“Shut the f*ck up!” the older brother screamed at his crying brother while the horse danced nervously under the command of his inexperienced riders. I say riders because the parents had decided to put the younger brother – who was clearly terrified of the horse – behind the saddle of their older son who was around 10-12 years old. I don’t blame the older brother for his outburst of frustration; clearly he had his hands full with a spirited horse and the wailing of his brother was not helping the matter. The parents were oblivious to the situation unfolding, as they were mounting and getting acquainted with their own horses. And so it begins. One of the worst horseback riding vacations of my life.
Island horseback riding holiday
A multi-generation family was about to join me on a horseback riding holiday on the beautiful island of Curacao. It was certainly none of my business, but as a mother, concerned for this child’s safety, I walked my horse over to the wrangler and asked if someone was able to watch the younger child while we went horseback riding. He nodded yes and I said very loudly, “this child is not enjoying this experience and he should NOT have to go on this ride.” His parents glanced at me and agreed to leave their youngest behind at the stables. There was a play area and birds in cages to keep him entertained while we went horseback riding.
I’m not going to go into further details as to why I didn’t enjoy this Curacao horseback riding holiday. I will say that I loved my time in Curacao – the horseback ride – not so much. I will also add that the patriarch of the family said this was one of the best horseback rides of his life. Different strokes for different folks. Ride on.
Horseback riding in Cancun, Mexico
“Don’t you want to run, Nancy?” My cowboy, or vaquerro as they are called in Mexico, sincerely wanted me to enjoy my horseback riding vacation in Cancun. Obviously from his experience, it wasn’t a successful horseback ride unless you had galloped with your horse. Unfortunately, my horse had lost a shoe along the trail and he was limping. I had no interest in riding a lame horse and certainly didn’t want to make him lope or canter on the trail. My wrangler’s solution to the problem was to trade horses. He would ride the lame horse and I would gallop his horse.
I loped my horse for a short distance to appease my host. Internally I was fretting over the lame horse. On our way back to the ranch I asked the wrangler to make sure the lame horse received a new replacement shoe. I also reminded myself that not all horses receive the care and attention due to them. Footnote, this Cancun entertainment center offering atv tours and zip lines, in addition to horseback riding, is no longer in business.
Dominican Republic horseback riding
In the interest of full disclosure, please note that I have not experienced a horseback riding vacation in Punta Cana. The below comments are from fellow equestrians and horse lovers on holiday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
“We just returned from a trip to Punta Cana, located in the Dominican Republic, ” recalled Claudia Walsh of New York. “Through our hotel, Paradisus Punta Cana, we went on a horseback riding vacation at El Pat Ranch. This was the saddest lot of horses I have ever seen.”
Vicky says, “I’m the person who supplied the 3 photos of the horses & conditions at the ranch (on the original Punta Cana blog post). I recently returned to Punta Cana to find that the hotel I had previously booked through had severed all ties with the ranch- any ranch actually. I did a bit of investigating and found that the ranch still exists- but under a different name. Punta Cana Tours – Caribbean Dream. I’ve got to say that we checked it out on sheer, morbid curiosity and found the same poor conditions there- and photos from the site shows the men still chasing terrified, ears back, unhappy looking horses with whips and sticks. Ignorant. No, I didn’t ride. We searched for an operation where the horses looked well-treated but it was not to be found. Thought you’d like to know. Happy Riding.”
Cozumel, Mexico horseback riding
I was supposed to go horseback riding in Cozumel, Mexico on a shore excursion with Princess Cruises. The horseback ride didn’t happen because the tour company neglected to complete some necessary paperwork with the cruise line. Instead I snapped a picture of one of several horse carriages lining the street by the cruise ship dock.
Horse drawn carriage in Cozumel, Mexico
I couldn’t help but notice how skinny and tired the horses looked, baking under the hot Mexican sun without any access to water that I could see. There was no way I was going to support the “rickshaw carts” of Mexico with my tourist dollars. Even in Cozumel there is an ongoing controversy with the horse and buggy business – note the cartoon above.
I hope you are not able to match these 5 worst horseback riding vacations. What are your most memorable horseback rides?
Article and top two photos by Equine Writer Nancy D. Brown No rickshaws in Cozumel illustration by Jesus Martinez.