Travel Guide Equestrian activities

Equestrian activities

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For passionate horse lovers, it means greatest happiness to sit on the back of their four-legged friend. Riding is sport, there is no arguing about that. But riding is much more, for a horse is anything but a "normal" piece of sports equipment. When riding, you don't just excercise fitness and balance, but also discover beautiful landscapes and hang out with a real friend.

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The development from working horse to leisure companion

Originally, horses were the ultimate means of transport and work facilitation.

Whether in the saddle, in a coach or on a sleigh – with the power of horses you reached your destination much faster than on foot. The strong animals also helped with agricultural and forestry work.

Nowadays – at least in the industrial countries – the handling of horses has largely shifted to the sports, leisure and therapy sectors.

Working horses in the forest
Working horses in the forest
Photo: CC0

Mit Pferden sportlich unterwegs

Walk, trot, canter, gallop, pass and toelt: the horse's gaits

Most horses have three basic gaits: walk, trot and canter (gallop). The gaits differ in speed (e.g. canter and gallop), but also in the order in which a horse places its legs on the ground. 

Horses trotting and cantering
Horses trotting and cantering
Photo: CC0
  • Step: Four-beat gait in which a horse steps up one leg after another (e.g. right front leg, left hind leg, left front leg, right hind leg). The movements overlap, so that there is no complete suspension phase.
  • Trot: Two-beat gait in which a horse steps up diagonally with two legs at the same time followed by a short suspension phase (e.g. right front leg and left hind leg simultaneously, left front leg and right hind leg simultaneously).
  • Gallop/canter: Three-beat gait with two possible foot sequences (right lead and left lead) and prolonged suspension phase. Right lead gallop: left rear leg, right rear leg and left front leg simultaneously, right front leg) 

Some breeds are able to perform two additional gaits apart from the three main ones. Toelt and pace can be found especially with Icelandic horses – but also with some American Saddlebreds, Berbers and Peruvian Pasos.

Icelandic horses
Icelandic horses
Photo: CC0
  • Toelt: A very comfortable gait for the rider; the foot sequence corresponds to that of the walk. The speed is, however, similar to the trot.
  • Pace: Two-beat gait in which a horse simultaneously places the front and hind leg of the same side. After the suspension phase the front and hind leg of the other side follow. Speeds of over 40 km/h are possible, which is very exhausting for the horse and not very healthy either.

Where to ride?

Equestrian sports are a quite expensive and time-consuming affair – especially if you want to practise them with your own horse. Unlike normal sports equipment, horses need suitable accommodation, regular checks by a veterinarian and a farrier, and intensive care and attention from the owner.

Riding lesson in an arena
Riding lesson in an arena
Photo: CC0

However, there are countless offers for beginners and everyone without a horse. Riding stables offer group or individual lessons and guided ride outs. Guests that are staying on a holiday farm, often have the possibility to meet the animals, too.

When on vacation, a riding trip can become an unforgettable experience – for example when cantering at the beach, following the traces of Cowboys in the American West or with the robust and friendly Icelandic horses on the eponymous island.