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Headed To Baguio? Rediscover A New Way Of Horseback Riding With Trail Ridin’ The Cowboy Way

Ready to take on a different ride of your life? Giddy-up and head over to Baguio to relive your equestrian dreams—and no, this isn’t the ho-hum horseback riding of your childhood

Trotting through the misty pine forests of Baguio is definitely one of the coolest ways to spend your holiday break.


Horse lovers will know that riding spots are pretty darned hard to find in the Philippines, where most horses are enlisted for manual labour, like taking wide-eyed tourists around Luneta or hauling sacks of vegetables down slippery mountain trails.


But there are secret places where you can play cowboy or cowgirl and take a spirited mount anywhere you want—up and down steep hills, between foggy ‘ole valleys, even fields brimming with lettuce and carrots!


So giddy up, for y’er about to learn ’bout the exhilarating, butt-bustin’ art o’ horseback trail ridin’! 


Horses in the Philippines

Once, not too long ago, horses were used for daily life—to transport people, supplies, produce and everything in between. Horses took people to different countries, even to war. It was a sudden boom of ponies caused by 15 years of good rain which gave Genghis Khan the Golden Horde which conquered nearly half the world.


Times have since changed. The invention of the automobile in 1886 saw the end of the horse-riding era, the last vestige of which is how we rate our car engines: In horsepower.


Today’s horses have largely been relegated to agriculture or for hobbyists. Unfortunately, horses are expensive to buy and even pricier to maintain in a ranch or stable, so if you don’t have a mountain of cash to burn, you’ll have to find horses and guides for hire. 


Fortunately, there are a few good places to ride in the Philippines, starting with the country’s most visited city, Baguio.


The City of Horses

The City of Pines is also a city of horses. Wright Park, The Manor, and The Baguio Country Club at Camp John Hay are just some of the places where you can hire horses and guides for a day. 


Wright Park, though for beginners, is still a good place to choose horses to take out (but for the love of God, please don’t choose those funky pink-haired ponies). It has around 200 frisky, snorty horses and a small army of professional pony boys (all seemingly clad in denim or leather jackets) to help set-up your perfect trail ride. The Manor and The Baguio Country Club inside Camp John Hay have around 30 good horses combined. 


To avoid planning hiccups and start afresh, go a day earlier to choose a trail route, plan logistics, and strike a deal way ahead of your planned ride. Mount Santo Tomas, Green Valley, Loakan Airport, Crystal Cave and the Japanese Trail are all four- to five-hour rides, while Marlboro Country and the Country Club Trail take two to three hours of easy riding to complete. 


Remember that these trails are for cow-punchin’ veterans; if you’re just starting out, it’s best to first practice inside Wright Park’s two walking rings. Unlike the days of yore, Baguio City is now largely paved, which makes for potentially slippery rides, especially when galloping downhill.

 

Riding rates can vary, but PhP 3000 should generally be enough to take two horses for a half-day romp around the woods with a guide who might even bring and ride an extra horse. The best rides are in the morning when it’s not too hot and both people and animals are rested. Start as early as 7 AM on your riding day.



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Cowboy Wear

You’ll need high boots or shoes which won’t easily snag in a stirrup (that’s the plastic or metal ring you put your foot into). No slippers or sandals, please, as horses can accidentally step on your toes. Cowboys used to wear knee-high leather boots and heavy ‘ole leg protectors called chaps because they rode through thorny underbrush when chasing cattle. 


No need to wear chaps if you have a nifty pair of maong pants though. A cowboy hat is awesome, but any kind of headgear to stave off the sunrays will do. A lanyard can secure your hat when the riding gets rough.


Gloves are a good idea as holding onto the pommel or horn (the handle in front of your saddle) can rub your hands right raw. A shirt with lots of pockets will make your phone, snacks, and other essentials accessible. 


Bring a light packed lunch for you and your guide, a liter of water per rider, plus an emergency first-aid kit just in case something happens. Cowboys and cowgirls are always prepared. All set? Then git ready for the ride o’ yer life. 


Stayin’ in the Saddle

It takes years to ride well on rough terrain, but here are some quick tips.


From the get-go, approach your horse from the front with slow, sure, and gentle steps. Horses are like dogs in that they sense anxiety, fear, and nervousness. You’ll want to make a good impression if you’re going to ride together a few hours.


Next comes the horsey-handshake, where you ball your hand into a fist and offer it to your mount to smell. If your steed’s lips draw back, don’t worry none – it’s how they say hello.


When you’re properly acquainted and ready to mount, move to the left side, put your left foot on the stirrup and swing that right foot and your whole body up and over, holding onto the pommel for support. Ask your pony boy to adjust your stirrup leathers (the straps holding your stirrups in place) so your legs don’t loosely dangle or get jarred too high, where you’ll soon be in a land called cramps-central. 


When all your riders are ready, form up with the most experienced hands staying up front and at the rear, sandwiching your less-experienced greenhorns.


Make sure you sit up straight and continuously balance with your feet, engaging your core muscles to maintain good riding posture. Go with the flow and don’t resist your mount’s jarring or bouncing movements. Rein in your horse whenever you’re going downhill – you can run much more safely uphill. Most of all, take the time off to reflect about a time before honking, smoke-belching cars reigned supreme. A time when horses were king. 


Done safely and properly, the fun and freedom of trail riding will surely leave you coming back for more… even if your butt’s still sore. 


So this holiday season, pony up and give yourself the gift of a good ‘ole ride.