Riding Abroad

Tackbox Tales


I’ve ridden abroad twice: once in Italy, once in France. Although I had independent control of my mounts, both occasions were basically glorified pony rides. Both occurred during my semester abroad in France.

Piccolo Americana
My father came over for business in Italy. I went to visit him. (This all sounds terrible jet-set doesn’t it? Really, my teen and college years were as well-off, white-bread suburban as one can get. Comfortable, fortunate, but not the slightest bit exotic. But I digress.) One of the paralegals(?), junior lawyers(?), at the Italian firm exercised racehorses in the mornings. I was brought along.

It rained, so we were limited to walking and trotting in a small, covered exercise shed. I have no idea what I would’ve done had we been sent to the track. It’s possible I wasn’t completely tuned into what was going on until they heaved me up on the horse. My Italian was even more nonexistent than my French, which was pathetically abysmal after 10 years of French class.

What I remember was that the horse was a dark bay, and reasonably well-behaved, at least at a walk and trot in a closed space. The woman I came with was at the opposite end of the herd. I could see her but not talk to her, nor have her translate.

The guys around me kept mentioning the ‘Piccolo Americana’, which even I could figure out meant Little American. I was tall – my adult height of 5’8″ – but thin – less than 120 pounds. I would not put on adult weight until I married my personal chef. Little wasn’t a far off description. On the other hand, I have no idea what they were saying about the piccolo Americana. They could have been marveling at my flawless equitation, or saying, Dear God in Heaven what is she doing up there? We can’t let the lawyer’s daughter get hurt.

That was riding in Italy.

Chevalier Ferdinand
A group of us went down to the Camargue for a guided horse tour. Since I was the only equestrian, everyone expected me to dash about in a vivid display of horsemanship. Meh. I have plenty of opportunity to gallop nut-case Throughbreds at home. I’d never been to France. I was perfectly content with my happy little stroll through the pretty marshland. Horse and I trailed the field the entire ride.

That was riding in France.

Or It Didn’t Happen
This was long before cell phone cameras or cheap photography. So, no pics. Photos were taken of our French ride. I did not buy mine, although I wanted to. I can still pull up the image in my mind’s eye: a vertical shot, taken with a long lens from a low vantage point by the horse’s left shoulder, so that horse and rider dominate the frame at a three-quarter angle. The white horse is surrounded by green plants and blue sky. I am smiling at the photographer. A nice image quickly printed on incredibly cheap paper.

One member of our group took it up themselves to engage in a heated discussion with the photographer about the photos we had supposedly “ordered” and the outrageous price being charged. I didn’t overrule my friend because, the price was indeed outrageous, it was clearly a tourist trap, and I wimped out. Now, 36 (!) years later, it would be a fun photograph to have.

Halt, Salute
I’ve never ridden seriously, much less competed in another country. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s on my bucket list, but it would be cool. Have you ridden abroad? Tell us in the comments. Better yet, write me a guest post [Riding in Reykjavik].

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Thank you for reading … and possibly writing,
Katherine Walcott

9 thoughts on “Riding Abroad

  1. I’ve never ridden further ‘abroad’ than Virginia, LOL. (I’ve lived in MD since 1963). Oops, I think there might have been a pony ride in NJ when I was about 4…

  2. I’ve not ridden abroad. I have done two destination horseback riding vacations, one week in CA (The coast, Redwood forest, a Tevis cup winner’s horses. Read as: fast! Very fast!) and one week in WY. Both were excellent, albeit very different from each other. The CA ride was Inn to Inn. Lots of great dinners, earthy entertainment, sleep, then breakfast and packing to get the gear on the road and to the next destination ahead of us. While that ride was fun and lovely scenery (including some great beach gallops) it was a bit too much go, go, go for me. The Inn to Inn thing sounds romantic and quaint, but it was mostly exhausting having to change accommodations every night. The WY ride was amazing. Same home-base and cabin every night. ZERO entertainment (aside from a few of us who enjoyed a bit too much wine one night and made a feeble attempt to sing around a piano. Pathetic.), which was good because we were dead-dog tired every night and it was usually lights out by 9 PM. Rode our asses off there and loved every single minute of it. That ride was specifically adults only and the last group of the season, so it was 8 expert riders in our group and our rides were very customized. I doubt that experience could ever be topped.

      1. It was truly wonderful. Both trips were. The unwonderful part was finding and paying someone to take care of our horses, while paying lots to go ride horses that belonged to someone else. Fun, but a bit crazy. We rationalized that we did it to experience riding in a completely different setting, which it was for sure!

    1. “Earthy” were things like, the guy who came and played guitar and sang, a professional story teller and poet, a local artist/historian who came and shared their knowledge about both, etc. And we got the full rendition of her Tevis Cup win (1989) which was still pretty fresh at that time. (Our trip was in the mid ’90’s) Some of the inns had hot tubs … that proved to be a tad earthy and entertaining too. 😉

  3. I know this sounds terrible, but I despise going on “rides.” The last one I did was so slow I would rather have been on foot, and the old western saddle left me walking funny for 3 days. I have a high-spirited horse at home that I spend all my money to own, so I get as much excitement as I need from him!

    1. We did extensive research before committing to either of the riding vacations we did. Both offered rides every day that allowed you to push the limits of your skills. Those who were experience could opt to do seriously fast & forward rides, and for those who wanted, lots of other challenges on each ride. (For example: Cross country jumps of all sizes and levels of difficulty) One place also offered cow work as well as group or private lessons (based on what you wanted to learn) and they brought in a top ranked clinician for those who wanted to do that. We didn’t partake in any of that, but many did. The key I think, is asking lots and lots of questions and asking for and contacting references. We wanted to experience riding in a really different part of the country … see different sights and wildlife on our rides, enjoy totally different weather than what we get here. It was well worth it just for that. One day one of the rides did a lovely LONG beach ride. (Lots of galloping in the experienced group) We’ve done plenty of that here at home, but we were the only participants there who had, and the ones who hadn’t done that before couldn’t rave about the experience enough. (Ho-hum. Doesn’t have a big WOW factor for me.) So I think it just depends on why you want to go. We went thinking the horses wouldn’t be nearly as good as our own at home, but boy were we wrong. They were impressive to say the least. (And not having to feed horses and then make & clean up dinner after 6 hours in the saddle was priceless!)

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