Holidays

Our group of 17 horses and riders had taken shelter from the brutal midday sun beneath a massive overhang created thousands of years ago when water roared through the valley, and our chosen lunch spot was also home to several rattlesnakes.

horseback riding Trans Canada Trail, backcountry horse riding, canadian horseback, riding in canada, horse riding in canada, tania millen, pack em up ride em out, horse packing canada

Click. Nothing. I pressed the button on top of my headlamp again. Click. Still nothing. Oh crap. My headlamp batteries had just died, and on the worst morning possible. Today was the day I would be riding Chocolate through 912-metre long Bulldog Tunnel as part of our 550 kilometre solo journey along the Trans Canada Trail (TCT).

My favourite aspects of a riding vacation anywhere in the world are experiencing the spectacular scenery of a new country from the back of a native horse, and glimpsing the true culture and everyday life of the local people. The Wild Andes Expedition Ride with host Gabriel Espinosa of Hacienda La Alegria, which I found through Unicorn Trails, offered a close-up view of life in the mountains at all elevations in the Ecuadorian Andes.

Traversing Canadian Rockies, Tania Millen, holidays on horseback, Alberta pack-trip, Azure Lake, Sulphur River, Jasper National Park, Summit pass, crossing Chown Creek

“Whoa up,” I called. One of the pack horses had broken loose and was causing havoc in our seven horse string. It was the first day of a three-week pack trip and all the horses were antsy, particularly my Spanish Mustang, Chocolate. He wasn’t happy being tucked in behind horses he didn’t know, leading one he didn’t like. I hopped off Chocolate and foolishly left him loose, breaking one of the golden rules of backcountry travel: always hang on to your horses.

My colleagues sometimes ask about my commitment to overseas riding holidays. Why would someone who rides horses all day travel overseas to do more of the same? Why not go sit on a beach in Cancun and sip fruity beverages? Let me answer that, but first I should confess that as I write this, the buttery evening light slants across the trellised hillsides of a classical riding school in Tuscany wrapping up a good day in the saddle.

flying u guest ranch, taylor ormiston, Horse riding holidays, canadian riding holidays, canadian horse holiday, equestrian vacations, horses in the cariboo, horse riding green lake, horse camping

The Flying U Guest Ranch, one of North America’s only unsupervised riding ranches, is a horse lovers’ dream. Over 100 horses graze on the expansive Cariboo pastures that extend from the large barn, which was constructed 150 years ago. The barn stands central to the hustle and bustle of the stockyard, paying homage to the region’s rich history.

Shawn Hamilton, Wild Deuce Outfitters, Rocky Mountains Alberta,  Bighorn Backcountry, Wild Deuce Women’s Retreat, Clix Photography, Horse riding holidays, canadian riding holidays, canadian horse holiday, equestrian vacations, horses in the rockies

Along with my travel mates Ali and Heather, I leave the Calgary airport in our rental car, stock up with snacks and refreshments, and head to The Grandview Stage Inn just outside of Rocky Mountain House, AB, where we bed in for the night. The next morning, we start off for the Cutoff Creek Staging area in the Bighorn Backcountry. The herd of wild horses grazing in a small clearing at the side of the road is so complacent with our presence that the foals remain lying down as we snap photos. Upon arrival, we spot a group of women gathered in the staging area, their gear laid out on the grass. Introductions reveal that our fellow riders are from Manitoba, Winnipeg, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia, and as far as Australia and New Zealand. Most are new to Wild Deuce Outfitters, and a few are repeat visitors like me, although it was eight years ago.

Pages

Advertisement

Noble Outfitters

Advertisement

BI EQUINE