Founder of Equestrian Adventuresses, Krystal Kelly, decided to travel the world on horseback to film a documentary-series about empowered women working with horses in interesting travel destinations. It’s no coincidence that the island of Lesvos, Greece became the first stop for the film tour. As Krystal would soon learn, Lesvos is an off-the-beaten-path destination in europe and a quiet island in Greece far from the busy crowds of Santorini. And what better way than to discover the island than riding horses in Greece with the amazing adventuress who started the riding center, Ippos Horse Riding & Excursions!
Author: Krystal Kelly
A Phone Call From Greece…
It’s hard to believe that I’ve traveled to Greece several times and somehow never made it outside Athens. I guess that is the downside (if you’d call that a downside) to traveling for work! The first time I was in Athens was to shadow my FEI Tutor, give some lessons, ride some horses…you know, “the usual.” At the time, I envisioned myself riding along the cobblestone alleyways on my bright blue Vespa. I would probably be wearing my Apollo sandals with wings and having some cute boy on the back of my scooty (ain’t no way am I letting my fantasy man drive me around! It’s MY SCOOTY!)
Of course, that isn’t exactly what happened…
Until 4 years later that is. And it’s all thanks to an incredible woman named Rita, creator of Ippos Horse Riding & Excursions in Molyvos on Lesvos island.
“Hey, Krystal, want to come to Greece?”
“Great! See you soon!” (This is basically how I planned my trip to Greece.)
My husband and I would be spending the next several months flying to different destinations around the world for the Equestrian Adventuresses YouTube film documentary project. The idea behind this was to create a series of episodes which showcased amazing women’s stories about horses, travel and adventure all around the world.
The Equestrian Travel Documentary Series is Born
I’ve always had a passion for promoting women empowerment and in my 10 years abroad working with horses in mostly male dominated countries I realized very quickly how important it was to give women “the reins.” So many young girls around the world would LOVE the opportunity to learn to ride. Unfortunately, in some countries this can be an impossible notion. But thankfully, because of women like Rita, more and more women are able to do what they love and follow their passion for horses.
I especially wanted to give a voice to women who had pursued their love for horses by starting their own equine business in unique destinations. Because everyone knows that girls are the future and if men aren’t going to be the one to give us “our chance” then by-golly it’s going to be done by a woman!
Going For It
For this film series, although my husband was technically an engineer, not a cameraman, I knew from previous experience during our car rally days (we met in Azerbaijan in 2016 while driving crappy cars to Mongolia and back again from England and Germany, read more here) that he had a creative eye and was used to being around film after marrying me. We had even aired on HGTV’S International House Hunters when we moved to England and his techie mind mixed with my creative eye and love of film gave me enough courage to go for it and pursue this film project Full-Time.
When I say, “Go for it” I really did mean GO FOR IT. Christian, my husband, quit his job, we moved all our things out of our apartment and headed off with NIL in our bank accounts, zero savings and a crazy idea to film our YouTube documentaries featuring awesome women around the world doing cool stuff with horses.
First Stop: Molyvos on the island of Lesvos, Greece where we planned to meet Rita and learn about all the hard work, she has done bringing horse riding to her island and empowering young boys and girls to become riders themselves! Rita is BHS certified and a fellow show jumper like myself and we hit it off immediately.
Arriving in Lesvos
We arrived in Lesvos after a few days exploring mainland Greece. Christian and I had rented a car and popped into a couple of islands so we could properly compare Lesvos with the other islands. Not one for touristic places, we skipped Santorini and instead explored some lesser known islands (though still touristic.) When we arrived in Lesvos, we were all-warmed up for Greek charm and in for a pleasant surprise at what lie ahead.
“Lesvos is a very ‘niche’ destination,” Rita explained to us upon arrival. “Even before the refugee crisis a few years ago we only had niche tourism. Mostly Dutch tourists interested in getting away from the big crowds. After the crisis it took a year for the tourists to return, but the nice thing about Lesvos is it’s a special island. The people that DO come here almost always come back again and again because they just fall in love with the island.”
The Village of Molyvos
Rita’s mother is Dutch and her father is Greek so growing up she spent her childhood going back and forth between both the Netherlands and Molyvos, the beautiful village in Lesvos shadowed by a majestic castle on the hilltop. Rita was proud to show us her beautiful village, Molyvos. We sat that evening in a seaside restaurant with fresh seafood and an authentic Greek-style meal with lots of small dishes on the table where everyone shares. The cats meowed at our feet for their share of fish and we happily gave them some.
I immediately felt a wave of calmness wash over me. The energy and vibe of Molyvos was already SO different from the other places we’d traveled in Greece, I knew right away this was the perfect setting for our first filming trip.
Getting to Know Rita, Founder of Ippos Horse Riding & Excursions
Over the course of the week we would be exploring the island with Rita on horseback so the next day she took us to meet her lovely team of horses which she uses both for lessons with the local children and adults interested in learning about horses, as well as the tour groups she leads to promote niche tourism in Lesvos. Rita doesn’t take beginners out on the week long trail rides as they are packed with steep mountains, canters on the beach and “adventurous” trails which she created just for the advanced riders.
Rita absolutely LOVES her horses and, like all of us crazy horse ladies, proceeds to introduce us to each and every one of them. I am lucky and get to experience throughout the week a chance to ride several different horses, each of them I enjoy. It’s obvious Rita’s love of showjumping has allowed her to school the horses so that “buttons” actually work when you press them. Christian falls in love with Athena, an athletic Arab-crossed mare and I enjoy experiencing a gaited mare, “blackie” which was there for some training from Rita.
From the Mountains to the Sea
“We are very lucky in Lesvos to have a combination of both mountains and beach riding and it’s not very often you get both!” Rita explains to us as we begin our ride. She also takes us through some adorable villages for lunch “with a view” and we are truly blown away by just how cute this Greek Island is. (Seriously cute enough to pinch its cheeks!) “We are very proud of our castle, here in Molyvos so I use it as a point of reference during the ride to know what direction we are going: away from the castle, towards the castle,” she laughs.
I see her point. The castle is pretty hard to miss and can be seen from nearly everywhere. Not to mention the way it’s lit up in the evening with the city lights twinkling below…it’s a pretty spectacular sight to see while riding your horse through the landscape.
“One of the best things about riding here is that at most horse stables you’re so far away from a town or civilization and although that is great for a few days, it’s SO nice to be so close to the village. You can ride in the morning and sit in a cafe for lunch and on your free day you can even take a day trip and head over to Turkey and see ancient Troy or go shopping in the bazaar.” You can actually see Turkey on the other side of the sea and it’s the first time I’ve heard that you can actually visit ancient Troy by boat from a Greek Island. Why have I never been here before?!
Horse Riding in Greece
After riding in the morning, Christian and I enjoyed the remainder of the day exploring the village and surroundings. We rented a vespa and explored freely, though to be honest, we mostly spent our time moving from one restaurant to the other and sitting with different views of the castle. (View of the castle from the port, view from atop the castle of the village, view of the castle from the main street, castle, castle, castle…)
And I FINALLY after all these years got my wish. Cute guy. Greek Village. Horses. Scooty Bike. Great Food. Seriously, could life get any more perfect? (Minus the whole “not-knowing-where my-life-was-headed-and-how-I-would-pay-the-bills” part.)
A Male Dominated Culture in the Equine World
“What made you decide to open a horse riding tour program here in Lesvos?” I ask Rita.
“In Greece, and especially in Lesvos, there is a horse culture here but unfortunately it’s very male dominated and to tell you the truth a lot of the locals are very uneducated about horses. Some of them can be very ‘macho.’ This doesn’t really look good for horse welfare.”
“I did a BHS program in England,” Rita continues, “and I although I actually studied Hotel Management and tourism in college, I just couldn’t live without horses. I loved it so much that as soon as I finished my studies, I was looking for places to work with horses. There aren’t any other riding stables in Lesvos, and I grew up in Molyvos and I LOVE it here. So, I thought, if I could start a riding program here I could show any of the locals which were willing to listen to a woman, how to correctly train horses and care for them and at the same time I could share my love of Molyvos and the island with outsiders.”
Building Her Horsie Empire
I was pretty impressed with Rita’s ability to build a successful business all on her own. I had spent years and years traveling, working internationally with horses in male dominated cultures and I knew EXACTLY how difficult it was as a woman to get things done. And yet she did it. She trained her horses, built her simple riding facility complete with a small stables and riding arena. And what’s more important she has succeeded to do BOTH of her goals. She’s given horse riding tours since 2012 to a variety of international guests. She’s also gotten girls and boys to spend their summer holidays caring for horses and learning to ride them correctly and harmoniously. Some of her advanced students even jump without a bridle! (Go Erik the wonder-Haflinger!)
“We might have just found our future place to live,” I tell Rita as Christian and I enjoy yet another fabulous ride with stunning views.
I often wonder what stops people from traveling to stunning destinations like this. Why come to Santorini with millions of other tourists when you could take a 30-minute flight from Athens straight to Lesvos and ride amazing horses with a fabulous Equestrian Adventuress like Rita. But then again, maybe that is the charm of the island.
“Lesvos is for niche tourism,” Rita says. “And it will ALWAYS be like that. Let the crowds stay in Athens and Santorini. Lesvos is more laid back and chill. It’s really a hidden gem and I’m lucky to live here and be able to do what I love and ride horses and share this gem with others!”
If you’re interested in riding with Rita, check out her website. And if you’re now thinking about booking a trip to beautiful Lesvos with Rita, why not join our Discount Tier on our Patreon account for access to discounted tours around the world? $15 a month could save you 10% percent or more! Get more info!
Rita and “Ippos Horse Riding & Excursions” are also featured in our “Horse Riding in every Country” catalog, which lists more than 400 riding stables and tours in over 180 countries. Get inspired and start planning your next adventure today!