As a lifelong lover of all things horsey, and someone who rides on a regular basis back home, I always search to fuel my horse love while traveling. In the past I’ve had the chance to ride an Icelandic Horse in Iceland and go riding on a beach in Nicaragua.
On my recent trip to Bali I was delighted when I found a wonderful stable that offered trail rides. I stumbled across a brochure for Ubud Horse Stables while wandering the touristy streets Ubud and immediately became excited at the prospect of riding as it had been almost a month since my last ride (horse lovers will totally understand that this is a very long time to go without your horse fix).
I tried not to get my hopes up too high as I’m always wary about stables that offer trail rides. Many of these operations do not take very good care of their horses and are only interested in making a profit. Animal welfare is very important to me and I did not want to contribute to a company that abuses or mistreats their horses. As I read the brochure I became more confident that this barn would meet my expectations. They offered trail rides (and lessons) to beginners up to advanced riders.
The brochure stated beginners would only be allowed to walk and those rides would be 1-2 hrs in length. They also had a weight limit as to how much the horses could carry which I saw as a very good sign (putting the horses welfare first).
This stable also offered 3 hr trail rides to advanced riders, people who ride on a regular basis and can handle a horse at a canter while out on a trail. Upon reading this I asked the tour operator to sign me up on the spot! The brochure stated that they required a minimum of 2 people and as a solo traveler, I had been finding this difficult throughout my travels in Indonesia. Regardless, the tour operated said he would call and ask anyways. To my great relief, the stable said no problem and I was booked!
A few days later I waited patiently outside my guesthouse for my ride to pick me up. I was starting to feel nervous again and wonder if I had made the right choice by riding at this stable. What if the horses were skinny and malnourished? What if the barn was a total dump? What if they mistreated their horses? I didn’t want to have anything to do with supporting a place like that and hoped this barn would turn out to be one of the good ones.
All my fears were quickly extinguished when a van from the stable arrived and I began chatting with Yogi, the young owner of the stable. As we made our way into the beautiful Balinese countryside, Yogi and I fell easily into horse talk and my worries disappeared. Yogi has a passion for horses and simply adores them. He told me that he trains horses for jumper and dressage but also runs these trail rides on the side.
When we arrived at the stable Yogi gave me a tour and introduced me the 8 equines he currently had. The stable was nice, clean and the most importantly the horses looked well kept and in good shape.
I met my mount for the day, a beautiful little chestnut mare named Bella. She stood quietly as she was tacked up and waited patiently until everyone was ready. Since I was solo for this ride, it was just me, Yogi and one of his trainers going for a ride. Yogi was trying out his new horse Raja, a happy go lucky dapple grey gelding, on the trails for the first time since his arrival only 4 days prior. The trainer (I never did get his name) rode a spirited dark bay 4 yr old stallion who happily took the lead for the entire ride.
We began our adventure on the narrow country road but soon veered off into the rice terraces. Farmers were out in the hot morning sun starting work on their crops, treading around in water up to their knees. We turned a few heads as we rode by and received some shy smiles.
It was still early morning but the humidity was already tangible in the air and the morning dew began to evaporate under the pressure. I focused on the enjoying the last bit of coolness in the air and took in the stunning scenery around me. I’ve been horseback riding in a few countries but never surrounded by palm trees and rice terraces!
As we exited the fields and turned onto a narrow pathway, Yogi asked if I was ready for a trot. We set off down a cool, shaded lane way, the horses enjoying the activity. There was a turn coming up, veering off to the left and I could see the path winding its way up a hill. Before I knew it we were all off at a canter, the horses lunging forward clearly enjoying this brief bout of wildness. I had to duck a few times to avoid the clumps of mud being kicked up my Raja’s hooves in front of me and I laughed thinking, how on earth did I end up here? Galloping through the Balinese countryside, riding through rice terraces on this spunky little mare.
Our ride continued in much the same way. Mostly walking but trotting and cantering when the opportunity arose.
Leaving the countryside behind, we entered a little village, riding right into town on the main road. Local residents, especially the children, smiled and waved as we rode by, some with a quizzical look on their face.
We continued through the beautiful little Balinese village and arrived at a restaurant with stunning views of a lush, jungle valley. Yogi said we’d take a break and give the horses a rest while we had a mid morning snack. Seeing our three horses tied up outside this little restaurant on a country road seemed perfectly normal but I wondered what the locals would think when they walked by, as horses just aren’t that common.
We were so early arriving at the restaurant that we were the only ones there. We grabbed the best seats in the house and enjoyed the quiet solitude of the morning, eating to the sounds of the jungle and the occasional snorts and whinny’s of the horses.
Soon enough we were back in the saddle, riding out of town and into another collection of rice terraces. By now the sun was overhead, bearing down on us with its heat and humidity. I was thankful when we reached the edge if the jungle again, the trees providing us with some shade.
Up and down we went, into little valleys with creeks and then up into the hills. Yogi informed me that we would be stopping at an orange plantation for another short break (the entire ride was 3 hrs long so I was happy to see the horses getting breaks in this heat and humidity).
Securing our mounts to wooden posts set in place just for them, I was offered a fresh coconut and a seat under an umbrella right beside the edge of huge jungle valley. I was told that at the bottom on the valley was a beautiful waterfall where they take the beginner rides too.
As we were getting ready to move on, Yogi asked me if I wouldn’t mind switching horses with him as he wanted to see how Raja went with someone else on him (Raja was his new German warm blood that had only arrived 4 days prior). I was enjoying my ride on Bella, she was so sweet and easy going but energetic during our trots and canters. However Raja looked like a lot of fun too so I quickly agreed. Raja was so well mannered and I couldn’t believe this was his first time going for a trail ride!
Arriving back at the stable, I was sad to see the ride come to an end. I hung around the barn yard watching the daily activities, in no hurry to return to the crowded streets of Ubud.
Eventually Yogi said it was time to go and how he wished he could stay all day. Thanking the staff for such a wonderful experience, I gave Bella one final pat and said goodbye to this beautiful little horse stable, nestled in the hills of the gorgeous Balinese countryside.