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Below is a collection of frequently asked questions about Alexandra Tolstoy Travel horse riding holidays. If you’ve any further questions, please do get in touch. 

How long are Alexandra Tolstoy Travel horse riding holidays?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel trips last for ten nights.

When do the trips take place?

Our horse riding holidays in Kyrgyzstan run on set dates between May and September. Other dates are available on request for private groups. 

What breed of horses do you use?

The horses used on our horse riding holidays are locally-owned and -bred mountain horses, used by shepherds for herding livestock. They are small in height, generally between about 13.2 and 14.2hh, but strong, adaptable and extremely sure-footed. As in many Muslim countries, horses in Kyrgyzstan are not usually gelded horses, so many are stallions. They are kept as a herd, which means they are relaxed and easy going with no fuss between them. 

Are the horses trained?

The horses are trained locally in Kyrgyzstan, with a slightly different riding style to British-schooled horses. They ride well on a fairly loose, relaxed rein and are easy, responsive and fun to ride. 

What tack is used?

The Kyrgyz saddles we use are simple local saddles, padded with velvet blankets, with English-style stirrups and simple canvas or leather bridles, usually with snaffle-style bits. Saddle bags are provided. All our tack is locally made and fairly basic, although very much fit for purpose.

How much will we ride each day?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel’s ten-night horse riding holidays include six days’ riding, usually with around six hours in the saddle each riding day. Some of our routes are little used so there may be diversions which might increase or decrease riding time. The unpredictable nature of the mountain weather also means adjustments may be made to the itinerary. 

Are there rest stops?

Riding days are always broken up with rest stops as well as a delicious picnic lunch.

Will I have to transport my own luggage?

All luggage and camping equipment is transported by our back-up vehicles.

How many people are on each trip?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel groups are limited to a maximum of 12 guests, accompanied by Alexandra herself, or on occasion an alternative British representative, as well as by a local guide and several local horsemen.

Is there a weight limit?

The weight limit is around 80k /12st 8lbs. If you are close to this, please let us know well in advance so arrangements for a suitable horse(s) can be made.

At what pace will we be riding?

Riding on an Alexandra Tolstoy horse riding holiday is at a moderate to slow pace, always governed by the terrain. The route in Kyrgyzstan takes you along mountain paths, across alpine valleys, open meadows and through some forest with some opportunities to trot and canter when the terrain allows. There is one mountain pass to cross that involves a steep climb and descent, part of which is done on foot, with the horses taken ahead by the guides.

Who are the guides?

Our horse riding holidays in Kyrgyzstan are usually led by Vasily Berezhnoi or Vadim Savin, both English-speaking, experienced riders and photographers who know the area very well. Also accompanying each trip is either Alexandra herself or another British group leader. Vasily and Vadim are qualified in first aid and carry a satellite phone and first aid kit at all times. There is also a further back-up team, made up of two drivers, two cooks and two camp workers, as well as the six local horsemen. The latter are often the owners of the horses and know them, and the terrain, extremely well. They are on hand to help with anything from leading a horse to picking up a dropped water bottle, as well as tacking and untacking in camp. Alexandra has been working with the team since 2003. 

What riding experience do I need?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel horse riding holidays are aimed at riders of an intermediate standard and above. To take part, you must be relaxed, comfortable and secure on a horse at a walk, trot and canter. You should be well balanced in the saddle and have experience riding for long hours at a time, outdoors in an open environment and over varied, sometimes difficult, terrain. The horses are sensible and extremely foot-sure on the rocky terrain, so they suit riders of different abilities, but as riding is in a remote, mountainous area, all participants need to be confident and have a reasonable amount of prior experience. 

Do I need to be physically fit?

You’ll enjoy your horse riding holiday in Kyrgyzstan much more if you are physically fit – both riding fit and with a good level of general fitness. If you do not ride regularly at home, we recommend concentrated practice in the months before the trip to get used to the hours you will spend on a horse. As well as riding, there is usually the opportunity to swim in a lake or river every day. 

What landscapes will we pass through?

Kyrgyzstan features one of the world’s last wildernesses, and the Tien Shan Mountains we’ll be riding through is barely visited by tourists. Much of the riding is on untouched ground or along shepherds’ paths up and down mountains, offering spectacular views. Occasionally, the route follows a rough road. We’re unlikely to meet anyone but local shepherds and their families. 

What flora and fauna will I see in Kyrgyzstan?

In May, June and July the wildflowers are spectacular with high meadows full of tulips, irises, hollyhocks, orchids and numerous other gems. It was from here that Victorian botanists brought many of today’s best-loved species back to England. In autumn, the mountains are an array of colours and ripening fruits; plums and apples can be picked straight from the saddle. Wolves and bears live high up in the mountains (although are rarely seen) and birds of note include griffon vultures, golden eagles and the sweetest voiced nightingales.

Is Kyrgyzstan safe?

The country is extremely safe and its people friendly and welcoming. Kyrgyzstan’s borders opened relatively recently after years of communism, so its service and infrastructure are still very much developing. As a result, delays and changes to even the most carefully-planned itinerary are always possible. Visitors will require a degree of flexibility, an open mind and a willingness to accept local standards and expectations.  Our trips are best suited to those who enjoy adventure and can cope without luxuries. 

Where will we sleep?

Accommodation for the first and last two nights is in Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, at a small, comfortable hotel with an outdoor swimming pool and pretty garden. All bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms. Other nights are spent camping along the riding route in our movable camp.

What is the camp like?

The temporary camp and all luggage is moved every day by the team, arriving ahead of the riders. Although the camps are simple, a tremendous effort is made to ensure they are as comfortable as possible, with equipment such as tables and chairs provided. Alexandra has also added personal touches including pretty Uzbek china and table linen, adding to the unique feel. Spacious, British-made, four-man dome tents (one per couple) are supplied for sleeping. There is a big mess tent for eating, with sides that open up to embrace the views, a beautifully-laid table for breakfast and dinner, loo tents (shared) and a ‘wash tent’. Hot water is provided each day on arrival in camp. Accommodation is based on two sharing and if you are travelling alone, the single supplement is payable for a separate room/tent. 

Where are the camps located?

The camp is moved and set up in a different location each day. The camp locations in Kyrgyzstan are always in stunning settings, such as beside a rushing river or tranquil lake, making the most of panoramic views of the mountains. The back-up team will strike camp when you depart on your horse each morning, and will have set up the next camp before you arrive at the end of the day’s riding.

Do I need to bring bedding?

You will need to take your own sleeping bag and ideally a Therm-a-Rest/camping mattress. 

What meals are provided?

Our back-up team includes two fabulous local cooks who prepare freshly-made meals throughout your horseriding holiday. The cuisine is local, featuring a fusion of Russian and Central Asian cooking. Plenty of vegetables and fruit are available and nearly all the ingredients used are organic and local. Breakfast might be fresh local flatbread, butter and homemade jam or honey, with eggs, pancakes, porridge and yoghurt also available. Tea and freshly-brewed coffee is offered, as well as juices. Lunch is a delicious picnic served when out riding, and might include freshly-baked bread, cheese, cold meats, buckwheat or pasta and tomatoes with perhaps tea and biscuits for pudding. Dinner always begins with soup, followed perhaps by handmade dumplings, ratatouille, stuffed peppers or plov (pilaf with lamb). Dinner is served with plenty of Kyrgyz beer. If you prefer wine or spirits, please bring your own from duty free. 

Do you cater for dietary requirements?

Dietary requirements can, of course, be catered for, but please let us know in advance by filling in the dietary requests on the booking form

What will the weather be like?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel journeys to Kyrgyzstan run on set dates between late May and September when the weather in the area is at its best. During the winter months (November to April), there is deep snow on the high pastures and the mountain passes are closed. In spring and early summer, the ground is scattered with wildflowers; in July, August and September, fruits are ripening and the mountains turn golden by autumn. Historic average daytime temperatures between May and September are roughly: May 21°C; June 26°C; July 28°C; August 28°C; September 22°C. Please do bear in mind that temperatures vary and weather is anyway unpredictable. In Bishkek, it is hotter in the summer. Rain is possible at any time of year, particularly in May and early June, so you always need to be prepared for this. 

What should I bring?

We will send you a full packing list when you book.

How do I book an Alexandra Tolstoy Travel horse riding holiday?

Simply get in touch and we can help.

Do you work with any local charities?

Alexandra Tolstoy Travel supports Uplift Aufwind, an NGO working with children with disabilities. According to a recent UNICEF report, there are 32,000 children under the age of 18 with disabilities in the country. Only one fifth receive any kind of education; the rest languish at home or are put into large state institutions where conditions are very poor. Families know that it will cost them three times more to raise a child with disabilities at home and that they will get very little support from the state to do it. It is no wonder when faced with this scenario that they abandon their children into state care. Uplift works with families right from the start, supporting them so that they choose not to abandon their child to the institutions but keep them at home and living in the community, the best and most natural place for them to be.

Get in touch

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