Ned's Holiday tips!
Advice for those who might need it.
It amazes me how often a holiday is booked after only having seen a picture, which simply portrays a dream. Dreams need checking up on if they are not to become nightmares and sometimes expensive ones at that. With few of us having an unlimited amount of time and money, the memory of our holiday experience should be a pleasant one, which refreshes our vigour and helps us face another years normal daily routine. So check out your holiday destination carefully.
Hundreds of questions to make very sure that what is on offer is what you really want. Questions like "what age group are the other riders that week?" or "Will the other riders be of my nationality?" It is often not the centre operators fault that peoples false expectations are not met. For example, just before Christmas, I checked out a centre in Turkey which would be fabulous for sun, sea, tasty food and rides in the mountains. Superb as that centre is for a family holiday, who want to combine pleasure riding with learning some new riding and jumping skills from qualified instructors, on horses especially trained in each discipline.
Few clients ever ask to see our liability insurance, but they should do and if you are going abroad, please don't think that just because they are in the EU they are bound to have insurance and be ABTA bonded. This is not the case! Holiday cancellation insurance and personal accident cover should also be considered. Booking through an Agent. As in anything there are good and bad agents, but on the whole they are a fairly safe bet, as their livelihood depends on it. If you are getting a group together, you can often bargain successfully for a discount or the organiser of the group free. However, you are unlikely to get a discount, if you book through an agent who works on a commission for the business they bring the centre they represent or bring the booking to. Riding standard. Through no fault of your own, your idea of advanced or novice may be nothing like the centres. So check out the detail, try to find out whether they gallop madly off in all directions or whether you will spend the week six inches from the tail of the horse in front on a horse that appears sound asleep until feed time.
Never be coy,
about telling centre operators about your likes and dislikes or your fears, they need to know them all if they are to provide you with your ideal holiday.
Do tell your true weight,
even if it means you aren't accepted.
While you are on holiday,
comments to the boss will help to sort out unwelcome situations. Because sometimes the junior staff missed out on the customer care course.
Are you fit enough?
I teach "once a week riders," some being naturally fit can ride 25 miles a day and some who would die after two hours in the saddle. Ask yourself what you are really fit to do in the riding sense. It might be a good idea to consider increasing your riding hours at a local riding centre before your holiday. When on holiday, ask if you can miss a few hours in the saddle if needs be. Often a half day shopping or sight seeing mid week is all that is needed to avoid that sore bottom. Western and stock saddles are usually more comfortable than English, but you can buy a padded seat saver to cover the saddle and protect your tender parts.
Centre operators rarely tell you about biting flies, mosquitoes, sandstorms, strong winds and rain as they simply don't sell their holidays. Whether such nasties are acceptable to you or not, to be forewarned and forearmed is advisable. Use the period before your holiday to check out what you might need to make life comfortable be it, sun-block lotion, and sunglasses or a raincoat and waterproofs. Be ready also to "vent off." Quite simply, there is an art of always being the right temperature and this can vary considerably even during the course of the day's ride. Clothes which breathe and can be opened or zipped up again will allow you to control you body temperature while you ride.
Hats, gloves and accessories.
Riding hats may be compulsory at some centres and never used in others, but do check. Stick with what you are happy with but remember that if your riding hat that suits a cold climate, you may be very hot and uncomfortable in a hot one. Consider buying the type of safety hat worn by those who know what is comfortable but check out that it provides the level of safety that you require. As for gloves, it depends whether you need a warm pair or a strong pair for working roping etc and a spare pair never goes wrong. What else you need to take depends on who you are, but something to munch on a trail ride makes sense and a neat little non leaking, unbreakable flask for refreshment is also wise. If you don't have a saddlebag it can be kept in a bum-bag on your belt or in a deep pocket.
Finally, "The Adventure".
I have to admit that some of my regulars come home full of excitement, telling me tales of their escapades of gallops and jumping we would never have allowed them to do with us, but then who is to say who is right? The fact is that we take other peoples riders at face value when they come to us on holidays. It does pay to be a little careful at first when everything is strange to you, at least until you know your horse, your fellow riders and the way the centre conducts their rides. Boring, pleasant, exciting or terrifying? The basis of any adventure training is that there are roughly four levels of experience. Stage one is so boring that you never want to do it again. Stage four is so terrifying that you also never want to do it again. With stage two being mildly exciting and stage three being positively pant-wetting but when you have done it you get an unbelievable "Buzz" and want to do it again. Now the problem is that what is a stage one experience for one person, is a stage two for another. And what is stage three for some is stage four for another. Of course a good centre will help you have fun yet stay safe, keeping the good bits and the excitement to the end of your week. All you have to do is make sure they know how you feel as you go along.
I hope this little bit of advice will help you choose a holiday to be long remembered as the best (so far!) Got a tale to tell? (Good or bad) then e-mail email@example.com we would like to hear it.
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Updated: October 2005.