This year we experienced our first family horse trek in Bhutan!
Let me start from the beginning! In 2018 we visited Bhutan for the first time. It was only a short one week trip. However, during that time we connected with our guide Sonam Loday and started planning our next trip. Initially, it was going to be in 3 or 4 years. But our heart guided us back to Bhutan only 14 months later.
This second trip was going to bring us to the less touristy part of the country: Central and Eastern Bhutan. For a few days out of the 21-day tour, we were going to have the chance to experience this beautiful country in a very unique way: by horse! The plan was to do a 4-day family horse trek here in Bhutan.
Windhorse Tours, Treks and Expeditions have been the tour operator on both trips. Keep in mind that in order to visit Bhutan you must go with an official tour operator. Windhorse Tours, Treks and Expeditions have two horse stables here in Bhutan. They also take care of maintaining many of the trails, so they can offer horse trek tours to their guests. The best part is that our guide Sonam is the person that developed the horse trek program, so we were in great hands for our adventure!
Our horse trek experience
Prior to our trip here, Cosimo and Emma had been riding horses just a few times. Anyway not for longer than an hour or two. The first time it was on a beach in Mexico. It was very exciting having space and freedom to go on the sand, but they weren’t too comfortable with the horses.
A few weeks before our first trip to Bhutan, they did a horseback riding lesson at Second Wind Ranch & Rescue. It was a great experience for them. However, these were retired competition horses, so very tall, which caused our kids to be a bit more nervous.
The most recent time was in Bhutan trekking up to the Tiger’s Nest. In this case, the horses were guided up on foot by the owner, so a very safe situation. They didn’t have to take any risks.
As for the rest of us. Luca, up to now, had only been on horses with one of us. He never tried by himself.
I took horseback riding lessons when I was in my teens and Mass had been riding off and on as well when he was younger.
As you can see we aren’t experienced horseback riders! However, we were thrilled to have a chance to experience this. Maybe we were also a bit naive about how different it is riding in a protected space, like an arena compared to horse trekking up a mountain or in a forest!
Our horse trek original plan
When we booked this trip we didn’t worry too much about the length of the trek. We were also unfazed by the fact that we were going to sleep in a tent or monastery for a few nights in full winter. I guess sometimes you need to be a bit naive before doing something, so you don’t let fear take over.
However, once we arrived in Bhutan, we realized how cold it was. We were not sure how our youngest kids were going to react to 5/6 hours of horse trek and a cold night in a tent. We needed to make a few changes to our original plan if we didn’t want to have big meltdowns happen! So we opted to return to the guest house each night.
This is what our itinerary looked like:
Day 1, horse trekking in Tang valley where we were going to do a shorter ride. It was going to be only 2 or 3 hours long, in order to familiarize with the horses.
Day 2, was planned as a 6-hours horse trek up to Kunzangdra Monastery. We were going to trek through the forest and up the mountain.
Day 3, was another 6-hour horse trek through forests and hillsides.
Day 4, was just a 3-hour horse trek along the river in Bumthang Valley.
Horse trek plans change…again!
As we started our family horse trek here in Bhutan, our first two days were absolutely perfect! We connected with our horses from the start. On our first day, we were simply going to do an easy trek. We needed to get to know our travel companions and we also needed to start feeling comfortable with them. We were a bit tired and cold after the 3-hour ride because the weather was changing. However, we were happy to go back to a warm guest house for the evening and think about our day!
The second day was absolutely unforgettable! It was tough and scary at moments. Horse trekking is not like horseback riding! You go through trails that have some very steep parts or some natural obstacles that you wonder how your horse will get through. However, incredibly he always does! Once you get to the top and admire the view, you feel so proud of yourself but most of all of your new best friend: your horse!
Once we reached the top we sat all together and enjoyed an amazing meal with a stunning view of the valley around us. As I looked around, I couldn’t believe we managed to get up here! There were no complaints of being tired, we were all feeling lucky and happy to be living this very special moment.
By the end of the day, as we were arriving at our stop for the evening, the weather changed for the worse. I think this is the one time we really wished it was not going to snow. Unfortunately, it did! A huge snowstorm hit the area and we had to modify our plans for the rest of our family horse trek. We ended up spending the third day of our horse trek in the hotel! The storm continued all day! Many would go anyway, but it would have been too challenging to manage with 3 kids.
Our kid’s experience horse trekking
Our kids are fearless!
They climbed on those horses, connected with them immediately. They felt safe with them from the first moment they started riding! By the end of the family horse trek experience, all 3 were galloping! It was thrilling to watch!
Cosimo and Emma were completely at ease getting on and off. They never worried about the obstacles in front of us. They were always in the front, reassuring us that it wasn’t hard. Time went by without even noticing it. None of them ever asked us “are we there yet?”. They didn’t want the day to end and in the evening they could not stop talking about the day!
I can definitely say that they were living this family horse trek at it’s fullest!
Luca was our major concern. Initially, the plan was that he was going to sit on the horse and Sonam was going to guide him on foot. This would give him the chance to easily assist him. After 30 minutes of this “assisted horse trek,” Luca said he wanted to do it on his own! He did great! His horse was the sweetest, extremely patient, and understanding also when our 4-year-old was giving weird commands.
This adventure was also particularly special for Luca for another reason. He turned 4 during our family horse trek! On the morning of his birthday, Sonam completely decorated his horse with balloons to celebrate. It was such a special moment and Luca was over the moon!
For our kids, this family horse trek in Bhutan was definitely a unique and unforgettable experience! For us, it was pure enjoyment to watch them have the time of their lives while enjoying a stunning natural environment.
What these 3 days taught us?
One of the things I realized immediately from these 3 days is that when you are horse trekking you really need to trust your horse. He can feel it if you are not comfortable and it might be more possible for you to fall off! In the tougher moments, I almost lost hold a few times, because I couldn’t get myself to let go and give him trust. After getting over a few rough obstacles I realized that everything was going to be fine. At that point, the trek became easier also in the tougher spots.
Of course, Cosimo, Emma, and Luca had figured this one out from the moment they got on the horse! Kids have the ability to connect immediately with what they are doing and get into it 100% from the start! As we grow older, we have so many fears and maybe past traumas that hold us back. However, watching them is always a great lesson on how we should enjoying the new adventure!
In the end, I’m so proud that we didn’t let fear or worry take the best of us. We horse trekked up, we horse trekked down, in the woods, up the mountain, along the river, and in the open. We sat on these beautiful horses for 3 days and let them take us into an amazing natural environment. I still cannot believe we did this unforgettable experience altogether!
Watch our video if you want see and hear more about our experience!
If you are curious to see more, take a peak to our photo gallery and then book your trip to the magical Kingdom of Bhutan!
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