As most of you will probably know, the Chinese calendar concerns a different animal for each year. Because we’ve just entered the Year of the Horse, I thought it would be fitting to take a look at the role of this majestic animal in the cruise world and more specifically, five top horse-riding destinations you can visit while on a cruise.
Horse-riding destinations in the Caribbean
When you consider that horse-riding is as much a part of the Caribbean culture as rum and sun and that the Caribbean is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the world, it’s a natural choice when it comes to horse-riding destinations. It difficult to know where to begin when picking out particular islands, as the vast majority of them offer horse-riding excursions for cruise ship passengers and holidaymakers alike. Jamaica, however, enjoys a particularly respected pedigree and in such destinations as Falmouth and Ocho Rios, you can experience an exhilarating beach ride through shimmering Caribbean waters on horse-back. Of course, there’s plenty of time to cool down and take a dip in the sea, too. Barbados and Bermuda are also great for Caribbean cruisers eager for a horse-riding experience. What makes the Caribbean the most versatile of horse-riding destinations is the geographic nature of the islands themselves. As well as beach rides, you can enjoy adventurous jungle treks and hill climbs, too, meaning that if you want your experience to involve a little more scenery and greenery, it can.
Horse-riding destinations in the Middle East
Another region in which it’s fair to say there’s a lot of interest and experience when it comes to horses and horse-riding is the Middle East. Arabia’s Bedouin people were responsible for creating the Arabian Horse, bred for its endurance and immense stamina over long distances. Of course, the region’s synonymous with the iconic tale of Lawrence of Arabia, and indeed, the popular cruise port of Aqaba was famously captured by the famous war hero. The port serves the ancient city of Jordan and from it, it’s possible to travel on horseback to the city’s most famous attraction, the lost city of Petra. It’s a great way to take in the scenery of sweeping desert sands and prepare yourself for the captivating step back in time which the city offers. If you find yourself in Dubai on your Middle Eastern cruise, you’ll soon realise it’s a city which believes horse-riding is big business, as it’s home to the Meydan Racecourse – one of the largest on Earth and home of the world-famous Dubai World Cup. Sadly, you won’t be able to try it out for yourself, but horse-back excursions through the deserts which surround Dubai are readily available.
Horse-riding destinations in Spain
You may not immediately associate the Mediterranean with horse-riding, but in truth, depending on your itinerary, a Mediterranean cruise may give you the opportunity to visit one of Southern Europe’s most important horse-riding destinations; Andalucia in Spain. Andalucian horses have a long and distinguished pedigree, back to the days of early Roman conquest, when writers of the time waxed lyrical about the Spanish horses’ qualities. Along the Costa de la Luz on which the port lies there are a number of beachfront stables offering horse rides, while in Cadiz itself, it’s possible to visit the world-famous Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, where you can see Andalucian horses in action. The ever-popular cruise destination of Barcelona also offers plenty of horse-riding excursions. The city is surrounded by ideal horse-riding countryside, so you’ll have no trouble finding an excursion from the city, with typically only a 30-40 minute ride out to a respected stable involved.
Horse-riding destinations in South America
The aforementioned Andalucian horses were introduced into the New World by Spanish Conquistadors, which means that today, South America is a great continent in which to enjoy a horse-back excursion if your cruise takes you there. Argentina’s sprawling capital Buenos Aires has plenty of city sights to keep any cruiser occupied but it’s also a great destination when it comes to equestrian exploits, too. From the city, there are a number of companies which offer horse-riding excursions exploring areas around half-an hour away, while there’s plenty of opportunity to try your hand at polo, too. If you’re visiting Peru’s capital Lima, meanwhile, there’s the chance to experience first-hand the elegant Peruvian Paso Horse – considered one of the smoothest rides in the world of equestrianism.
Horse-riding excursions from Dubrovnik
This ever-popular Eastern European cruise port is one of the region’s most-visited largely because of the historic appeal its beautiful old town but it’s actually a great destination for horse-riding afficionados. Many areas of Eastern Europe enjoy a long tradition of horsemanship, including Hungary, Romania and Poland and it’s a region particularly suitable and welcoming of horse-riders. Luckily for horse-riding cruisers, there are a number of excursions available from the city which allow visitors to explore some of the nearby countryside on horseback and enjoy a great view of the Adriatic Sea, too. Croatia has some beautiful landscapes on offer and it’s great that even when visiting Dubrovnik for the day by cruise ship, you’ll have the opportunity to explore them in a thoroughly traditional way.
By Simon Brotherton