For over 30 years, Equitours has been giving travelers a unique perspective on world. That perspective is on horseback. Imagine any exotic location and Equitours most likely offers a trip to that destination. Bayard Fox started Equitours from his Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming and has himself has traveled the world on horseback. He wanted others to know the same joy.
“I started taking riding tours 42 years ago on our Wyoming ranch and branched out from there. It fits well with my love for horses and travel,” Fox says. “I love the beautiful, unspoiled country where we run our rides.”
A true Renaissance man, Fox’s resume would trounce “the Most Interesting Man in the World” any day. Born in Pennsylvania in 1929, he has been a seaman, forest fire fighter, longshoreman, an advertising model, a Yale graduate and CIA agent. His early travels took him to Iran, the Congo, Kenya, the Solomon Islands and throughout Europe. In 1971, he bought the Bitterroot Ranch in Wyoming. Fox’s wife Mel grew up in Kenya so it seemed logical that they create a riding safari in one Kenya’s national parks. After that successful trip in 1980, Fox created Equitours Worldwide Riding Holidays, the largest riding tour company in the country. They offer riding trips in over 30 countries on all six inhabited continents.
“Horseback is a great way to travel in depth and take time to really see the country rather than just sweeping by with a bus,” Fox says. “Most important is that you have a responsive equine companion to share the journey with you. You can feel that your horse takes as much pleasure as you do in an exhilarating gallop across the countryside and that shared pleasure helps form a bond. Traveling with a horse affords a unique opportunity to practice one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports while covering the country. Riding is far healthier than sitting in a car as it affords good exercise and gives you a great appetite to appreciate local food and wine.”
Fox is happy to share his organization’s best riding experiences.
“One of my favorite rides is in Kenya’s Masai Mara,” he says, “where we can gallop over the plains with the zebra and the wildebeest. The horses are anxious to take on a racing challenge as the animals run across in front of us. Many rides in Africa afford these chances for horses to interact with wild game and you are much more a part of the scene than you would be as a passive passenger in a Land Rover, which is a bit like sitting in front of a TV screen. Another ride I love is through the back country of Rajasthan in India where we stay sometimes in palaces and sometimes in luxurious tents. Riding across the desert areas from oasis to oasis one can visit remote villages where the children may never have seen a European before.”
“I love our rides in Europe also. For one thing, unlike the US, many rights of way have been kept open for horses. For those with a sense of history travel on horseback has a particular appeal. Riders can travel as people did in the old days and one can clatter across a drawbridge over a moat into a castle courtyard like the knights of old, travel on a road built in Roman times or wind through the streets of a medieval village.”
Fox says that France is one of the most popular countries for riding tours.
“They were the first to really popularize the riding tour. It is a comparatively large country with many unspoiled areas ideal for horse travel. France has very strong equestrian traditions. Riding is very popular in England too, but cross country tours are difficult because the population is dense and there are many roads with heavy traffic. Germany is the same. Travel on horseback is not well known in the US. It is partly because there are very few paths kept open for horses in much of the country and often the paths that are open are hard to use because of bicycles and hikers.”
Here is an abbreviated list of the countries Equitours travels to:
Africa – Botswana, Kenya, Morocco, Namibia, South Africa
Europe – Bulgaria, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Wales
Asia – India, Mongolia, Turkey
North American – Alabama, Arizona/Utah, Texas, Vermont, Wyoming and Canada
Central & South America – Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay
South Pacific – Australia, New Zealand
They also offer a variety of experiences from dude ranches and estancias to trail rides and dressage training. Consider taking a tour of Tuscany in Italy, a desert crossing in Morocco, or galloping across the great plains of Mongolia or Argentina. Consider a tour that offers fly fishing or wine tasting along the way. Some rides have outdoor camping while others offer accommodations in family-owned ranches and some rides travel from inn to inn. The sky is the limit for riders. For Fox, it is all about the love of horses.
“An effective partnership with a horse weighing over half a ton can give humans ten times the strength and twice the speed they would have on their own,” Fox says. “They were crucial in helping our civilization to develop in many ways including travel, agriculture, warfare and sport. People can build a bond with horses just as they can with working dogs and horses often get the same satisfaction humans do from things like herding cows whether for work or play.”
While someone who has never been on a horse before might want to consider lessons before embarking on an Equitour, Fox is quick to add that they have rides for all levels of skill and at his home ranch of Bitterroot they often split up rides into small groups by ability. Bitterroot, as well as locations in Europe, also offers classes and refresher courses for those who haven’t used their horse skills in a while. For advanced riders they offer dressage training and jumping classes.
“Riding is one of those sports which you can keep improving for a lifetime and still not reach perfection,” he says. “Learning to ride well demands a big commitment and to get the best out of it you need to be physically fit and not overweight. There are many levels of equestrian ability, but to put a horse through all its paces and be able to handle something like working cows on a spirited horse safely, you need good instruction and hours of practice.”
Are Equitours good for kids?
“As with so many things, children learn faster than adults and often a child of ten or twelve can ride better than many grownups.” Fox believes that traveling on horseback helps travelers be more accessible to local people, which provides beneficial experiences to children and adults.
“When you come up in a tourist bus you are ignored, but if you ride up on a horse everyone loves you. Besides one doesn’t see any tourist buses in those out of the way places where we can take our horses far off the beaten path.” This makes most Equitours family friendly. As with any travel, check the terms and conditions for both children and adult riders to make sure you have the abilities to handle the trip.
If a horseback riding tour is on your vacation bucket list, consider Equitours. They have the experience to make your riding vacation a memorable experience. Learn more about traveling on horseback from their website or Facebook page. You can even follow them on Twitter @EquitoursUSA.
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