The trip is booked, you have patiently waited and now it is finally time to pack your bags! If this is your first horse riding holiday or you are venturing out into a new and different climate, it can be difficult to know exactly what to bring. You don’t want to overpack as riding vacations usually means moving around from place to place so traveling light will save you some hassle, but you also don’t want to realize you forgot to bring your power bank when you are already in the middle of the jungle with no power socket. Not to worry – we’ve made the packing process easy for you!
In this article, we are sharing all our experience and (horse) travel know-how and go through all the things you should consider bringing with you on your horseback riding holiday, and why. When you-re done reading you can download and print off our complete list at the end of the article. Simply check off the items as you put them in your bag – easy-peasy! Now, let’s get packing!
Packing for a Horse Riding Holiday in Warm Climates
Most horse riding holidays take place in the summer or in locations with warm or humid climates. This makes things like light and breathable clothing, sun protection and insect repellent key staples in your bag. Let’s go over what to remember when packing for your (hopefully) sunny trip.
What to Wear on the Horse – Upper Body
Helmet. First and foremost – you need a helmet. For hot weather, make sure it is well ventilated and that the inner lining is moisture-wicking and made of a quick-drying material. It’s a bonus if the fit of the helmet is also adjustable, but not mandatory. A wider visor is also nice to protect your eyes and face from the sun. If you don’t have a helmet and do not wish to invest in one, check with the tour operator or center you booked with, if they provide helmets on loan.
Sunglasses on a lanyard. Sunglasses are important to protect your eyes and keep you from squinting all the way through your holiday. They are also great for preventing insects and dirt from getting in your eyes, especially during trot and canter. Make sure they fit snuggly around your head (also when wearing your helmet). I recently wore an old, loose pair of sunglasses on a trail ride and they kept falling down my nose during the canter, so eventually, I had to stop, take them off and put them away. Had they been on a lanyard I could have simply removed them in a 2-second operation – so learn from my mistakes! UV-protection is of course key, and polarization is not a bad idea either, but whatever you already have is probably fine.
Riding gloves. This may seem odd considering we are talking about hot weather but sweat and humidity will make your hands moist and slippery, making it difficult to maintain a good grip on the reins. The gloves will also prevent you from developing blisters and get a sunburn. Bring a thin and breathable pair of gloves – you won’t regret it and they take up no space at all in your bag.
Light and breathable shirts. If you are going to be exposed to the sun for longer periods of time, wearing clothing that provides you with UV-protection is going to be important. Bring along a few short sleeve and long sleeve shirts and adapt the number according to the number of days you will be riding. If you are riding in the forest, a long sleeve shirt will also protect you from cuts and scratches from bushes and branches.
Warm Sweater. In case the temperature drops (for instance at higher altitudes), bring a warmer layer that you can put over your shirt (and under a windbreaker). This can be a simple outer shell jacket you may already have. We prefer jackets that zip all the way down to avoid having to pull anything over our heads (and the helmet) and smooth fabrics that don’t attract too much dirt and dust.
Waterproof Windbreaker. Summer can also have spouts of bad weather and few things are worse than being cold and wet knowing you have 3 more hours of riding ahead of you before you can warm up again. Whatever waterproof windbreaker you have will most likely be fine. We prefer those with front pockets, a zipper all the way down so you can easily put it on and off while in the saddle and one with a detachable hood that is preferably large enough to pull over the helmet (this can be hard to find though and your helmet will keep your head pretty dry, so don’t worry too much about it). Also, try to avoid fabrics that make a lot of noise when you move in it as it could potentially spook a horse.
Underwear. For riders with boobs, wear whatever you would wear going for a run or to the gym. The support you need there is the support you will need riding. Choose quick-drying fabrics and no cotton.
What to Wear on the Horse – Lower Body
Footwear. Leave the riding boots at home and opt for ankle boots with a closed and protected toe, a 1-inch (2,5cm) heel height and a sole with some grip. When traveling for longer periods and if you have also planned to do some hiking on your holiday, a solid pair of hiking boots that fill the above criteria can be a great way to get a 2 in 1 combo, which is practical since shoes are heavy and take up a good chunk of space in the luggage.
Leg chaps. By no means mandatory, but they provide your legs with protection from the rubbing of the stirrup leather and scratches from branches as well as other vegetation you may ride through. They also give some support to the leg and a better grip on the saddle.
Socks. Go for light and breathable. Whatever you already have in your closet will do.
Riding pants. This is a crucial gear choice and will affect the quality of your ride. Stay away from dark colors as they will get really hot in the sun. Opt for a cooling and breathable model if possible. If your riding holiday extends beyond 3 days, we recommend bringing two pairs.
Underwear. The jury seems to be out on this one and people have different preferences. Overall there is seems to be a consensus about a few things though; 1. Seams are bad, 2. Smooth, breathable microfiber type fabric is the most comfortable 3. Not so tight that it creeps into crannies and not so loose that it collects in bunches under your pants. In terms of shape, I personally opt for the ‘boy short’ or ‘hipster’ models, but others prefer thongs, Spanx or full under armor models. If you have ridden before you probably have an idea of what works for you. If not, follow the above guidelines, use your best judgment and perhaps bring a few different alternatives to test out.
Clothing for Time Spent Off the Horse
Cap or bandana. Something to hide the helmet hair, protect from the elements and just because you probably look cool in it!
Swimwear. Imagine camping by an inviting river after a hot ride and realize you forgot your swimsuit?
Flipflops. Do NOT wear these around horses, but flipflops are easy and great for using in shared showers, around your accommodation or camping area and are light and compact in your bag. It’s also important to give those feet some fresh air and wiggle room after a long ride in closed boots.
Sarong. Sarongs are just amazing! I have used mine as a beach dress, a scarf, a shawl, a turban, a towel, a bag and a blanket.
Shorts. For wearing on day excursions or hot evenings.
Top(s). For wearing on day excursions or hot evenings. Plan the outfits you need according to your agenda before packing so you don’t fall into the classic ‘I might need this’ trap.
Sleepwear. Often, riding holidays will have some type of shared accommodation so bringing sleepwear you are comfortable for others to see you in is a good idea.
Long trousers. Depending on the evening temperature where you are going you may want to pack a pair of long pants.
Warm sweater/hoodie. Bring your favorite cozy and soft sweater to wear in the evenings.
Headtorch. Sleeping in a dorm and don’t want to turn on the light and wake up your roommates when you need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night? Fancy a walk in the moonlight? Lamp for your tent? Riding in the dark? A headtorch is always good to have on hand. Don’t forget the batteries!
Camera and charger. Whether it’s your phone or an actual camera, don’t forget to pack your charger too.
Cell phone and charger. Because who travels without these days? There is safety in having a phone on your person in case of accidents or getting separated from your group. Make sure to save your guide’s number and the emergency number for the country you are going to. We also recommend downloading an In Case of Emergency (ICE) app that makes your key medical information (such as blood type, medications you take, emergency contacts, etc.) available to any first responders without having to unlock your phone. We use Medical ID, but there are several free options on the market that you can consider.
Power adapter. Crossing country borders? Remember to check what kind of power outlets they have and get an adapter.
Power bank. For those times when power sockets are far away (or in use by others in the group), a power bank can save the day. Remember to charge it before you leave.
Sound canceling headphones. Not a must by any means, but I never fly without mine. They block out the sound of the engines, the highest pitches of that screaming baby in the front and the chatter from that group of friends in the back that have probably had one too many from the bar cart.
SPF. Don’t skimp on the SPF. Protecting your skin is so important and will save you from the discomfort of sunburn.
Earplugs. For when you hit the jackpot and get to share a room with the snorer of the group. Also, a cheaper alternative to sound-canceling headphones on the plane.
Eye mask. If you’re light-sensitive this will increase your chances of sleeping on the plane and in unfamiliar places with cracks in the curtains.
Travel pillow. For flying comfort but can also be used as a pillow if you are camping during your ride.
Binoculars. This one is primarily for those going on a horse riding safari, but maybe your destination offers some nice bird watching?
Travel documents. Passport, a copy of your passport (kept separate from your passport in case you lose it), vaccination card, insurance card(s).
Fanny pack or running belt. This is for the items you want to keep with you and use on your ride. I use my running belt which fits snuggly around my waist and I usually keep my phone, SPF and lip balm in it.
Travel towel. Consider if the type of trip you are going on will require this, but a small ‘backpacker’ towel has served me well when we were offered to go for a quick dip mid-trail, after a downpour of proportions or for sitting on when the ground is covered in morning dew.
Pocket knife. Personally, I have never needed to use mine, except for after the trail ride to open a bottle of wine (the important stuff, you know…), but if you are headed for a ‘close to nature’ experience, it might come in handy.
Water bottle. If you are riding long distances in the heat or direct sun, staying hydrated is SO important. Always bring a water bottle with you, and depending on the circumstances of your ride, you may want to invest in one that has water purification integrated so you can refill it from streams and lakes you pass on the ride. If not, you can always bring a few water purification tablets or drops instead.
Sleeping bag. Whether you need a sleeping bag depends on the type of ride you are doing. If camping is part of your sleeping arrangements this may be required. Check if this is included in the packing list from your tour operator.
Entertainment. You will likely have some free time in the evenings after your ride to relax and unwind. Think about how you would like to spend that time and bring along a book, a diary, card games or something else that you will enjoy.
Wallet. Although your vacation is most likely pre-paid and the best things in life are supposedly for free, don’t forget your money…
Save some money by saving tubs and bottles after you finish your face creams or maybe you already have some travel mini bottles laying around. Reuse them and fill them with the products you need for your trip.
Hair ties. Heat + humidity + wind + sweat + helmet = pull that hair away from your face! This is one of those small things that is so easy to forget but is terrible to forget.
Hairbrush. After grooming your horse, you may want to groom your own locks.
Deodorant. Did I mention summer horse rides get sweaty?
Dry shampoo is the closest we have ever come to a secret recipe for avoiding helmet hair. Depending on the type of ride you are heading out on, showers may not always be available, or you have to wait a while for your turn. Dry shampoo is a great quick fix to make your hair look semi-presentable again.
Shampoo and conditioner. Nothing feels better than washing your hair after a sweaty ride!
Shower gel. Perhaps you can also use a combo hair/body product to save space?
Face cream. I don’t need my full skincare regime on horse riding holidays, but with all the sun, wind and sweat I can’t go without some moisturizer on my face morning and evening.
Face cleanser. Before the face lotion the SPF, dirt, and grime need to come off with a cleansing balm. SPF does not come off with only water by the way…
Lip balm. Being outdoors for hours on end and being exposed to the elements can dry out the skin and lips. I like to always keep my lip balm close.
Body lotion/after sun. I love moisturizing after a shower and if the sun got to you – an after-sun with aloe vera can be very nice and soothing.
Toothbrush and toothpaste.
Basic First Aid Kit and Medications
Blister band-aids. I once got a blister on my bum. Enough said. This can save you from complete agony because you will need to get back in that saddle.
Anti-chafe cream. What I should have used on my bum before day 2 of my ride.
Painkillers. Headaches, muscle soreness, period pain. Always keep a stash of your preferred brand with you.
Anti-diarrhea tablets. This should be self-explanatory. Don’t let your holiday go to shit…
Antibacterial hand gel. This is a must-have and good to keep in your fanny pack during the ride as well. There aren’t always great opportunities to wash your hands and they will inevitably get dirty during a trail ride. It will also help you stay healthy.
Insect repellent. Another one of those small things that are easy to forget but can make or break the trip. It’s not fun to be ‘that person’ who continuously have to ask others to use their bug spray of SPF.
Tiger balm. Nothing feels better on sore muscles. Just be considerate when using it if living in close quarters – not everyone loves the smell.
Ok, now it’s time to print out our full packing list with further tips on what to pack in and what to pack where. Get your copy below!