safari February 21-March 1. Spaces are limited, but we still have room to fill for all or part of what is sure to be a wonderful African experience!

Price for the ride in Uganda is $4,000 per person, and the meeting point is Entebbe, where you will be picked up from you accommodations on February 11. Please see further details on our trip page and some additional photos below.

Price for the gorilla treks will be approximately $3,965 per person, subject to change based on airfare to Kihihi and total number of participants. Accommodation will be at the Silverback Lodge at the park, and includes two days of gorilla trekking. Now is an excellent time to visit Ugandan gorillas, as the cost for visitation permits here is likely to rise after this year, as it has recently done for Rwanda, from $750 per permit to $1,500. The permits included in the Ugandan trip price is $600 per trek, and so currently remains a great savings.

Click on the graphic for full details

 

 

 

 

From Travis Brinck, 2017

I thought I would share a few pictures with you of our trip, Horses, Dunes & Nomads in March.  We had spoken with Bayard about this ride before we went, and he had told us it was “the best horses and the best guides in the world,” and I will tell you after experiencing the ride he could not have been more right!  Having been to Spain and Botswana, which are both amazing, I can tell you that this ride was on a different level and truly amazing. We did as Bayard suggested and spent a few days in Marrakech and had really just the best time!  Our hotel was amazing and the people and the culture are so beautiful. Morocco is really a country that more Americans should travel to, because it is truly the only place I have been that feels like stepping back in time.
The horses on the ride were UNBELIEVABLE, and Abdel, our guide, was so wonderful!!  What a great horseman he is!! Everything went off without a hitch. Anyway, I just wanted to share the pictures and let you know how amazing it was. Thanks for everything, and we’re trying to decide where we’re going next year to match the adventure of this ride!!
Happy Trails….

 

By Narda Sherman, March 14, 2017

I think I may have just had one of the best days of my life. Awoke here in Estancia los Potreros, after a fine dinner and good company last night, to a sunny warm day.  Wandered over to the group of young horses, mares, yearlings, 6 month and 2 month old foals waiting to be let out to the larger fields. There I was love-bombed by the 6 month and 1 year old horses; they nibbled on my shoes, hair, and one rested his velvet muzzle on my shoulder. They followed me about, pushing and insisting on pets. Eventually the 2 month olds let me ever-so-cautiously touch their downy faces.

Estancia Los Potreros 2005 044.ed

Back to breakfast on the hacienda porch – coffee, fresh-squeezed orange juice, cereals and to-order eggs. Toast came with local jams and, of course, dulce de leche si tu quieres. The  three of us polo wannabes changed into our white breeches per instruction, saddled up and, extra horse in tow each, rode off to the newly mown polo field 20 minutes’ ride away.

Our Argentine polo coach awaited us. She has been playing polo for over 20 years and is a 4 goal player, the first woman in all of Cordoba!!! She grew up playing with boys and, I’m told, can swear like a sailor when the games get intense. All we saw was a charming, friendly and engaging instructor who assumed we would love the game as much as she and so, after some basic but very helpful instruction, COWGIRLS UP and we were on the field! Stick and ball at a walk and trot and, 20 minutes later, “now hit the balls at a slow canter! It’s easier” And so we did. Two Swedish woman who are experienced riders and twins and I are the guests, so the teams were completed with the coach and staff from the Estancia. Soon we were playing chukkas, slow at first with lots of ball line fouls, but in time at all we were focused on the ball and running like hell.

Learning the polo ropes

Learning the polo ropes

Our horses knew how to play but were kind and pretended to wait for our instructions. Our coach yelled encouragement, ran ahead, hung back and gave us tips between gallops. We were fast and focused and thrilled and not very good, but having the best time of our lives. Novices, we learned to respect the line of the ball, to never ever let our horses stop and to forget about missed balls. If we were close enough to hit the ball, we were good. Missing happens.  Unacceptable is to be off on our own and to not follow our Captain’s shouted instructions.  Final score 2-2. Panting and sweaty, we finished, thrilled to know we would be back tomorrow.

Playing hard at polo

We rode back to the Estancia, arriving by 1:30 to another breezy outdoors lunch, then coffee and and hour or so of resting, chatting and, for we polo players lot of stretching on the lawn, hanging out with a pack of Estancia dogs and each other. Tea at 5:00 and back in the saddle at 5:30.

Estancia los Potreros outside dining area

Porch setting for sunny day meals

This time we were on gaited Peruano Paso horses. 90 minutes with our gaucho guide, who took us through grassy fields and hills with no roads or towns or any signs of humans – all part of the 6000 acre ranch.  We ran!   And yelped with happiness.  A fellow guest from the UK was so happy and thrilled with the unexpectedly smooth gaits that she started giggling with joy – contagious so we all started laughing.  And there were some tears – being overwhelmed with beauty and happiness and profound gratefulness for being here now in all of this.

Riding for joy

Riding for joy

After quick showers, sore and sunned, we all met in the kitchen where the two chefs taught us to make empanadas, ravioli and quick breads, accompanied by some very fine wines. We ate in the big wooden table in the kitchen this time and chatted away, telling stories and enjoying our varied company until 11:00. Then off to bed, all relaxed and exhausted and happy, delighted to know we would have more in the morning.

Estancia Los Potreros 2005 042.ed

We are pleased to announce that our very own Bitterroot Ranch has been featured in the newest full color third edition of 1,000 Places to See in the United States and Canada Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. Long considered a reliable resource for must-do travel in North America around the world, it’s an honor to be featured by this author once again!

“In the embrace of a remote valley surrounded by the Shoshone National Forest and a 52,000 acre-game and fish wildlife refuge, Mel and Bayard Fox operate this 1,300 acre horse ranch, breeding and training their Arabian beauties exclusively for the use of their 28 guests, who bunk in hand-hewn log cabins scattered along the river that runs through the ranch. Horse-loving visitors will think they have died and gone to heaven. The availability of more than 100 prize specimens means guests can change horses frequently so mounts remain fresh and ready to go throughout the season. Within minutes, guests are totally immersed in a wilderness setting, in the competent hands of guides who know it intimately. Terrain is extremely varied: Riders pass from sagebrush plains and grassy meadows to rocky gorges that give way to forested mountains and alpine clearings.”

  • From “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” by Patricia Schultz

Please enjoy the slideshow below of our new Korta Ride in India, scouted by Mel and Bayard Fox in January 2017.