Get Up Close to Nature With Horseback Riding in Ecuador
Even if you are not a horse riding enthusiast, the idea of riding a horse across the striking Ecuadorian countryside might appeal to you. For most people, it is the idea of getting the horse to do all the walking for them that appeals the most but the fact is, horse riding takes quite a bit of effort and you can expect to be quite stiff after a few hours of riding – especially if you do not ride on a regular basis. In fact, you will probably have more stiff muscles after a few hours of horseback riding in Ecuador than you would after a few hours of hiking. Still, riding a horse has many advantages – such as the added height which can make you privy to even more fantastic views. It also makes the local wildlife less suspicious and gives you the opportunity to really get acquainted with both the beautiful creature you are sitting on and the beautiful wilderness that surrounds you.
There are quite a number of horse riding trails in Ecuador that cater to both experienced and inexperienced riders. You can enjoy the breathtaking vistas of the Andes or the grassy páramo plains as your horse moves gently beneath you. Or you can climb the slopes of a volcano or even discover the unique ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands. There is plenty of tropical rain forest and cloud forest to be discovered and many trails will take you from Hacienda to Hacienda where you can enjoy a refreshing stay, a warm bed and great food and hospitality before continuing on your way the next day. The most commonly used horses are the mixed-blood Criollo horses which descend from the horses brought to South America by the Spaniards. These horses are medium-sized, sure-footed and strong. Other horses you might discover here are Peruvian Paso Finos, Andalusians and Arabs - though Criollo horses are recommended for beginners.
There are a quite a large number of stables in Ecuador offering a variety of trail rides for a variety of skill levels. These horses are usually well accustomed to being used on trails and, while they are unlikely to have ever had professional training, they are quite adept at their jobs and will provide beginners with a tranquil experience while more experienced riders can enjoy a good canter or gallop at appropriate places. It is good to remember that there are no standards of horse care or stable ethics so you should put your foot down and refuse to ride if the horse is lame, the tack is unsafe or the horse is a danger to itself and the rider. Also remember that horses in the Sierra are quite thin as they cannot carry extra weight because of the altitude. You may well see ribs, but as long as the bones in the hips are not visible and the horse looks healthy, there is probably nothing wrong with it. It is also advisable to bring your own helmet if you intend to do some serious riding as these are seldom provided at the riding stables.