Living in Wyoming, experiencing additional Arctic activities hasn’t been something I felt I necessarily needed to pursue. However, having never been to Sweden, when the opportunity to go on the January winter ride there arose, I became excited to fully embrace the true frozen North. And the experience did not disappoint! Never had I imagined I would be driving a reindeer or dog sled independently, nor could I envision the intricate artwork on display at the Ice Hotel; these activities are so unique and well organized by our riding hosts that they were bucket list additions I didn’t know I needed!

Riding Icelandic Horses itself is a treat. I had a previous few days experience on these unique adorable horses from a few years back, but the ride in Sweden offered additional insight into their gaits. Kerstin, the owner of the farm, is extremely knowledgeable and an effective teacher, and over the course of a few lessons I went from being a passenger on horseback to being able to ask for the gait I wanted, both in the arena and on the trail. She and Jenny guide the rides and know each horse extremely well and explained points on the snowy terrain where we could ask for tolt or trot. The horses seemed comfortable in the cold weather, their abundant hair serving them well even when we all came in covered in frost. You are involved in all aspects of horse care, catching your horse and feeding them hay, picking out snow-packed hooves, brushing, saddling and bridling, which was informative as well as warming!

Coming back frosted

Because cold it was! The coldest temperature we saw was -25°F, and we were assured that we were faring better than the guests who were there week before, who experienced lows of -45°F. Before traveling I had thought, “maybe it won’t feel that bad – you know, if the sun is shining and the wind isn’t blowing, maybe you don’t notice the cold”… that was wrong. The moment I stepped off the plane in Kiruna I realized, “Oh, no, this definitely FEELS cold…”  But you’re well taken care of, and Kerstin or Jenny will tell you frankly if you just don’t have enough layers on! So you can go back into the mudroom area, where there’s a wall of winter coveralls to choose from, shelves of wool sweaters, drawers of mittens and hats, hand and toe warmers to purchase, and you learn quickly not to underestimate the chill, or be too fashion-conscious!

When asked if she liked the winter or summer rides better, Jenny said that she appreciated the peace of winter; riding through the forest, you could sense that everything was resting. The silence was complete, and the delicate winter light lent a fantasy quality to the landscape. We had about 3 hours between sunrise and sunset, but 6 hours total of light, mostly in pinkish hues. We saw the Northern Lights above the farm our first and last nights there, and our ride in darkness in hopes of finding them resulted only in moonlight, which was not disappointing as it still had a magical feel.

There’s a healthy mix of additional activities: snowmobiling, dog sledding and – probably my favorite – reindeer sledding. The guides were personable and knowledgeable, from the same Sami community as Kerstin, whose indigenous culture centers on reindeer herding. Coming from an equestrian background, the handling of the reindeer seemed less nuanced – which was both slightly terrifying (we’re just going to hold on to this rope and let the reindeer run and basically hope for the best?!) and invigorating (just hold on to that rope and have fun!!). Our guides fed us lunch and regaled us with stories and answers to our many questions, with the warmth, food and shared experience always being a balm to the outside cold.

I was amazed at the engineering and artistic feat that is the Ice Hotel. Guests there have access to their rooms at 7pm, and before that they are open to the public to visit. The rooms are all literally just ice and snow, carved and sculpted into designs of varying complexity, so those who stay in the rooms mostly enjoy them from within their warm sleeping bags. Each year there are different artists from around the world, and it was fascinating to see each unique artistic vision. You can choose to spend the night here if you want to the full experience!

I discussed with fellow riders the difference between a “vacation,” and an “experience;” the former having a greater emphasis on luxury and relaxation, while we all agreed we were part of the latter, where the activities were designed not necessarily for comfort, but to expand and enrich your knowledge and abilities. We did not have much down time, and while the accommodations were comfortable they didn’t come with extra amenities; we were fed well with homemade fare even cooked over the fire in the wooden Sami style hut. The guests on the trip were mostly younger Europeans, who weren’t there for a pampered curated stay, but for an authentic opportunity to experience a truly unique location and activities. While I have nothing against the pampered vacation, I am grateful for the worthwhile adventure on offer in Sweden’s winter. I’m glad to also be able to offer a summer experience, which is sure to offer a similar feeling of adventurous exploration.

“Everyone spread out.  There’s plenty of room!  If you want to go fast, do it!  If you don’t, hang back and canter.  If you pass me, look back to check direction. Let’s go!”   So said our guide, just before he turned, cantering, then galloping, hand holding hat, over the red hills of the Namibian Desert.

The first day we hesitated, looked around, sharing thought bubbles, “Did I hear him correctly?  Can I really run as fast as I want?!?  Far and wide?  No wrestling with my horse’s reins?  No struggling to stay in line?”   Then we heard yelps of joy as Larissa, the Company manager, raced past us!  Smiles all around, we leaned forward, let go and ran!   Hoofs pounding, the horses never seemed to tire.  After several momentary miles, we all pulled up, breathless and beaming, wide smiles, gasps of happiness and bursts of laughter.

Our group was experienced.  Most of us have spent decades riding in a variety of disciplines – not just in arenas but through forests, over prairies and polo fields, for sport and for work.  Collectively and individually, we have been on many riding trips over most continents, looking for fast and fierce riding, hoping not to be held back by fellow travelers who have overestimated their skill or stamina.  And here we found it – on the isolated sands of Namibia.

In addition to gallops, there were plenty of luxurious leisurely canters, and, as even the strongest horses (and riders), cannot run all day, there were many hours relaxed riding:  walking, admiring, contemplating, and reflecting. But this is not a trip for the novice or the nervous.  It is for the advanced and the adventurous, for riders seeking the speed and beauty of eager equine athletes who can carry a rider for 300 kilometers across the desert and run every chance they get!  There are no slow options.  No abbreviated versions.  The pace is fast.  The distance is far.  The herd rides together.

The human herd too: without cell phone reception or internet, asphalt or electricity, without any contact with the outside world, we turned to each other for entertainment and companionship. Friendships develop quickly far from the distractions of modern life.  Every evening, desert dust washed away by hot showers, and beds set up under the open sky, we gathered around a fire for drinks and dinner.   The meals conjured out of cast iron pots were varied and delicious and would have been appreciated in any setting.  Conversation was lively and, as affection replaced pretense, jokes and hilarity took over.  We laughed.  And laughed.  And laughed some more. Gradually we made our ways to our down-filled beds, luminous stars winking at us, “We are beautiful,” they seemed to say, “you forget to look, but we are here.  We have always been, and always will be.  Ignore the noise.  The world is magnificent, and you are in it.”

On our last day we rode – and ran – across the sands of an endless Namibian beach.  Some horses dipped their feet in the Atlantic.  Others skipped over waves.  Most kept their distance.  We rode through town and released them into a corral, where they rolled and played, knowing that they would be trucked to their ranch for a well-earned six weeks of rest.  We needed a rest too, and certainly some clean clothes.  But not for long.  Within a week, most of us had signed up for a return trip.  Together.  Because we are friends now.  Because we have found a place of beauty and joy.

If you like speed, rugged beauty, an awe-inspiring landscape that reminds you of the greatness of time and space, you will find it here.  If you have been looking for the freedom to ride as fast as you can on a spectacular horse, choosing your own path, this is for you.  If you want to be out of reach of the dings, and beeps and chatter of modern life, you will be happy here.

And who knows?  We may meet.  Chances are good.

  • By Narda Sherman, June 2023
We suggest that it might help you get maximum value from your trip if you read Bayard Fox’s book, Fisherman, Rancher, Horseman, Spy which describes the origins of Equitours and its philosophy.  
In order to supplement the short summer season at their Bitterroot Ranch, Bayard and Mel began doing foreign riding tours by guiding former ranch guests on winter horse safaris in Kenya in 1980.  Mel grew up in East Africa and speaks fluent Swahili as well as being very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and peoples of the area.  Later Bayard’s knowledge of foreign countries, their cultures and languages gained while working as a CIA agent in Europe, Africa and Asia helped them add many additional rides in over 30 different countries.   Now three ride consultants assist the Fox Family in managing over a hundred different riding vacations on six continents.

I made my African Explorer reservation back in November of 2019 with plans to go in May of 2020, only to have Covid happen.  What at first was a 2 week shutdown, turned into 2 months and on and on…2 years plus and countries were on lockdown with borders closed.  I postponed my riding safari trip a total of 5x, fretting over when borders would open, when testing requirements might loosen up and also knowing that I had to take the chance that  23 hours of flying would also be a risk in addition to being just a super long flight.  Time was also of essence because I am not young and I really wanted to do this ride.  Megan of Equitours was so helpful, accommodating all my postponements, as we all worked our way through the Covid situation.  In June of 2022, I decided on September for the trip and luck had it that the 24 hour testing requirements were dropped, which made traveling much easier.

The first 4 days are in South Africa.  A gorgeous setting with very comfortable permanent tents that have a full bathroom connected to each tent.  The food was really delicious and always something cold to drink after each ride.

We rode out that first afternoon and within 3 minutes were cantering down the trail.  What a thrill to hit the open plains and canter as a herd of antelope crossed our path and to be so close to giraffe and zebra.  Be sure to have your camera on you at all times to capture the animals and the sunset.  The sunsets are stunning!

We were in the saddle by 8:30a the next 3 mornings and off to explore returning to camp around noon and then lunch.  A mid-day break since viewing of wildlife is best early and again late afternoon.  Then we’d go out again around 4p for about 2 to 2-1/2 hours, returning to clean up and have dinner.  The horses were terrific and the riding had a lot of cantering which made it super fun.  A couple of the riders wanted to gallop so the guide picked a spot where he felt we could do that…this was our first gallop and there were many more in Botswana.

On the 4th day, we were in the saddle at 7:30a since we rode out to Bellevue Lodge.  What a treat!  The next morning we were in the saddle by 7a and we made very good time, with lots and lots of cantering, getting back to Horizon Horseback to return the horses before a 4 hour drive to Botswana. That was so fun and we really flew on those horses. They are so in shape and so familiar with the terrain!

Aha, Botswana.  Three nights and 4 days in Botswana.  After we arrived in Botswana and had lunch, we got on our new horses and did the riding test.  The test is to make sure that you are capable of riding and controlling your horse in the wide open terrain since the Tuli Block has lions, leopards and elephants in addition to giraffe, antelope (kudu, impala, sable, etc), warthogs, jackal, wildebeest.  Then we rode out to our lodging for the first night…the new Tree Camp. Since we needed to get there before dark, as the guide would say, ‘Let’s kick up some dust!’ and we cantered out to this incredible Tree Camp.  So apparently there is also the original tree camp but this one was built during Covid since they had a lot of time.  It is simply gorgeous!  Raised above the ground, you could see animals roaming around and under.  In fact, they had someone on 2 hour watches all night to make sure no animals got too close.

The next morning we rode to Two Mashatus Camp where we would spend the remaining 3 days and 2 nights.  Again, fantastic permanent tent with full bathroom connected to each tent.  Food was delicious.  At this point we were in the saddle at 7 and 7:30am. Yes, early but what the heck.  From here we had our adventure with elephants, a lion, jackal, and the usual sightings of giraffe, antelope etc.  One afternoon we had a vehicle drive and spotted a pregnant leopard in the tree napping.  Then she climbed down to continue eating her kill which was an impala…to get her fill before the hyenas who would eat at night.

The riding in Botswana was terrific.  We had tons of canters as well as a lot of fast galloping.  The horses are so athletic and so reliable, you can really trust your horse to take care of you as you go flying over the red soil.

This ride really was a once-in-a lifetime dream come true, terrific adventure for me! Thanks to Equitours and Horizon Horseback for making it happen.

By Verna Lin

Despite the challenges posed to travel in early 2021, one stalwart (and fully vaccinated) adventurer completed a trip to Ecuador in February. In spite of booking solo and no last minute companions working out to join, Sherry Swartz had a wonderful time and was well-looked after by our partner there. So much planning went into ensuring covid safe travel, including testing before flying from and back to the US, and careful social distancing and sanitizing at the accommodations, and it resulted in a smooth and enjoyable journey. Sherry writes:

“It was fantastic and would recommend this trip to anyone who loves horseback riding. Everyone was so nice and welcoming, horses were well-mannered, food was terrific, and the places I stayed were very cozy. One of the best trips I have been on.”

Ecuador remains a great option for those looking to travel as regulations start to allow for more traveling, now a negative test is not required to enter the country if you are vaccinated, and we still have flexible booking policies if covid does interrupt your plans. Great for solo travelers or groups, with wonderful options for non-riding companions, and customized versions of the standard Hacienda to Hacienda ride are available. Always a fabulous experience, it’s especially one to consider in our new normal!

Click on the photos below to see full size!

Erica Temple participated in the African Explorer ride in August of 2019 and generously shared some photos of the experience. This ride starts in South Africa at Horizon Ranch’s permanent tented camp, where guests enjoy an introduction to the hospitality and excitement of riding in Africa, and ends in Botswana in the area of the Tuli Safari, where you can spot the full array of wildlife. It’s a fantastic way to have an African safari experience!

Rides in Italy can easily meet the criteria for a successful riding holiday: beautiful scenery and countryside to ride through, interesting history and culture, delicious local food and wine, good horses and elegant accommodation. This is all easily apparent from the photos and clips Louise Palmer was kind enough to share following her Tuscan Villages & Vintages ride in September 2017. Enjoy the memories below!

Written by Biggi Hayes

Mediterranean Trail April 2-8, 2018

In early April of 2018 I was excited to be heading off to Catalonia, to participate in the Mediterranean Trail, covering about 100 miles in 5 days.

After a long Wyoming winter – March and April are tough months as teasingly warm spring days can give way to full out blizzards –  the temperatures north of Barcelona were in the mid 60’s. Different green hues were sprouting everywhere, flowers blooming and the birds were singing – spring was in the air and what balm to my soul it was.

I flew into the Barcelona airport via Berlin and eagerly awaited the group transfer from the airport which was scheduled for late afternoon from a designated pickup point. Our friendly driver Enrique was there on time and soon all of us where chatting away, anticipating what the next few days would bring.

The trail started at Mas Alba, a typical Catalan stone house dating back to the 16th century. The accommodations for the week where in quaint family owned village hotels and comfortable rustic stone houses, all adding to the charm of the ride.

During our welcome dinner that evening we got to know our fellow riders and our fearless trail leader Nacho. Soon after dinner I found myself tucked away into my cozy room, getting a good night’s sleep to be ready for our weeks adventure that lay ahead.

After breakfast the next morning we were introduced to our trusty steeds. I locked eyes with a young and very handsome P.R.E gelding named Vido and was hoping he would be my partner for the week – and a few minutes later that unspoken wish became a reality. After receiving all of the tack needed for the week ahead and had an introduction on how to tack and untack, we set off following the river Fluvia as it winds through hilly terrain covered by thick oak and pine forests. As it turned out to be a warmer day than anticipated, a picnic at a small lake turned into an impromptu splashing in the invigorating waters for those of us brave enough. During the short siesta after lunch and our shenanigans in the cool waters, I was able to enjoy these first warmer rays of sunshine.

Day 3 was a long one as we awoke before sunrise to tack up and head to the beach before it became too crowded. After a long fun canter in the surf we climbed the Massif Montgri mountain to enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It was cooler then the day before and we all feasted on the fantastic lunch spread of fresh bread, cheeses, and different cold cuts such as salami and ham options, fresh tomatoes, washed down by some red wine. A much needed siesta followed before cantering to our next stop. In the afternoon we crossed over a small mountain range down to the coast. A simple hotel close to the beach was our stop for the night. Since I was still so full from our late lunch I opted to enjoy a long walk along the deserted beach and reveled in the peace and the energy of the ocean.

The next day brought more long canters twisting through pine forests and rice fields and passing through small towns and hamlets. We arrived in the medieval town of Pals in time for a delicious Paella for lunch after which we had time to explore the town a bit. It was easy to get lost in the narrow cobble stone streets – what a cool place to explore!

On our last day of riding we set out after breakfast, homeward bound, having come almost full circle. After tacking up our mounts and a quick photo op in a field abloom with poppies, Nacho led us on a fast canter up and down some hills before crossing the river El Ter. There was a feast set up for us and after toasting our week with Cava, we enjoyed the fresh food and wine before a peaceful siesta and a bittersweet return to Mas Alba. I cannot wait to return to ride Vido again on another one of these itineraries.

Written by Biggi Hayes

Several years ago I had the pleasure of experiencing a few wonderful and fun filled days at the Rancho Puesto del Sol. Going over some new photos from the outfitter brought back lovely memories from this visit and I’m looking forward to returning when we can travel freely again.

Arriving at the ranch after an 1.5 hour private transfer from the Mexico City airport I was welcomed by Uschi and her friendly staff who immediately made me feel at home and fell in love with the colores de Mexico displayed at the rancho.

The next 4 days flew by with fun riding on willing and surefooted horses. All level of riders are welcome at the ranch and on one afternoon ride is was great to see a couple of beginner riders getting to feel an easy canter on these steady mounts. I was amazed by the varied terrain and landscapes we rode through and enjoyed galloping across wide open spaces with no fences. Especially memorable to me was the river valley where 800 year old cypress trees are covered by Spanish moss – not something I would have expected in the land of cactus.

Optional excursions to the ruins of Tula, San Miguel de Allende and the weekly market visits to Jilotepec add extra cultural aspects.  At the end of the day I would retire into the comfortable and colorful accommodations. The infinity pool, the Jacuzzi and the wellness gazebo invite to relax and rejuvenate.

I recall a sense of sadness that came over me when it was time to leave after 4 days – I could have easily spent two weeks as there is so much to explore on horseback and during the offered excursions – next time

Ean Cuthbert, a guest with Equitours on the March 2020 Grand Canyon ride in Arizona, put together this slide show of photos and video clips and graciously shared with us. Enjoy!

Join a Live Webinar with Equine Photographer Gabriele Boiselle

In February of 2020 equine photographer and friend of Equitours, Gabriele Boiselle, traveled with Mel Fox to Tanzania on the Serengeti Migration ride. She is hosting a live webinar on Thursday, April 16, 2020 to share her photos and experiences from the trip. Gabriele’s photography is always stunning, and the trip’s wildlife viewing was once of a lifetime, so this is sure to be a thrill!

Sign up for the free webinar on Gabriele’s website: https://mailchi.mp/editionboiselle/travel-to-africa and see her video introduction on her Facebook page.

By Mel Fox

I grew up on a farm at the foot of Kilimanjaro, about 20 miles from where these horses are stabled, so returning to Tanzania is always a thrill. Of course it has changed enormously over the years, but the country is still about 50 years behind Kenya in development.

This year in the Serengeti was perhaps my favorite ride ever. Catching up with the famous wildebeest and zebra migration of 1.3 million animals is a hit and miss affair, because it is totally dependent on rainfall. The rains do sometimes fail and the vast herds become scattered, but usually they are gathered in the southern Serengeti at this time, where ancient volcanic activity has created mineral-rich soil. The wildebeest come here to drop their calves, which takes place over a period of 3 weeks. It is amazing to watch the newborns get up on unsteady legs and then canter off with their mothers within a matter of 2 minutes. The abundant source of easy prey draws predators such as lion, hyena, wild dogs and jackals, which makes for exciting game viewing.

A wildebeest calf’s first steps

We flew in our private charter plan to Ndutu airstrip in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and arrived at camp in time for lunch an and introductory afternoon ride. The first moving day we passed some of the migrating herds, but the highlight was a long canter with 70 giraffe. Our camp had been efficiently set up while we were riding and welcome hot showers were awaiting us. Wildebeest were calling all around, moving to the open plains for grazing during the day and retiring to thorn thicket country at night. A special experience from this camp was cantering with the wildebeest and then watching a herd of 200 eland cut single file in front of us; these huge animals are often quite elusive and it was a real treat to see so many together.

A group of giraffe

One night we set up a fly camp away from the horses in an area known for its dense population of predators – and we did have numerous lion sightings. The highlight for many was being able to see the stars through the roof of the lightweight tents – with hippo grazing among us!

Lion at rest

Our final camp was near a Masai boma and we set off early one morning on horseback to visit our neighbors and see the women milking into their gourds. We were also able to arrange a private tour of nearby Olduvai Gorge, where 1.5 million years ago early hominids, Australopithecus bosei and Homo habilis, thrived by a lake shore and left numerous tools. Louis and Mary Leakey worked for years at this site, starting in the 1930s. It was a humbling reminder that man has been part of this environment, sharing it with animals, since time immemorial.


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Exploring Ecuador, February 2021

The African Explorer in 2019

Memories of Tuscany

Springtime on the Mediterranean Coast

Colorful Memories of Mexico

Travel Virtually to the Serengeti

Serengeti Migration Ride, February 2020

Riding in Zimbabwe

Riding in Brazil’s Pantanal

The Magic of Rajasthan

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