I love horses for their grace and strength and their gentle, calming presence. When we arrived in Yunnan and saw horses everywhere, I longed to ride one. While I’ve only ridden a handful of times, at that moment I fantasized about galloping through open fields, the wind in my hair, breathing deeply of that fresh mountain air.
Horseback riding in Yunnan seems tailored to the Chinese tour groups so our experience was nothing like that, but was still fun in its own way. As soon as we floated the idea past the manager of our guesthouse, she set something up for us the next day. Our two-hour ride through Lijiang’s mountains pleasantly surprised us in that we were alone with our horses and a guide. The hubs got to control his own horse, but our guide must have thought me too delicate as she kept a firm hold on my lead, walking ahead and whispering soothingly to the animals in Mandarin. (My horse was named Little Flower, hubs had Little Kid.) About halfway through the ride, we stopped for a rest and were immediately besieged by ladies selling bags of horse treats. Suckers that we are, we paid about three dollars for two bags of beans the ladies called “chocolate for horses,” only to return from a short stroll and find every horse in the lot happily munching on the treats. We realized they get fed whether the tourist buys the snack or not.
The path through the mountains led us past ponds and waterfalls – many of them man-made. We sauntered through ancient villages where ladies in ethnic minority garb could be seen at work and yaks grazed contentedly. It was quiet, with only a few other tourists with us on the trail. We crested a hill, giving us sweeping view of the countryside and Lashi Lake in the valley.
Our outing culminated with a scenic cruise along Lashi Lake. Supposedly an important habitat for migratory birds, we saw nary a one, but it was peaceful on the water and I would have been happy to float along for hours.
The total cost of our two hour horseback ride and cruise was 380 RMB per person (about 62 USD). Someone working at our hotel drove us to the village from which the tour started, and provided us with cowboy hats and gloves. I would also recommend wearing sunscreen as the sun is more intense at that elevation.