Whether you are riding at dawn or sunset on the beach, or through hills, plantations and farms, a horse riding holiday in Malaysia is an experience not to be missed. Malaysia is fast becoming one of the choice destinations for adventurous holidays on horseback
There are more ways than one to explore the beauty and splendour of Malaysia, but none is more unique than on horseback. The growth and popularity of horse riding have positively influenced many aspects of the country’s leisure getaways. Horse riding trails throughout different regions as well as traditional equestrian events – particularly the coveted KL Grand Prix, an *FEI five-star event that showcases the sport at its highest level – attract visitors as well as horse and rider combinations from all over the region. Savour the adventure of a horse riding holiday along sun drenched tropical beaches, through verdant rainforests and magnificent highlands; break your journey with a specially prepared picnic or drop by a local eatery after your ride. Unlike most riding destinations worldwide, which are far from the main cities, Malaysia offers riding trails that are close to an array of interesting sights and attractions. There is a wide and varied selection of things to do, see and experience in the melting pot that is Malaysia. The equine enthusiast can enjoy cuisine and fruits that are exotic as they are delicious, witness age-old customs and traditions that are evocative of a long gone era and explore breathtaking natural landscapes. Here, you will discover the charm of this beautiful land and its friendly people while indulging in your favourite pastime.
MALAYSIAN HORSE BREEDS
The hardy Malaysian pony or kuda padi thrives in tropical rice plantation areas. They are mainly bred in the states of Kelantan and Sabah. Most riding schools teach children to ride using these ponies. Another popular breed, the Thoroughbred, is bred in Ipoh at the National Stud Farm – the only Malaysian Thoroughbred stud farm. The farm breeds horses that compete with the imported race horses at the three well-established racing centres, namely the Perak Turf Club, Penang Turf Club and the Selangor Turf Club. Horse racing and British-style riding club activities started in the pre-war years. There is now an established Thoroughbred racing circuit with a full calendar of weekend races. Cross breeds of local ponies with Thoroughbreds and Arabs produce horses suitable for endurance, leisure as well as competitive riding and racing. These sport horses are popular and sought after by neighbouring countries.
- Bring a spare change of clothes in case it rains.
- Use sun block when riding along beaches or in highlands to avoid getting sunburn.
- Please do not litter when picnicking along the trail.
- Always ride with an experienced guide.
- Wear an equestrian helmet or approved hard hat at all times when riding.
- Ride in licensed and registered horse riding centres.
Sabah, the land of undulating hills and meandering rivers; diverse flora, fauna as well as marine life, has been home to generations of Bajau horsemen. Although the Bajaus were originally nomadic seafarers, the current generation is now not only known for their skill in fishing, rice cultivation and raising water buffaloes, cattle’s as well as ponies, but also for their great horse riding skills. This should not come as a surprise, as their horse riding tradition dates back to the 1800s, with the ponies having been very much a part of their daily lives. Hailed as the Cowboys of the East, the Bajaus are famous for their equestrian prowess. The opportunity to watch them in action at the annual Tamu Besar in Kota Belud is not to be missed.
It is during this annual event as well as on festive occasions that one gets to catch them in eye-catching traditional costumes, riding gaily decorated ponies. Unknown to many, Kelantan, the cradle of Malay culture and heritage, also possesses a tradition in horse breeding. In some villages in Kelantan, both children and adults ride locally bred ponies without a saddle or bareback during mounted games such as Horse Ball, village races, traditional ceremonies or leisurely rides. The Kelantanese, like the Sabahan cowboys, grew up with horses. As most families in these villages keep horses, it is common to have horse races and performances during important festivals and celebrations. The Kelantanese horsemen have been taking part in popular endurance races using home bred horses, a cross between local ponies with Arabian, and pure bred Arabian horses. For visitors who wish to try out the sturdy and sure footed Kelantan ponies, there are resorts that offer horse riding outings, such as the Perdana Resort, Pasir Belanda Resort or the Pantai Cahaya Bulan Resort that offer open country and kampong (village) riding excursions.
THE BIRTH OF THE UNIFORMED MOUNTED UNITS
The creation of mounted units dates back to 1886, when a unit was formed in Perak with Sikh Riders from India. The unit was mainly used for palace guard duty and as the sultan’s escorts; they had smart red uniforms and are still used for ceremonial occasions today. In 1984, the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamed was presented with two horses by the former President of Pakistan during his state visit here. Six more horses were bought and with these eight horses, a unit was formed. The uniformed mounted units of the Royal Police Force (PDRM), the Malaysian Armed Forces Equestrian Centre (MAFEC), the Royal Palace Mounted Guards (SIB) and the City Council Mounted Unit (DBKL) were established years ago. These officers can be seen at the King’s Palace, official events and ceremonies as well as parks.
THE BEACH RIDES – ENJOY THE COAST ON HORSEBACK
There is no better way to indulge in the idyllic surroundings than on horseback. Feel the breeze and salty air brush your face as you ride off into the sunset; tingle with excitement as you ride through fabulous scenery on beautiful horses, and then relax and unwind at local eateries.
SABAH – Land Below The Wind
Located off the South China Sea on the island of Borneo is Sabah, the Land Below the Wind. With a colourful palette of over 30 ethnic groups speaking over 80 dialects, it offers a diverse and multicultural experience. The beauty of the islands, the pleasant year round climate and its friendly people, make Sabah an alluring destination. Its capital city, Kota Kinabalu, is home to Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia (4,095.2 m). One can catch a glimpse of the unique pygmy elephants amongst other rare wildlife or visit the famous orang-utan sanctuary at Sepilok.
Kindawan Riding Centre
For horse lovers, a visit to the Kindawan Riding Centre is a must. Situated along a beautiful tropical beach in Tuaran Beach Resort, close to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah’s most established riding centre offers lessons and pleasure rides crossing palm fringed beaches, jungle trails as well as local villages. All rides are led by experienced tour leaders to ensure the riders safety and comfort. Operated by a qualified equestrian coach, Kindawan Riding Centre has several horses bred in the property itself. These horses are a cross between the local Sabah pony and the Thoroughbred. Their suitability for the climate and environment has made them popular riding horses in West Malaysia and other neighbouring countries.
Tuaran Beach Resort
Off Jalan Pantai Dalit, Jalan Sabandar, 89208 Tuaran
Sandakan Turf Club Equestrian Centre
This centre offers a variety of rides to the countryside and nearby rainforest. Adjacent to the Jockey Club where races are held quite regularly, the Sandakan Turf Club Equestrian Centre also boasts some lovely training paddocks and fields. Here, one can see the horses in a nice natural surrounding either frolicking or being schooled by trainers.
Jockey Lodge Hotel
Bandar Tong Huat, Mile 3 North Road, 90715 Sandakan
SARAWAK – Land Of The Hornbills
Visitors should not miss neighbouring Sarawak. The largest state in Malaysia, it is endowed with rainforests, caves, flora as well as fauna and populated by a diverse ethnic community with a story book history of adventure, courage, heroism and romance. The opportunities for adventure in Sarawak are as numerous as they are diverse. Visiting the long houses, watching the hornbills and horse riding on the beach are marvellous experiences. Riding excursion can be arranged at hotels and lodgings along the beach.
Sarawak Turf & Equestrian Club
Visitors can spend the day enjoying the horse races in this club. A small and basic facility, its horses were brought in from race courses on the peninsula. Ex-race horses are available for rides from time to time.
8 Mile, Jalan Penrissen, 93702 Kuching
TERENGGANU – Gem Of The East Coast
Terengganu is the ideal place to be one with nature. It is blessed with the longest coastline in Peninsular Malaysia and its island resorts are surrounded by emerald waters. The beautiful islands of Pulau Redang and Pulau Kapas are famed for crystal clear waters that are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. On the mainland, one can explore verdant rainforests, observe wildlife at Lake Kenyir while attempting to catch the renowned big Toman fish or simply enjoy bird watching, jungle trekking or cave exploration.
Terengganu Equestrian Resort
The Terengganu Equestrian Resort is under the umbrella of the Malaysian Equine Council and offers horse riding lessons and pony club activities. It is managed by a qualified trainer and has high quality, imported as well as locally bred riding horses.
Kuala Ibai, Jalan Sultan Mahmud, 20400 Kuala Terengganu
Terengganu International Endurance Park (TIEP)
This equestrian facility, which was created specially as venue for the FEI Endurance Championships 2008, is only open to the public during national and international events. It is the second endurance village in Asia and believed to be among the top in the world.
Lembah Bidong Merang, Setiu, Terengganu
The magical Langkawi is an enchanting archipelago of 99 islands. It enjoys fame for its unique natural attractions, particularly its outstanding geological heritage, gaining it the Global Geopark status in 2007 – the first in Southeast Asia. This world renowned island resort has long drawn local and foreign visitors with its beautiful beaches, superb resorts as well as duty-free shopping. It also offers recreational pursuits such as water sports activities, island hopping, golfing and horse riding.
Mutiara Burau Bay Equestrian Centre
The Mutiara Burau Bay Equestrian Centre trail course is designed to cater for all riders including the novices. Riders can choose to stroll lazily across the beach or stride on a guided trail ride through the Gunung Raya Forest Reserve with the spectacular rainforest set against the pristine backdrop of the azure Andaman Sea. For a bit of action, there are water sports such as canoeing, sailing, diving and fishing.
Hotel Mutiara Burau Bay Beach Resort
Teluk Burau, 07000 Pulau Langkawi
The pride of the state of Negeri Sembilan – the seaside resort of Port Dickson, has an almost unbroken coastline stretching up to 18km. Located along its seafront are various hotels, budget guest houses and campsites. There are also a myriad of recreational activities such as horse riding, yachting, canoeing, boating, water skiing, parasailing or jungle trekking in the nearby hills. Its proximity to the nation?s capital and ample accommodation facilities make it a venue of choice for a host of events and recreation.
Eagle Ranch Resort
For the equestrian visitor, horse riding and accommodation are available at the Eagle Ranch Resort, an ideal place for leisure rides along the sandy beach and grassy lanes shaded by palm trees. This equestrian resort is nestled amidst 28 acres of undulating rainforest, complete with horse trails, wagon rides and other exciting indoor and outdoor activities. The resort offers a choice of activities such as swimming, jacuzzi, paintball, archery, canoeing, jungle trekking and has accommodation in the form of log cabins, tepees and paddock chalets.
Jalan Pantai, 71250 Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan
TRAIL RIDES – RICH NATURAL HERITAGE
Riding through palm plantations, orchards or the rainforests is a fantastic experience and a unique way to witness diverse flora and fauna. The horse-loving visitor looking for an adventurous ride or a serene stroll can go for guided trail rides offered by established resorts at popular destinations.
MELAKA / MALACCA
Melaka, a UNESCO world heritage site, is known for its historical prominence and cultural appeal. In the 16th century, it enjoyed the reputation as the foremost maritime trading centre in the region. So coveted was Melaka by the European powers that it was ruled successively by the Portuguese, Dutch and British until the Federation of Malaya was formed on 31 August 1957. Its rich heritage is reflected in its customs, traditions, cuisine and buildings.
A?Famosa Resort is a one of the top tourist destination in Melaka. Within the resort are a variety of accommodation, a 27-hole golf course, the Animal World Safari, Water World Theme Park and an equestrian club. Its Cowboy Town features horse carriages and horse lead rides. The resort also has a flying club, paintball arena and a lake for fishing.
The state of Johor is known as the southern gateway to Peninsular Malaysia. It is blessed with a diverse landscape and is home to world renowned golf courses as well as shopping establishments. A charming and bustling state, it promises visitors endless excitement, be it shopping for decorative ceramics and earthenware in Air Hitam, taking a dip in the cold waters of the Kota Tinggi waterfalls, hiking up the mystical Mount Ledang or exploring the wonders of the many national parks and forest reserves such as the Endau-Rompin National park.
Located among the vast palm plantations of Sedenak, Johor, is Riders Lodge, a family-run equestrian centre. The ideal place for a quiet weekend, it offers horse riding lessons and rides through adjacent plantations. Most of the horses are retired race horses that have been retrained as leisure riding horses. These horses are good “schoolmasters” for the beginner or inexperienced rider. Shady palm trees line the road leading to the quaint boutique hotel, which resembles a stately fairy tale manor. Summer verandas border most rooms and there is a lovely flower garden next to the restaurant where guests can indulge in the special daily menus of their award-winning chef. Their educational riding holiday packages for children include cooking lessons. The resort has a popular horse-drawn carriage driven by the owner himself. Non-riders can relax or take a stroll to The Legends Golf and Country Resort located in the Sedenak Palm Oil Plantation for a round of golf.
Wild Wild West Riding and Recreation
It is a full-service, family riding facility. Group as well as private lessons on well-trained horses are offered for beginners and intermediate level riders. One of the trails, the Shady Trail, takes riders through plantations, pass limestone cliffs, a small river, and ascend a low hilltop overlooking acres of plantation land. Whilst riding, riders might even spot wild boars, monkeys, gibbons, civet cats, and if they are lucky, the Asian Bay Owl. There are other trails, providing miles of excitement. Wild Wild West Riding and Recreation has 30 local ponies, several cross-bred horses and few ex-race horses. There are hotel and hostels nearby.
Amigos Ranch is 35km from Johor Bahru city and is located adjacent to the Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort in Pasir Gudang. At Amigos, visitors can ride in a blend of traditional English as well as cowboy styles, and are given personalised attention. For first timers, Amigos offers Fun Riding on either horses or ponies that are always accompanied by experienced handlers. A jungle trail ride will take you through oil palm plantations and forests that lead to the edge of the Johor Straits where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the sea and Pulau Ubin in Singapore. Amigos Ranch provides packages that can be tailored to specific requirements, comprising horse rides, meals and accommodation with resort facilities at the neighbouring Tanjong Puteri Golf Resort.
THE MALAYSIAN HIGHLANDS
DIVERSE LANDSCAPES & UNDULATING TERRAINS
Malaysia’s mountainous backbone is endowed with spectacular natural landscapes. Undulating terrains, gushing rivers, flowing streams, cascading waterfalls and mysterious caves – the highlands form the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable riding experience.
BERJAYA HILLS HORSE TRAILS
This is one of the most popular horse riding facilities available in the country. The cool highland weather allows riders to take two-hour to full day rides, which includes specially prepared picnics along rainforest paths. Visitors can take a ride along quiet horse paths, road tracks or forest trails throughout the hilly terrain and tropical rainforests. The ride affords visitors views of waterfalls, creek crossings, historic roads, steep ridges and orang asli villages. Take in the soft cool mountain breeze as you ascend to the picturesque plateau that overlooks the breathtaking view of the Colmar Tropicale, a French-themed resort. In terms of quality of horses and varied terrains, Berjaya Hills Horse Trails offers a unique trail riding experience. After the ride, visitors can relax and unwind in the comfort of the exclusive Tatami Spa in the Japanese Village or play golf in the Berjaya Hills Golf and Country Club.
Over the past century, professional equestrian sports have gained a wider recognition. It continues to grow, fascinating and inspiring Malaysians. Back in the old days, polo was probably the most, if not the only known sport on horseback besides professional racing. But today, equestrian sports have gradually entered the mainstream and are included in state and national level sporting events. The equestrian disciplines have expanded and include dressage, show jumping, eventing, endurance, harness racing and gymkhanas.
Show jumping is the most popular and best known equestrian sports. It is simple and straightforward. The rider and horse combination have to clear between 10 to 20 obstacles laid out in a course, some of which are combinations and related lines. They negotiate each fence in the prescribed order at a set height and direction as well as within a set time. They must clear all fences without incurring faults. Show jumping tests the horse?s natural aptitude, skill, strength, precision, speed and obedience as well as the rider?s horsemanship. Jumping starts from as low as 50 cm to 1.5m in Top Events and over 2m in Puissance Classes.
Eventing is the ultimate equestrian discipline as it combines dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping. Horses will take a dressage test on the first day, followed by another test on their athletic ability, fitness to gallop at speed and jump the cross country over a set of fixed obstacles on the second day. This is done in the open, over difficult terrain variations, into and out of water with fixed jumps at difficult angles. The final day tests the horse’s ability to negotiate the show jumping arena and carefully clearing the jumps that will fall if touched. The accumulated results of each phase will determine the placing.
Dressage challenges the mental and physical prowess of horses. It can be likened to a beautiful ballet performance in which horse and rider move together in harmony. Riders memorise a series of given movements that they must perform in front of judges. There are several progressive classes in dressage competitions that also serve as a guide in the correct training of the horse towards the top level “Grand Prix”. The higher levels require a greater skill and athleticism from horses.
Endurance is the equestrian discipline in which the motto is “to complete is to win”. It is where a same horse and rider combination covers a measured outdoor course within a specified maximum time. The first combination to complete this course and pass all the necessary checkpoints as well as veterinary controls wins. Although this tests the staying power of the horse for long distances, it is carefully monitored by expert officials and the welfare of the horse takes precedence in their final decisions. Horses are not allowed to continue if the officials feel that they are not fit at the checkpoints.
Polo is a team contact sport on horseback and is not an equestrian discipline. It requires good horsemanship as well as top, agile and competitive ponies. The game consists of “chukkas”, which refer to the period of play. Each chukka lasts seven minutes and there are six to eight chukkas in a game. A fresh horse is used in every period and at times two, particularly when the game is fast. There are four players on each team. Polo players are ranked by handicaps and team play is handicapped on the basis of ability. Most of the top equestrian competitions and polo tournaments within the region are held in Malaysia and the main equestrian centres are parallel to any equestrian facility in the world.