Why A Holiday On Horseback Is Definitely Not Just For Kids
The dry river bed curves away into the distance, walls of the steep ravine closing in on either side, towering up to meet the cloudless intensity of blue arching above. My vision blurs. I can taste the warm air as it rushes into my nose and mouth, the smell of speed and animal sweat is strong.
No, this isn’t the opening to the next erotic E.L James novel, where the writer turns toward the exploration of bestiality in a natural setting, but an attempt to articulate a moment of pure and perfect exhilaration.
Galloping through the wild mountains of southern Spain earlier this summer was just that. It was happiness, it was throwing your head back and laughing at the sky — it was freedom.
It was also an experience that confirmed that those who have been under the impression riding holidays should be left to teenage girls are in need of a rethink.
Of course, there are plenty of examples to prove this statement incorrect. Pony trekking centers located in the English Midlands owned by people with names like Geraldina or Harriet should be actively avoided, for example. But, the point is, don’t be fooled into believing that if you are over 17 and don’t have posters of Pippa the magic Palomino on your wall that you are unsuitable for the pursuit of a vacation on horseback.
It’s time to saddle up and embrace your inner cowboy.
The Caballo Blanco
Just over 10 years ago, a nice lady called Sarah moved to Alpujarras in Adulucia, Spain. Having spent most of the money she had on packing up shop in the U.K. and buying the land, she didn’t have bucket loads of cash left over.
Yet slowly but surely, with not a small reliance on bags of concrete and gin, she built up her patch of isolated hilltop into an equestrian, albeit rustic, paradise, and she called it the Caballo Blanco or “White Horse.”
It is an incredible place. Home to over 20 horses as well as numerous cats, dogs, geese, chickens, rabbits and guinea pigs, Sarah has created a haven for animals and humans alike.
Riding Options at Caballo Blanco
You don’t have to have spent great swathes of your life holding a pair of reins to book a ride at the Caballo Blanco, just make sure you’re honest about your ability. Horses and routes provided cater to every standard, from absolute beginner to experienced.
The trails are hugely varied, with some winding through valleys and picturesque white mountain villages, and others traversing mountain plateaus. The views in spring and autumn are especially magnificent, with Morocco visible on the horizon across the Mediterranean Sea on a clear day.
If you feel like you want to throw yourself in at the deep end, then go for the full kit and caboodle in the form of a trail ride for between three to seven days. While you will almost certainly find yourself with a renewed respect for the John Wayne gait, this is an unforgettable experience.
If you are pressed for time or simply fancy something more a little more bite-sized, then a one or two hour trek is the perfect compromise. Or, if you really fancy putting yourself through your paces, then lessons in the school are also available.
Use of natural techniques
You may already be familiar with the idea of a horse whisperer. You might even have seen the film where Kristin Scott Thomas gets it on with Robert Redford while he placates wild stallions. But Sarah is the real deal.
Most of the horses she works with are taken on as rescue cases; they may have been going for meat, or she might of heard of some supposedly wild mare said to be “unrideable” — a term invariably irresistible to her — yet, by using a process of natural techniques, she transforms them.
Reading their body language and having a thorough understanding of horse nature, she works in a way that establishes a relationship of trust and hierarchy, a far cry from the more traditional tweedy crop-wielding approach. It is a fascinating process and produces remarkable results, especially great to observe if you own horses yourself.
Sarah says she isn’t a wizard but I think she might be lying.
WWOOFING (Willing Workers On Organic Farms)
A little while ago, The Expeditioner posted an article that detailed everything you need to know about how to volunteer with WWOOFs. In a nutshell, it basically means volunteering in return for your food and lodging, something which is also an option at the Caballo Blanco.
This is not for the faint-hearted. The hours are long, the accommodation basic and the work is extremely physically taxing. You’ll also need to get used to straw finding its way into your nether regions for the duration of your stay and possibly for some weeks following.
Nevertheless, there is nothing quite like going to bed tired and aching with a full stomach feeling absolutely at peace with the world.
A working holiday is similar to WWOOFing but the great thing about opting for this itinerary is that you are guaranteed to ride at least once a day as you will pay for this in advance. You will be given plenty of opportunity to join in on the day rides and to have lessons. as well as being provided with two days off per week, as opposed to the one you receive as a WWOOFER.
For rates or to make a booking, go to www.FarAndRide.com/riding-holidays/spain/andalucia_trail/ or visit www.CaballoBlancoTrekking.com for more information.
About the Author
A restless Brit with big dreams and limited cash flow, Hannah is a freelance journalist and student. She is currently being sponsored by the European Union to take a Masters in Journalism and International Politics at the University of Amsterdam/University of Santiago, Chile, and the Danish School of Journalism. You can keep track of her wanderings with TheTangerineRidiculousness.com or follow her on Twitter @Hannah__Bowman.