Nawalgarh to Mehansar Castle
Ride across the Thar Desert of Rajasthan aboard Marwari horses.
This riding holiday in India takes place in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, north India. This is a semi-desert region famous for the painted “havelis” or merchant’s mansions. Shekhawati is nicknamed the “Openair art gallery of India” because many of the buildings date from C18th and early C19th and there is such a rich architectural herritage. The ornate havelis contrast with the semi-arid trails that link them together: the trails are fawn-coloured and sandy allowing for all paces and some brisk “forward progress”!
The Marwari horse is the direct descendant of the warrior horses that served the ruling Rajput families of feudal India. Their status is unparalleled because they were declared divine and superior to all men, including those of royal blood. Accordingly, only the Rajput families and the Kshatriyas – warrior caste – were permitted to ride them.
The Marwari horse stands between 14 hh and 17 hh depending to a great extent on its geographical origin; stock from more fertile areas grows larger than their desert counterparts. Furthermore, foals now achieve larger proportions due to improved nutrition and better parasite control and the modern average is 15 hh to 16 hh.
The Marwari comes in all colours including the boldly coloured ‘ablacks’ (Piebalds or Skewbalds) particularly favoured in India. The Marwari’s natural tendency to perform would make him particularly suitable for dressage. He is a tough, brave and a beautiful horse who has proven his ability to adapt and thrive in most environments.
Day 1 London to Jaipur
Fly overnight London to Jaipur
Day 2 Jaipur to Nawalgarh village
Arrive in Jaipur early inthe morning and drive into Jaipur. Breakfast at the absolutely charming townhouse owned by the stable which will be the first of several sympathetically restored hevalis that we will experience. Set off for the country in private minibus bound for Nawalgarh: total driving time 4 1/2 hrs.
A royal welcome greets our arrival at the stable, lying just outside the small town. The Roop (manorhouse) is a fascinating blend of European and Rajput style of architecture with spacious lawns, swimming pool and a billiard room for the evenings. Founded in 1737 by Thakur Nawal Singh, a warrior statesman, whose name is enshrined in local folklore. The town exudes an old world charm and the colourful bazaar has the largest number of painted Havelies in Shekhawati.
Overnight at the manorhouse.
Day 3 Nawalgarh
After breakfast we visit the stables where we meet the team for the safari. The owner of the stable will introduce each rider to his horse and offer advice on how to ride a Marwari. You can then ride around the school next to the stable-block to get accustomed to your horse. Ride out into the countryside; we’ll pause for a picnic lunch and return to the manor.
If riders are not comfortable with the horse that has been selected, you are welcome to try another.
Day 4 Nawalgarh to Churiajitgarh and Nabipura
Today we set out on safari. We ride through semi-desert areas with small farms where the countryside is dotted with Khejri trees. En route we will stop for a picnic lunch and a long rest before riding on through semi desert farmland to reach a small copse and waterhole. Many herds of Nilgai, the indigenous antelope, and “blue bulls” (the mature males) may be seen around camp.
A typical day on safari
To give you an idea of what to expect here is a typical day on the trail…
Wake up early and have a wash in one of the camp’s warm-water shower tents before sitting down to some Indian-style scrambled eggs and Chai (chai = milky, spicy, sweet tea – which is much nicer than it sounds!).
The grooms will tack up your horse and we set off before the sun gets too hot. The morning ride usually lasts between 3 and 4 hours, often with a watering stop en route for both horses and riders. It doesn’t take long for the horses to warm up and before you know it, we are cantering along the sandy tracks with the sun on our backs. The hours and miles fly by and in no time it’s time for lunch.
Life in the countryside stops when the mercury rises, so we take a long slow lunch in the shade and rest for several hours. Take a nap, play a card game, or simply enjoy some time to relax and read.
In the late afternoon as the sun descends we mount our Marwari horses once again and set off for about a two hour ride. Before long we’ll see the bright colours of the tented camp and a lively canter gets us there in no time.
The camp is no ordinary camp: it’s huge! The individual canvas-walled rooms are large enough to stand up in; they are carpeted and each contains 2 cot-beds; linen, blankets, quilts and pillows are provided. There are between 5 and 7 “rooms” erected around a central fire-pit, where we take sundowners and chat about the day’s action. There’s a communal mess tent for dining and a separate bathroom with hot showers: shower water is heated over a log fire. The entire compound is surrounded by a canvas “wall” to create a totally private camp in the bush.
Beyond the camp is a separate kitchen, which you’re welcome to visit. The horses are individually tethered and looked after by the team of grooms.
Overnight in camp.
Above: The Marwari horses are loved and cared for – even down to a personal clip!
Day 5 Nabipura to Dabri to Fatehpur Beed
Set out in the morning riding through semi-desert towards Fatehpur Beed, which is best described as equivalent to our SSSI’s (Site of Special Scientific Interest). 300 years ago the Nawab (feudal lord) of Fatehpur mounted his Marwari and declared that all the land he could ride around between sunrise and sunset would be protected for posterity. Today Fatehpur Beed is an amazing 70 km² where indigenous plants thrive. Today’s picnic lunch is near a typical Shekhawati water tank “Johda”. While camping in Beed you should see desert fox, jackal, nilgai and others. This protected area demonstrates that if human activity is restricted a scrub-forest can be created in a desert. We settle down for supper in camp near a ruined havelis that overlooks the entire Beed.
Overnight in camp.
Day 6 Fatehpur Beed to Thimoli Crossing
Today we ride north further into the Shekhawati heartland; the landscape becoming more arid. The sand dunes are dotted with greenery where plants have found water and again we have the opportunity to enjoy some long canters and maybe even a gallop!
Ramgarh is a small town with many painted havelis, and an interesting traditional market place and shortly after we reach Thimoli Crossing.
Overnight camp in a quiet meadow.
Day 7 Ramgarh to Mehansar castle
Riding through high sand dunes and desert villages, we reach the beautiful small village of Mehansar. Mehansar Castle is a charming, family-run hotel with basic comforts but excellent home-cooked food.
The afternoon is free to rest from the rigors of the desert and the long rides.
Overnight in Mehansar castle.
Day 8 Mehansar to Lalsinghpura return to Mehansar
Today we trek a circular trail with a picnic breakfast and lunch during the ride. We have one last gallop and return for some late afternoon site seeing in Mehansar visiting the Gopinath temple and the famous Sone Chandi Ki Haveli.
Overnight Mehansar Castle.
Above: Venture Co’s desert camp, Rajasthan. Totally mobile and carried in jeeps and camel carts.
Day 9 Mehansar return to Jaipur
After breakfast we make the return journey by private coach to Jaipur (approx 4 hours). Packed lunch provided. This is where the riding holiday ends, and we will be delighted to describe the onward travel options that are available should you wish.
What’s included in the price?
• Airport transfers in India
• Transfers to and from the stable in Rajasthan
• Accommodation on twin-shared basis
• 3 meals per day
• Soft drinks with meals during the camping section
• Water included with all picnic meals
• Horse riding as detailed in the itinerary
• Services of local staff, outriders and grooms
• Return flight from London to Jaipur * India visa (allow approx £105)
• Additional snacks during rides
• Water and soft drinks when not on safari
• Alcoholic drinks
• Transport to/from airport in UK
• Travel Insurance
• Vaccinations and travel health products
To discucss your horse riding holiday in India please contact the VentureCo team, we’ll be only too happy to help plan your tailor made trip to India.