Saddle up for a horsey holiday
The Dublin Horse Show get you in the mood? There are many great horse-riding holidays available for all ages and abilities
Dunfanaghy Stables at Arnolds Hotel in Co Donegal offers a variety of horse-riding packages.
We know the drill with Wimbledon – overnight, we all become tennis experts and grab our tennis rackets for a game. In much the same way, the Dublin Horse Show has been known to release the inner equine enthusiast – or prompt people to take their first go in the saddle.
If, after almost a week of puissance and clear rounds, you feel like a horse-riding holiday might be on the cards, there are a number of superb options available in Ireland, including trail riding, beach riding as well as post-to-post riding.
We look at some of the best options – those that will suit absolute beginners, right up to the most experienced of riders.
Best for beginners
Go Trekking operates from the Westport Woods hotel and spa, which is located in Westport town and offers one of the longest coastal trails along the Wild Atlantic Way. Its Go Kids club offers an introduction to quiet ponies and treks, and is AIRE (Association of Irish Riding Establishments)-approved, with certified trail leaders who promise a great horse-riding experience for beginners.
For something a little bit more exhilarating, the beach treks will take you along some 50km of coastline, offering views from a very different perspective on horseback. Other treks will suit every budget and level of experience, including one through idyllic deserted paths past stone cottages that date back to pre-famine times, or the Tóchar Phádraig heritage trek that will give riders an insight into local culture and Irish history.
Three nights bed and breakfast including dinner on two nights, a spa treatment, a two-hour beach ride and a two-hour mountain ride will cost €499 per person in July and August and €399 any other time.
For more see gotrekking.ie.
Mount Juliet Estate
For more than 400 years, horses have played a big part in Mount Juliet Estate, part of the Blue Book family of country houses. Its state-of-the-art equestrian centre is one of the most advanced in the country, with two all-weather arenas, a full set of FEI (International Federation for Equestrian Sports)-approved show jumps and a 30-acre cross-country course, in addition to trails spread across the 500-acre estate.
Many aspects of riding are covered, from show-jumping to hunting and the team are happy to give lessons. On the grounds, there is a variety of pasture, park and woodland and they cater to both groups and individuals.
The Young at Heart package includes two nights’ midweek accommodation in Hunter’s Yard, cream tea for two in the Manor House, a meal on one evening in The Hound Restaurant, a guided heritage tour of Jerpoint Park, a deserted 12th-century medieval town, and complimentary use of the Health Club. This offer applies Sunday-Thursday subject to availability and costs €395 for a total stay. The cost for a one-hour trail ride for adults is €50.
Mount Juliet also offers horse-riding camps for kids. Beginner/novice one-day camps run from 10am-3pm and cost €80 for the day. Improver/experienced pony camps run for three days from 10am-3pm and cost €210.
For more information see mountjuliet.ie.
Rathe House Equestrian Centre
Set in 500 acres of untouched Meath countryside, this is a perfect retreat for any horse enthusiast, with more than 15 experienced horses to choose from and instructors on site to help improve your confidence and skill.
The Garvey family, who have lived there for more than 35 years, have diversified the farm’s offering, allowing guests the chance to experience course fishing on the farm’s private lake, archery, clay-pigeon shooting, as well as taking time out to explore local tourist attractions such as Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. It also offers a great opportunity to explore Ireland’s Ancient East on horse-back.
The Equestrian Retreat package includes a two-night stay in self-catering accommodation, two hours of horse-riding accompanied by an instructor, plus an extra activity of your choice for €385 per person. (Price may vary depending on the guest’s horse-riding experience.)
For more see www.rathehouse.ie.
Castle Leslie Estate
This is one of Ireland’s and Europe’s top riding destinations, suitable for enthusiasts of all levels. Located 90 minutes from Dublin, the equestrian centre is attached to Castle Leslie Estate in Co Monaghan. There are more than 1,000 acres of Irish countryside to discover, with several lakes and woodlands making this an interesting trail on horseback. Riders of all abilities are welcome but children must be over seven years of age to ride. Expert tuition is also on offer for those starting out and the stables will cater for your own horse, should you wish to bring it along.
Its Getaway on Horseback package includes two nights B&B plus one-hour guided walk on horseback costing from €190 per person sharing.
For the more experienced rider looking to improve their riding skills, the Horse Sport package incorporates a mix of show-jumping, cross-country, dressage and estate rides. This is a three-day programme including three hours riding per day, three nights B&B and a two-course meal each night in Conor’s Bar. Activity will be part of a group session and costs €930 per person sharing.
For more information see www.castleleslie.com.
Situated at Arnolds Hotel on Donegal’s stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way, Dunfanaghy Stables caters to first-time riders that want a leisurely beach trek or those that want a more challenging ride with plenty of rugged coastline and pristine beaches on offer. Riders can canter along the golden sands of Killahoey Beach and Tramore Beach or climb mountains with views of the Errigal to Muckish ranges, the Ards Peninsula and the offshore islands of Tory and Inishboffin.
A variety of horse-riding packages are available. They also have a variety of one-week trail rides happening throughout the remainder of August and September. In August, a seven-day trail costs €1,522.50 per person sharing and €1,462 in September. This includes seven nights dinner, B&B, five snacks or packed lunches and five days horse-riding.
Best for Advanced Riders
An Sibin is a residential centre in Co Clare, offering a combination of basic arena work, horsemanship introduction and guided hacks on many miles of riding trek through the Galway/Clare countryside.
But its guided post-to-post Galway-Clare Burren trail rides, which take a week to complete, will suit those who have been in the saddle a long time. It sees participants trek past the Slieve Aughty Mountains at the river Shannon, and on to the Atlantic Ocean. The daily five-hour rides will take you and your steed through heather-covered bogland, along quiet country lanes, as well as through the Burren National Park and finishes at the Atlantic, taking in the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands. The rider will get to experience a different trek each day, stay in a new location each night, while horses rest in a field nearby.
This package costs €1,300 per person for seven nights accommodation, six riding days and all meals.
For more see www.irishhorseriding.com.
Dingle Horseriding offers three-day to week-long treks around the Dingle Peninsula. Post-to-post riding is offered to riders of a similar ability and riding fitness and there is a maximum of five people in each group.
On the week-long trail, riders explore both the south-western area of the peninsula and the north coast via the Conor Pass, one of the highest Irish mountain passes. Guests stay overnight at each destination before returning to Dingle at the end of the week. With shorter holidays, trails that best suit the tides and weather will be chosen on the day. The shorter trail rides are incorporated into these week-long trails.
The week-long trail for intermediate to strong riders includes seven nights B&B and six days riding with a maximum of five riders per trail.
The cost is €2,850 per person sharing, with a single room supplement of €45 per person per night.
For more see dinglehorseriding.com.
This year’s Dublin Horse Show takes place at the RDS from August 8th-12th and includes more than 1,500 horses and ponies, 135 competitions, 300 shopping stands, food and drink stalls. For more information visit dublinhorseshow.com