Horseback Riding on Morro Strand State Beach, by Mike Baird via Creative Commons
Go Green Tip #106:
Responsible Horseback Riding Tours
Imagine yourself astride a magnificent Arabian horse, his mane blowing in the wind and tickling your hands as they hold the elaborately tasseled reins, your eyes falling on the magnificent sight of the Pyramids of Giza looming before you. This is the sort of horseback riding experience that’s meant to be savored for a lifetime.
Now imagine that the reins are attached to a bit that fits uncomfortably in the horse’s mouth. He shifts from side to side to take the weight off of his painfully overgrown hooves. He hasn’t had adequate hay for days, or possibly even weeks. And he’s been beaten to force him to perform. The experience doesn’t sound so ideal anymore, does it?
As responsible travelers increasingly eschew attractions that profit from captive animals, the tide is slowly shifting towards an industry that favors viewing animals in their natural habitats. Companies like Sea World are seeing their business models crumble, and attractions like Thailand’s Tiger Temple watch their visitor numbers decline steadily as people become more and more committed to ethical practices regarding the exploitation of animals.
A Rabiccano Arabian Horse, photo by Montanabw via Creative Commons
Unfortunately, for domestic animals like horses, things widely remain unchanged. It’s easy to see that a dolphin in a tank a caged tiger are in unnatural, uncomfortable surroundings. But, for the layperson, it’s not as readily apparent when a horse at a tourist attraction is unhealthy, in pain, or lacking basic care. When tourists choose an irresponsibly managed horse activity, they may unknowingly be contributing to improper care or abuse of these amazing creatures.
If you’re considering joining a horse tour or taking a horseback ride during your travels, these are a few simple ways to tell if the horse you’ll be riding is properly cared for. And choosing a responsible horseback riding tour can make all the difference between perpetuating the cycle of poor horse management or ensuring that the horse will enjoy the experience just as much as you do. Here are a few tips on what to look for: