I did the Botswana ride. It was amazing! I got to gallop with a herd of zebra's, and even got chased by an elephant. The horses were fit and very well taken care of. I think each horse had it's own person looking after it. The accommodations were top notch too, and I met some fabulous people!
Thanks for all the responses so far! I am looking at the unguided Ireland ride as well - there is something very appealing about being given a horse and a map and waving goodbye! Perfect way to see the countryside and meet the locals I think.
Equitours are fantastic. You'll love any ride you do through them. I used to work at their ranch (the Bitterroot), and know personally how much they care about the business & choosing incredible rides. Of course they care about the horses too and will not send you anywhere where the horses are not well looked after and safety isn't the #1 concern. The owners actually go on most of the rides themselves (or a company rep. is sent). I believe Mel and Bayard are in India right now....lucky!! Great company, great people. I would LOVE to ride in Ireland. I've been before but was with a non horsey friend and it was the middle of Feb. (sooo cold and icy) so no riding.
"Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
"With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Two friends and I did one of the unguided Ireland rides last spring. It was great fun, and I can probably tell you lots about the location, people, horses, etc. if you want to PM me. One thing US riders seem to be surprised about with those rides is that most of the mileage isn't actually on what we'd call "trails", it's on back roads, logging roads, and occasionally fairly large roads with lots of traffic. But the horses are great with it, and I found the Irish drivers were WAY more considerate than US drivers. And nothings says "Ireland" like a rutted, hedge-lined lane overlooking a valley of green fields dotted with sheep.
My dad and I did two in the south of France which rank in the top five of favorite vacations ever. This was many moons ago. At that time the tour leader was Roland Bec - I have no idea if he's still doing it. I did a ride in Portugal and didn't really care for it. The coolest thing about it was that I was riding the horse Antonio Banderas rode in "House of the Spirits .
I've also been out to their Bitterroot ranch which was also fun.
I agree that the independent ride in Ireland sounds like a blast.
We met Bayard quite by accident. My family was on vacation in Africa and my brother was wearing a t-shirt with his high school's name on it. Bayard was staying at the same lodge and came over to us because he went to that high school! That's how we found out about Equitours.