Some of you might have watched The Real Marigold Hotel when it came on TV last year. As part of the program a handful of OAP celebrities were taken to Udaipur, India. One of the activities they took part in was a horse riding trek into the surrounding countryside. As soon as I watched this I thought ‘yep, we are going to do that’.
Udaipur is a beautiful city amidst the Aravalli mountains. The rolling hills pan out in every direction from the city. They provide the perfect opportunity to escape and explore the lush greenery. Brad and I seek these escapes from the noise and dirt of the cities. All of our highlights from the trip so far have been when we step into the wilderness, not in the cities.
One of the best ways to venture out is on horseback. One of India’s hidden treasures are the Marwari horses that were bred here and used by the royals before the British colonisation occurred. The horses have a very distinctive look with ears that point upwards and curve so that the points almost touch each other. They were carefully bred to have stamina, courage and strength and were used successfully by the Maharaja armies for a long time. Unfortunately, after the Brits claimed India and the royal family more or less became redundant, the horses were no longer required. Instead, the royal family traded them for more desirable breeds such as thoroughbreds and Australian horses. The breed itself almost became extinct and it’s only because of some loyal supporters of the breed and an increase in tourism that the breed has survived at all. Now, it is doing much better and India has realised its importance, having placed a ban on the export of the breed.
There are many companies offering horse treks into the mountains, but as with anything animal related you need to ensure the horses are the priority. They must be well cared for and properly trained so that their’s and your’s safety is maintained. We did our research and found a family-run company called Princess Trails.
They tick all the boxes:
- Horses are a healthy weight, with a shiny coat and well kept. They also had very nice temperaments which is important when being used with tourists.
- The family is incredibly friendly and provide great hospitality.
- The treks are tailored to your personal preference and abilities. You won’t be told you need to trot/canter if you don’t want too.
- They take you deep into the mountains and, trust me, you will see the most magical views.
Brad and I decided for a half day ride (around 4 hours) and to be out for sunset – always chasing that perfect sunset! In hindsight, considering Brad doesn’t ride and I haven’t ridden properly in about 10 months, it was a little long. My legs were more than a little wobbly when I dismounted. But we were able to witness some of the most authentic rural landscapes we’ve seen all trip. We had completely abandoned the ‘touristy’ areas and were riding around villages where tourists almost never visit. Children would start running after us (before being shouted at not too before they get kicked). It left us feeling warm, just because sometimes it seems authentic experiences are hard to come by in India and this truly was that.
My horse (named Kirti – meaning fame in Hindi) was full of character. Forward going but kind and never nasty. Brad’s horse (called Rashmi meaning ray of sunshine), being blind in one eye, was a little clumsy but super chilled. We felt safe and happy as we walked up streams, through quarries, past lakes filled with Lilly pads and up around the hills.
When the sun begins to set and you are the only 3 people walking up this huge, wide dirt track, it seems magical. You can see the fog setting into the valley and everything begins to turn golden. We felt like we had turned up in the film Django, riding our horses through villages and being stared at by passers by. And before you knew it the sun had completely vanished and we finished the ride under the faint moonlight (thank goodness for full moon).
For anyone visiting Udaipur you must venture out of the city! There is so much more unspoilt beauty if you search a little further out. You don’t need to ride horses if that’s not your sort of thing. Hikes are also advertised. Though, being on these stunning royal Indian horses as we trekked up and down the rolling hills did add a special feeling to the whole evening.