living reading time: 8 min publication date: 14.03.2023


© Holly Thompson
Horse jumps over a jump

Having a passion for something has to be one of the best feelings in the world. Whether it is music, a sport, art, animals, or a relationship, the feeling to care deeply about something is a gift. For me, this is horseback riding. My entire life has been spent growing up on a horse farm and riding at a competitive level. I think I sat on a horse before I could even walk. Like anything, my riding started at the bottom where I would take a few lessons a week on my pony, then I eventually worked my way up to competing at the national level. Before moving to Villach, I had been competing at the “Gold Level” for twelve years. Training in the winters and competing and traveling in the spring, summer, and fall is what my life has looked like for as long as I can remember, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way.


When my partner and I started to talk about moving to Villach, aside from leaving my family and friends, leaving my horseback riding was one of my biggest concerns. At home in Canada, I had had the same coach for over ten years and had a very good setup. Leaving that behind worried me, and I knew I was going to have to give it everything I had to try to find a horse farm and coach that I knew was going to be what I was looking for. So, before I had even moved here, I started contacting different farms in hopes that I could have a barn to ride at as soon as I arrived at Villach. I would use my contacts in the horse industry and use social media to find barns that I thought looked good. Unfortunately, I ran into some challenges while doing this. First of all, it is very hard to get in contact with people and explain what you are looking for when there is such a big language barrier. Second, the majority of the bigger barns seemed to be quite far from Villach as many of the bigger competitions tend to be in Germany. Lastly, I had a hard time finding updated websites or Facebook pages of farms around Villach, so I decided my best option would be to wait until I arrived in Villach to physically go out and find a farm.

Equestrian and horse
© Holly Thompson


Before diving into my personal experience on my “hunt” for a horse farm, I will outline some of the characteristics that I was looking for. Besides the farm being close and affordable, I hope for good care of the horses. This means they are able to go outside, and are fed and cared for properly. In addition to this, I have to ensure that the farm does “English show jumping” as this is the type of horse back riding I do. For those that may not know, there are over 15 different disciplines in horseback riding. So even though while driving through Villach you may be able to spot quite a few farms, that does not necessarily mean that it is the right fit for me. It would be like an ice hockey player having a figure skater coach. It would not be the most productive haha.

For me, the perfect situation would be to be able to ride a few times a week and help someone to exercise their horse. This would allow me to continue my passion while I live here in Villach.

Horse jumps over an obstacle
© Holly Thompson


The first farm that I attended was beside the Atrio, which is Villach’s largest shopping mall located approximately 7 minutes away by car from the city center. The farm was called Reitstall Warmbad (Reitverein Team RSS). It had lots of horses and was very busy, however there did not seem to be many opportunities for me. Everyone was nice and very kind, however most of the horses had their proper owners and were not looking for extra rides. The second farm I went to was half an hour ride by car away from Villach, and had very windy roads. It was called Reitsportanlage Knoll. The farm was beautiful and was covered in beautiful green vines. I met with the owner and she said she had lots of young horses I could help ride. I immediately liked this farm, however it was a little bit farther than I was hoping. The farm was also looking for me to ride a lot, which was a little bit more than I was hoping for considering I am in a full time Master’s program and also have a job already. The third farm I visited was called Reitstall Angererhof. I contacted the trainer of this farm via Facebook, and they agreed to let me ride a young horse that was needing more exercise than the owner could provide. There I had a great ride and really liked the trainer at the farm. Unfortunately, the owner of this horse wanted a price to ride the horse that was out of my budget for a horse this young. The last farm we visited was actually a farm my boyfriend had spotted from the bus. Though it made me nervous, he convinced me to show up to the farm and ask for a lesson. The barn is called P&P St. Ruprecht and is located only ten minutes from my house in Villach. The trainer agreed to teach me a lesson and said she knows of one horse in the farm called Candide who has a young owner, and is having a hard time riding as much as she would like because of school. The first time I rode this gray mare I had an immediate connection. She was sweet, enthusiastic about her job, and very fun to ride. I managed to make an agreement with the owner that I will ride her horse twice a week for a fee of roughly 200 euros a month. 


In the end, though it was a difficult process and took a little bit longer than I would have hoped for, I am very happy with my horse back riding situation here in Villach. No it was not easy, and yes I called my mother crying a few times, I did not give up and managed to continue doing what makes me so happy. These are some of the things that make you feel more comfortable and at home when moving abroad. You have to find things you love doing!


The Austrian Equestrian Sports association provides a search option on their website to look for farms, which covers 132 clubs only in Carinthia. In order to give you a good overview, here is a list of riding clubs/farms in and around Villach, and their distance from Villach’s city center: