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Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of sketchandtravel.com is honored to have as our guest  Darley Newman, Host & Producer of Equitrekking.com.  

Darley is an equestrian expert and travel journalist and she is here today to share her vast knowledge pertaining to horseback riding travel and Equitrekking TM.

 

 

Good day Darley and thank you for participating in our interview.

 

Darley:
 
Norm, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

 

Norm:

 

Darley, please tell us something about yourself?  What is Equitrekking TM, how and why did you become interested in it?

 

Darley:

Equitrekking is the first travel television series and online channel to take viewers on horseback riding adventures around the world.  I have always had a passion for horseback riding and travel. 

I was working in television in New York and dreamed of producing a series, where viewers could explore new places on horseback.  That is the concept for Equitrekking, seeing the world in a new way on horseback. It's such a great way to explore nature and when you are riding, you get to meet the locals and really get a sense of each place and the people's culture.  You also get to ride different breeds and get to know them, which is a pretty special way to travel.

 

Norm:

 

How popular is Equitrekking today and which age group participates in these adventures?

 

Darley:

Well, Equitrekking is a word that I devised to describe equestrian travel adventures.  People of all age groups take these horseback riding vacations all around the world. 

Lots of families go horseback riding at ranches around the United States, take inn to inn rides or learn to ride in Ireland, take pack trips in Canada or out west, ors go on horseback riding safaris in Africa.   You can travel almost anywhere and take a great riding vacation, even if you are a beginning rider.

 

Norm:

 

Can you tell our readers something about your Internet site, Equitrekking.com as well as the TV series?

 

Darley:

Equitrekking is the first travel television series to explore the world on horseback.  In each episode we ride in beautiful natural settings, and also do the traditional travel vacation stuff, visiting museums and local attractions, eating great food and getting to know the local culture. 

We have filmed in Ireland, Spain, and across the United States and have broadcast in primetime on PBS in New Mexico.  At the beginning of 2007, we go national on Public Television with new shows filmed in stunning high definition. 

Right now, viewers can tune into   Equitrekking.com   to watch our online channel, where we put up new video clips each week of great horses and travel.


Our website also offers travel tips, articles, beautiful photos and the World Vacation Guide, where visitors can search for horseback riding vacations around the world.

 

Norm:

 

If you had to choose three of the most romantic Equitrekking vacations, which ones would they be and why?

 

Darley: 

There are so many, but if I were to choose three, I would choose the Georgia Coast, Spain and the American West. 

 

*** Riding Andalusian horses in Spain on the beach and in the countryside is pretty romantic.  The Andalusians have these long, flowing manes and beautiful, inquisitive eyes.  They have a very smooth canter, so cantering along the beaches of Southern Spain outside of Donana National Park would be a suggestion. 

*** You could do that as one day and use this historic farm and inn called  El Esparragal, outside of Seville, as your jumping off point.  El Esparragal dates back to the Bronze Age and is still a working farm.  All of the gourmet food that you will eat there is raised on the farm. 

It's a favorite spot for Spanish couples to get away for a weekend.  Sunset strolls around the grounds and mid- day lunches in the courtyard are great ways to be alone with that special someone.  The horses are award-winning Andalusians.  The setting couldn't be more beautiful.  You get the best of both worlds, horseback riding and exploring the farm on old Roman trails and then driving 15 minutes and experiencing Flamenco dancing, tapas and great nightlife in
Seville.  Just thinking about it makes me want to go back. 

 

*** If you want a five star riding vacation that includes romantic rose pedal baths and beautiful beach rides, I would suggest Sea Island, Georgia.  We just filmed there.  I enjoyed nature rides through various ecosystems on the beaches and marshes of the island, beautiful rides on wide sandy beaches.  You can bring your own horse or use one of theirs. 

If you stay at the Lodge on St. Simon's Island, which is part of the Sea Island resort, you'll have a personal butler who will bring you warm cookies fresh from the oven with freezing cold milk before you turn in for the night.  You probably won't want to leave your room, but once you do, you'll  see why people have been coming to the island for generations.  Riding on the beach is a dream for many and what better way to explore an island than on horseback.  After riding, you can relax on the beach in near seclusion.

 

*** There is much romanticism with the American West as well.  We are filming in Wyoming and Colorado this summer and it has been hard to choose ranches, because there are so many great destinations.  Imagine taking a sunset ride in the mountains or out on the open range.  It's the quiet peaceful setting that makes riding at Western ranches so romantic.

 

 

Norm:

 

Could you describe a typical Equitrekking day?

 

Darley: 

A typical Equitrekking day varies greatly, but may include a morning ride on the beach, in the desert, out on the trails or in the mountains.  It would certainly include a hearty lunch, because I am hungry after riding.  Maybe we would do a picnic on the trails, like we recently did in the Great Smoky Mountains. 

In the afternoon, I would either ride more or explore the area's museums, shopping or other adventure activities.  For instance, on a recent trip to the mountains of
North Carolina, I took a rock climbing clinic outside of Asheville at Chimney Rock.  So to answer your question, there is no typical Equitrekking day, but I know that everyday with Equitrekking is an adventure.

 

Norm:

 

How much horseback riding experience does one need before considering an Equitrekking vacation?

 

Darley: 

As long as you do some truthful self assessment, anyone, even flat out beginners can have a great time taking a riding vacation.  Beginners may want to take a few lessons first or head to a ranch or training center for their vacation.  At these types of places, you may combine lessons with vacation riding.  By the end of the trip, you'll be amazed how comfortable you'll feel on a horse. Well, comfortable on the horse, but maybe a little sore. 

Intermediate or advanced riders will have more choices as far as taking more challenging riding vacations, such as a safari to view animals or a more advanced pack trip or trail riding vacation.  The good news is that you don't have to be an expert to take a riding vacation, and most destinations and establishments are willing to help beginners saddle up for the first time.

 

Norm:

 

Could you tell us about the different types of equestrian vacations and which ones are the most popular? Why are they popular?

 

Darley:

Ranches are very popular, because families and groups can find so many different activities for riders and non-riders alike.  If I want to go out riding and my friends want to try fly-fishing, hiking, kayaking, golf, the spa or see the area sights, it's all possible on a ranch vacation.

 

Other great types of equestrian vacations include pack trips, inn to inn rides, training vacations, resorts with riding and remember, there are great riding vacations all over the world.  You can ride in the Pantanal in Brazil, ride from castle to castle in France, learn polo in Argentina and more.



Norm:

Which was your favorite Equitrekking adventure and why?

 

Darley: 

I have a couple and each are my favorites because of the great horses that I was able to ride and the colorful people and natural scenery.  Riding on the beaches of Southern Spain in Donana National Park is one. 

I rode a magical Andalusian horse named Figo, who is the horse that the Queen of Spain rides when she visits Donana.  Figo was perfect, as we cantered up and down the beaches. 

I recently rode with Cherokee tribal members in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.  That was a fantastic experience, because I got to know more about the history of horses in Cherokee culture and got to try riding a gaited Tennessee Walking Horse on beautiful mountain trails.

 

Norm:

 

What is the average cost of an Equitrekking vacation in North America and in Europe? What does this include?

 

Darley: 

The prices range, but the good thing about riding vacations is that they are usually all inclusive, including meals, lodging, your horse and tack and transportation while you are there.  This can make them of great value, with averages around $200 a day.

 

Norm:

 

How important is it to pair up with the right horse and how do you go about deciding which horse to pair up with?

 

Darley:

It is important because horses are like people.  Each horse has a different personality, a way that he or she likes to be ridden and may be suited to different riders' skill levels.  Getting paired up with the right horse is a safety issue as well.  We want to feel comfortable and confident when we are riding, because when we ride horses we become a team of two with them, but also need to act as their leader, making confidence important.

 

When I travel, I make sure to speak with the horse owner ahead of time and convey my height, weight and skill level to them.  When I arrive, we talk again.  Then, before I mount, I make sure to ask how the horse likes to be ridden, how much contact I should give with the reins and if there are any personality characteristics or quirks that I should be aware of. 

I do a test spin on the horse and then ask the owner to tell me how to adjust accordingly.  This way, I can ensure that I get paired up with a good teammate for my adventure.

 

Norm:

 

I understand there are eco-friendly adventures on horseback. Could you tell us something about these trips?

 

Darley: 

Eco-friendly horseback riding adventures consist of establishments that have agreed to leave no trace when they are out on the trails and help protect the local culture and environment.  So, you are getting to feel good about the riding vacation that you are taking, because it is helping preserve the place you are enjoying.

There some good eco-friendly riding vacations in South America.  One of my friends runs a great hacienda in Uruguay and there are also places in Chile, Argentina and beyond. 

 

Norm:

 

How easy or difficult is it for a family to participate in an Equitrekking vacation?

 

Darley:

It's easy for families to participate.  Again, you simply have to do some research, assess what you want and attempt to make everyone in your group happy.  Ranches are great for this and resorts are good too. 

 

Norm:

 

Could you give our readers some brief tips as to how to prepare for an Equitrekking vacation and what to expect in the way of comfort?

 

Darley: 

I would suggest taking a few lessons first or at least becoming familiar with horses and to get your riding muscles in shape.  This can only make your trip more enjoyable.  If you don't have time for lessons, make sure to convey your skill level and find a trip that is suitable for beginning riders. 

 

Comfort varies from destination to destination.  You can take a luxurious vacation at a ranch or resort or camp our on a pack trip, which could also range from rustic to luxurious.  I happen to like the luxury sometimes while other times I just want to take off on a horse and see the trees and experience nature.  Most people want a hot shower at the end of the day and most places where you are going to take a riding vacation are aware of this and are pretty accommodating to riders.

 

Norm:

 

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

 

Darley:

If you've never taking a Equitrekking type riding vacation, you should get out there and ride.  It's such a great way to travel and explore.  I highly recommend combining horses and travel on your next vacation.

 

Thanks Darley once again for your interesting exposť on Equitrekking.

 

Thanks Norm. 

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