The Big Six: Riding retreats
From South Africa to Argentina, England to Dubai, Australia to the US
Saturday 11 January 2014
Camp Davidson, South Africa
Horizon Horseback has been operating in South Africa for 20 years. Set up in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, the company went on to develop a series of riding safaris that combined polo, jumping and cattle mustering for families, novices and experts alike. Camp Davidson is its newest base. Set in a private game reserve in the Matlapeng Valley, it offers luxury canvas tents and four-legged safaris to spot hippos, giraffe and leopards. Rather than keeping horses in paddocks or stables, it uses a herd of 85 free-roaming horses, with morning rides each day, followed by a bush brunch and time to recuperate at camp in the afternoon.
Camp Davidson, Matlapeng Valley, South Africa (00 27 83 419 1929; ridinginafrica.com). Doubles from £312, all inclusive.
Grace Cafayate, Argentina
This lodge opened in October on the grounds of Estancia de Cafayate – a working wine and polo estate in Argentina's north-western Calchaquí Valley. It combines a luxury hotel, fine-dining restaurant, outdoor pool and spa, with a full equestrian centre, stables, paddocks and access to two polo fields. Guests can ride one of the locally-trained Peruvian paso horses along a network of trails that snake throughout the estate, taking in glistening green rows of vines and red sandstone bluffs.
Grace Cafayate, Calchaquí, Argentina (00 54 3868 427000; gracehotels.com). Doubles from US$400 (£267), including breakfast.
Coworth Park, England
This country-house hotel is located in the heartland of English racing, a trot away from Ascot racecourse. Set amid leafy parkland, it has a range of elegant rooms and suites, with self-contained cottages crafted from former stables. As well as two restaurants – one serving refined British fare, the other rustic grub – it runs horse riding through the Berkshire countryside. The full-service equestrian centre has four ponies and five horses, and also offers polo lessons with Guards Polo Club on one of hotel's two fields.
Coworth Park, Ascot, Berkshire SL5 7SE (01344 876 600; dorchestercollection.com). Doubles from £355, including breakfast.
Desert Palm, Dubai
Ride real Arabian thoroughbreds at the Desert Palm in Dubai. The Per Aquum-run resort is sister property to the five-star Niyama and Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. Set on the outskirts of the city, there's a Rare European grill restaurant, an Epicure mezze eatery, several cocktail bars and a spa, plus an afternoon-tea lounge with views across one of the resort's four polo pitches. Matches are played daily from October to May, with a year-round stables on hand to offer bespoke hacks, lessons and trails.
Desert Palm Retreat, Dubai, UAE (00 971 4 323 8888; desertpalm.peraquum.com). Doubles from AED1,430 (£236), room only.
Real Cowboy College, US
Dust off your Stetson and saddle up for a stay at the Real Cowboy College. Based at Seven Devils Lodge, near Star in rural Idaho, it pairs guests with real cowboys for an authentic look at their lifestyles. Riders will be fitted out with the full kit, before mastering horsemanship, roping and firing a six-shooter. Learn about their history and culture, then hear Western music played beside a campfire at night, while dining on hearty meats and crashing out back at the ranch.
Real Cowboy College, 3K Ranch & Seven Devils Lodge, Idaho, US (001 208 841 7899; realcowboycollege.com). Three days from US$1,050 (£700), all inclusive.
Home Valley, Australia
Home Valley has operated as a cattle ranch since 1957. Five years ago, it opened up to tourists for the first time. Located in Western Australia's wild Kimberley region, beside the banks of the Pentecost River, it offers guests the chance to cattle muster or simply go horse trekking through one of the country's most dramatic wildernesses. Scenery along the way ranges from towering gorges and mountains to sparkling billabongs, with local guides on hand to point out flora and fauna.
Home Valley, Kimberley, Australia (00 61 2 8296 8010; hvstation.com.au). Doubles from A$215 (£143), including breakfast.
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