Last Saturday saw the return of one of the UK's biggest horse races: the Epsom Derby. Think fillies in fascinators tottering tentatively around the grandstand as pint-sized jockeys pound towards the finish line aboard their trusty steeds. And aside from providing the opportunity to indulge in our fantasies of being Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (without the compulsive dropping of vowels), the Epsom Derby also got us thinking about our favourite horse riding experiences around the world; we challenge anyone to not want to saddle up and gallop off into the sunset (or Surrey) after watching the Derby. So if you're after something a little more Butch Cassidy and a little less 'Come on Dover..!' take a look at our top six cowboy and horse riding experiences around the globe...
The Coffee Region, Colombia
Very few tourists know, but the best way to discover Colombia is actually by horseback. We would suggest that you step into the shoes of a Llanero - or Colombian Cowboy - to explore this wonderful country, but apparently they prefer to go barefoot, so instead step into their stirrups and. feel liberated as you canter across endless plains, chasing wildlife and drinking in the diverse and theatrical landscapes. A favourite spot of ours would be the Cocora Valley, in the country's coffee region, where you can ride through the beautiful valley, taking in the stunning mountain scenery and spotting the native wax palm trees, which can grow up to 200 foot tall.
The Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
Iceland's long summer days where the sun hardly dips beneath the horizon provide plenty of daylight hours to explore the country's starkly beautiful scenery by horseback. Icelandic horses are known for their gentle temperament, so are perfectly suitable steeds for beginners and children. Spend a morning exploring the mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and waterfalls of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula with your knowledgeable guide, and feel closer than ever to nature.
Kenya's wild and rugged Laikipia countryside is home to a wealth of varied terrain, including wooded acacia gorges, tangled riverine thickets and cedar forests. A mobile horseback safari allows you to access remote areas which vehicles can't reach, while galloping alongside the locals (namely rhinos, elephants, lions, zebra and giraffes). We'll put you in the hands (or hooves) of the best riding safari tour guides, so you can experience Laikipia and 'The Big Five' with no other tourists in sight. A particularly special spot is Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where you can ride within a 600-acre northern white rhino enclosure, with Mount Kenya acting as an incredible backdrop.
Khugno Khaan, Mongolia
For a riding tour with a feminist edge (we hear you, Jessie from Toy Story), ride to the Khugno Khaan mountain in Mongolia and discover an enchanting renovated monastery. The temples here were rebuilt by a mother and daughter duo who were descendants of a monk who was killed during the Communist purges. Next, ride on to a private camp to be hosted by traditional herders and local families and learn to herd yaks to the camp, milk the mares and separate the goats from the sheep.
Now you really can 'step into the boots' of a cowboy, and participate in the full range of a rancher's daily work while staying at a Colorado ranch. Contribute towards and learn about this way of life by gaining a hands-on experience against the majestic backdrop of the San Luis Valley. Learn about important land conservation processes, bison production and monitoring heard health during your immersive and informative stay.
Participate in one of the finest equestrian programmes in India and ride fantastic Marwari horses (known for their inward-turning ears), owned by the Rohet family, across the desert scrubland around Jodhpur, where you may even race alongside Black Buck antelope, a species native to India. There is no better way to end a full day of riding than in the lap of luxury, so rest your mane overnight in a luxurious 'camp' in the desert, complete with bathroom and running water.