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Kabardino Balkaria

Overview

This exciting ride is offered to those with a pioneering spirit of adventure. European Russia is the part of Russia situated in the far west of the country - the larger, eastern part is considered to be part of Asia. The specific boundaries often vary, but it is generally considered that the Ea…

Highlights

  • Be one of the first to discover this exciting new ride
  • Ride local Kabardin horses on trails through mountains
  • Reach summer pastures full of grazing herds of horses
  • Admire the towering summit of Mt Elbrus from horseback
  • Camp in beautifully remote and wild locations

Essential Facts

  • 1 itinerary available
  • Max 8 riders per group
  • Average of 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 100kg / 220lbs / 15 stone 10 lbs

Description

This exciting ride is offered to those with a pioneering spirit of adventure.

European Russia is the part of Russia situated in the far west of the country - the larger, eastern part is considered to be part of Asia. The specific boundaries often vary, but it is generally considered that the Eastern border of Europe runs along the Ural mountains, Caucasus mountains and Turkish Straits. This exciting new ride is situated in the Caucasus mountains just north of Georgia and therefore comfortably in European Russia.

The dominant feature on the landscape is Mount Elbrus - the highest mountain in Russia and the tenth most prominent peak in the world. Elbrus has two summits, both of which are dormant volcanic domes - the west summit is the highest at 5,642m whilst the east summit is 5,621m. Elbrus has a permanent icecap which feeds 22 glaciers and hasn't erupted since 50 AD. You should get clear views of Elbrus from some of the high plateaus you cross on horseback.

You ride Kabardin or Kabarda horses, which have been bred by mountain tribesmen in the Caucasus since the 16th century. The breed was formed from a combination of steppes horses, namely the Karabakh, Arabian and Turkoman. The Kabardin are either bay, black or grey and are well-muscled with hard hooves. Their blood has a heightened oxygen-carrying capacity suited for working in the high mountains and they are easy to keep, gaining weight easily and coping well in the harsh mountain conditions. Kabardin are usually fast with good endurance and are often used as sport horses outside of Russia.

The first 3-4 days of the ride take you up to the high plateaus to reach the summer grazing pastures of the Kabardin horses, where you may find herds of 150 horses gathered. Here you set up camp and spend three days exploring the glorious landscape and discovering ancient cave systems, waterfalls and canyons. This ride is also a cultural experience, as you stay with and interact with local Circassians - an ethnic group native to Circassia in northwest Caucasia. The term Circassian includes twelve Adyghe tribes, each one represented by a star on the green and gold Circassian flag. The Circassians were displaced during the Russian Conquest and the Soviets sub-divided them into Adygeans, Cherkessians, Kabardians and Shapsugians.

Your final night in Russia is in the town of Vladikavkaz, whose name roughly translates as "I won the Caucasus". Pack an open mind and a sense of adventure to discover this glorious region.

Horses & Riding

Tack

Local Cherkess (Russian) saddles with simple bridles

Horses

Kabardin

Riding

There is 1 itinerary:

  • Pioneering Expedition is a trail ride

Ages

No specific limits, but must be able to cope with the spirited horses, length of time in the saddle and rough conditions, so not suitable for young children.

Health

You must be fit and healthy. You are riding at altitude in remote locations and medical aid may be difficult to find.

Weight

100kg / 220lbs / 15 stone 10 lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

Meals are prepared locally and will be typical Kabardin or Georgian fare. The locals eat meat every day and so there will be plenty of meat provided, however, vegetarians can be accommodated as there is plenty of vegetables, fruit and cheese available. Other special diets however, (ie. gluten free), would need to bring their own substitutions, as these cannot be sourced locally.

Drinks are provided whilst on the ride, but you can purchase your own alcoholic drinks when you dine in restaurants.

Accommodation

Two nights are spent in a guesthouse in Tbilisi and two nights in a 3* hotel in Russia.

Two nights are spent in a family guesthouse in Russia - these are very different to conventional Europe and allow you to interact with local families and learn about their traditions. You will need to have an open mind! Bathrooms will be shared and single rooms are not possible.

The rest of the route is camping in two person tents with limited facilities.

Your luggage is carried for you, but will be exposed, so we recommend not taking anything fancy and using plenty of dry bags to keep your belongings clean and dry.

Itineraries

Pioneering Expedition Tented accommodation.

Other Activities

These rides are in remote areas where access is only possible on foot or horseback, therefore non-riders cannot be accepted.

There are many interesting sites visited during the journey but there is little free time outside of the itinerary, except for sitting back and taking in the enormity of the landscapes.

Travel

You need to arrive at Mineralnye Vody airport in Russia but depart from Tbilisi airport in Georgia.

Transfers on arrival are included but you may have to wait for other guests or pay a supplement for a private transfer.

After the ride, the transfers are included to the group hotel in Tbilisi. Transfers to Tbilisi are through the Caucasus mountains by road, and these are included in the itinerary. The journey in itself is an adventure.

On your departure day, transfers to Tbilisi airport are included providing you depart early in the morning.

NB. You will need a visa for this district of Russia and should apply about 1.5 months before your holiday. We will supply you with an invitation letter for this.

There are no direct flights from the UK to this region, but the most popular routes are with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. Flights do tend to arrive very late at night or early in the morning, but you are collected from the airport and transferred straight to your hotel to rest. You may wish to add an extra night at the start to recover from the flight and explore the capital city.

Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

You will be met on arrival at Mineralnye Vody airport in Stavropol Krai, Russia and transferred to your hotel in the centre of Nalchik to overnight. Please note that you may have to wait for other guests to arrive on later flights, or pay extra for a private transfer.

Day 2 - Nalshik - Balkar Village

Riding: 1 hours

Start your day by visiting Naltchik with its Soviet style park, market and public places. The museum is also worth a visit to plunge you into the north Caucasian world. After lunch you visit a workshop to watch a skilled workman manufacturing north Caucasian saddles and bridles according to ancient traditions. By the end of the day you will have reached Balkar village where you overnight in a family guesthouse. This is your last chance to shower before your adventure into the wild.

Day 3 - Balkar Village - Xalbaz Village

Riding: 7 hours

Today you start your beautiful ride through the immensity of the northern Caucasian slopes on the majestic Kabardine horses. These first three days of riding take you from the old Soviet farm to the camp in the mountains where you spend another three days exploring the magnificent landscape around you.

Your first day takes you over the first line of mountains towards Elbrus. The landscape is hilly but not steep and so you can trot or canter sometimes. Reach the Kabardin village of Xalbaz in the late afternoon and camp beside a river. Camp will be set up for you already.

Day 4 - Xalbaz Village - Camp 1

Riding: 7 hours

Today starts by riding along a valley before ascending a crest to reach a high plateau at 3000m. You spend the second half of the day on this plateau where the landscapes are incredible, with high cliffs opening onto wide paramo. You may meet shepherds along the way and there are opportunities to trot and canter. Your camp is beautifully situated in a remote location.

Day 5 - Camp 1 - Camp 2 (Summer high pastures)

Riding: 7 hours

You start the day by riding downhill to the lower plateau through gorges which lead to the summer camp. There are outstanding panoramic views and if the weather is clear you could see the snow-covered summits of Elbrus. This camp is a simple place with a shepherd's hut where you will share your dinners with the local Adygueens who live there. You overnight in tents.

Day 6

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Explore the impressive canyons in the area on horseback and return to your camp in the evening.

Day 7 - Elbrouz

Riding: 7 hours

Ride up onto a high plateau which offers wild, open landscapes with distant high summits as a backdrop. Some of those peaks are over 5,000m! There are opportunities to trot and canter across the open grasslands. Return to camp in the afternoon and dine with the Cherkess.

Day 8 - Caves

Riding: 7 hours

The aim of todays ride is to reach some caves which can only be accessed on foot or horseback. These caves are very remote and known only to local shepherds. Like other days you will have lunch along the route and follow some small pathways carved into the mountains. At the end of the day you return to your camp for one final night in the summer pastures.

Day 9 - Camp 2 - Balkar Village

Riding: 7 hours

Ride downhill through the sinuous canyon which leads back to the lowlands and the village of Balkar where you stayed at the start of your ride. The hot showers will be very welcome in your guesthouse!

Day 10 - Kendelen - Vladikavkaz

Riding: No riding.

Transfer by road to Vladikavkaz where the architecture will start to change from the soviet style to the more energetic and colourful of Georgia. There is time to stroll around the city before dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight in a 3 star hotel.

Day 11 - Vladikavkaz - Tbilisi

Riding: No riding.

Set off early for the drive across the Russian border and into Georgia. You'll pass through the famous Darial gorge which is the first and only passage through the Caucasus Mountain chain. Depending on how long border formalities take, you should be back in Tbilisi for 6-8pm. Dinner in a restaurant before overnighting at your hotel.

Day 12 - Tbilisi

Riding: No riding.

The day is free for you to explore this surprisingly cosmopolitan city. There is lots to see and do including a museum, market, exhibitions, galleries and churches, or simply stroll the cobbled streets. There is also a thermal bath which can be booked for you if you wish. Lunch is to your own account. Later in the day you meet your guide for one final visit and dinner together.

Day 13

Riding: No riding.

Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home, which could depart very early. 

NB. Please note that the riding itinerary may have to vary according to the weather and conditions in the mountains but always with your best interests at heart. For this first year, it is important that you are flexible and don't need to stick to a rigid programme as changes may be necessary on these pioneering adventures.

Accommodation

Two nights are spent in a guesthouse in Tbilisi and two nights in a 3* hotel in Russia, both with own bathrooms. Two nights are spent in a family guesthouse in Russia, with shared bathrooms. The rest of the route is camping in two person tents with very limited facilities.

Experience Experienced

You have to be an experienced rider who is comfortable at all paces across varied terrain and fit for long hours in the saddle. The horses are forward going and not for novices.

Minimum group size 7
Maximum group size 8
Departure windows

Sept. 5, 2022 - Sept. 17, 2022

Pricing

2022
Sharing
£2540 $3515 €3015
These prices include a small fee (30 euro) for the invitation letter for the Russian visa. You should apply for the visa 1.5 months before departure as it can take time to arrive.
Included 12 nights accommodation, 7 days of riding, transfers as described in itinerary, all meals from dinner on arrival day until breakfast on departure day (except lunch in Tbilisi), drinks during the riding days.
Not included Flights, Russian visa, travel insurance, lunch on Tbilisi on day 12, drinks in restaurants, tips & other personal expenses.

Extras

2022 - Private Transfer £51 $70 €60
Paid to Far and Ride
If you do not wish to wait for other guests arriving on the included transfer, then you can pay for a private transfer (each way)
2022 - Single Supplement £63 $87 €75 per night
Paid to Far and Ride
Single rooms are possible only in the city hotels and are subject to availability.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.