“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Jessica Morton from Castellare di Tonda, Italy

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015 is all about “Meeting the Guides” – in fact that’s what we called the event when we first ran it in 2007. It’s a chance to learn all about the wonderful riding holidays all over the world, directly from the people who will be guiding you day by day. As well as an opportunity to renew friendships and chat about past experiences.

We thought it would be interesting to run a series of profiles of some of the people who will be at the Riding Holiday Show and here is our first one – Jessica Morton from Castellare di Tonda, Italy


1.    How long have you been guiding at Castellare di Tonda?
Four years.

2.    Where did you guide before this?
I started working with horses in NZ, and left high school to work with dressage horses in Germany. I also did an 8 month stint in Italy at a place called Il Paretaio, near Siena before returning to NZ. I came back 6 years later to do another season in Tuscany, followed by a season near Viterbo in Lazio at a center called Santa Cristina.  I then switched to western riding and opened up a business near Florence with my ex partner which we ran for four years.


3.    How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?
Mine was a cliché really. I met a handsome Italian when I was in Italy on a working holiday. When I met him he had 6 horses, and was trying to set up a small trail riding business of his own. He was an excellent horseman, with more than ten years guiding experience -and he knew every trail from our side of Florence through to Emilia Romagna off by heart. His problem was that he spoke no English, and had no computer skills to market his business. We decided to work together, me doing the marketing and him leading the trails. We started taking backpackers out on day rides, and quickly moved on to operating week long inn to inn adventure trails –which we ran for four years, alternating the guiding between the two of us. That experience, which was immensely tough but also rewarding taught me more about horses and guiding than any book or instructor ever has.

4.    If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?
I was a flight attendant in New Zealand before moving permanently to Italy. I loved the flying lifestyle, but I could never go back to that sort of job now. It did prepare me for the customer service side of guiding, and also taught me flexibility. Flying was like riding, external factors such as weather often caused plans to change, and essentially we were there to look after clients in the case of emergency, much like a trail guide is required to do so on a riding holiday.

As a side job, I have worked freelance as a writer for equestrian magazine and as a translator for the past 6 years . In the winter I work in the marketing office here at Castellare, so I guess my plan B would have something  to do with writing, or marketing – or perhaps something language based (which is what I originally studied at university).

5.    People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?
Guiding a group of people is totally different to riding for recreation only. Don’t get me wrong, it can be immensely gratifying; but when I am working I am always thinking about something or someone on the trail. It might be whether a certain section of a ride  will be open after a bad storm, or whether the rider behind you is as experienced as they claimed, or perhaps a horse is acting strangely.. you can never switch off like when you are just responsible for yourself and your own horse.

The benefits are what everyone sees. Working outside in the sunshine while others are stuck behind a computer, meeting new people and hearing their unique stories, and of course experiencing things that other people dream about – whether its laughing with a shepherd bringing back his sheep or coming face to face with a wild boar on the trail. I also am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and I never forget that.


6.    If your favorite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?
Shamal is my favorite horse. After a rough start to life in Argentina, he almost finished up in the Italian abattoirs.  Since he hails from South America, I would say if he was human he would have been some great leader or explorer like Simon Bolivar (the South American general). He is the most fearless, steady and independent horse I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

7.    What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?
A good guiding horse. Without a good horse, It is difficult to be a good guide.
Second to that, it would be a cell phone. For organization, calling back up teams, and most of all – for emergencies with horses or clients.

8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?
There have been so many memorable guests and weeks, it really is hard to choose.
I have had lunch with David Gilmore from Pink Floyd (he was on a riding holiday with his family) in a castle in Lazio. I’ve been present while guests proposed to their girlfriends during rides, had some incredible up close encounters with wild animals, felt the earth shake during a picnic lunch earthquake, ridden flooded rivers, survived incredible storms and shared many a glass of wine with wonderful people, who have shared some astonishing stories of their lives. That’s without a doubt the best part of the job – the exchange of ideas, stories, experiences.

9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?
In the summer months a cold beer and a refreshing swim.
In the winter, a warm fire and a good book.


10.    What advice would you give a 21 year old who wants to train for your job?
There is so much more to this job than riding horses.
As a guide you will meet people from all over the world and even if they share different political or religious beliefs, you must continue to interact with them professionally. Nobody wants to ride with an antisocial guide, but there is also a fine line between banter and talking incessantly . Be aware that as a guide, you are in the hospitality business, and the customer is the most important element of that. As a guide you need to be up to the challenge that interacting with strangers on a regular basis poses.

Read up on the area. People expect their guide to be better informed than they are about an area–and of course, because they want to see scenery off the beaten track. Clients ask a lot of questions about native plants and  local history – so it pays to be informed about the area you ride through -and if you’re not a local – learn about the culture and history too.

Get your first aid certificate. I had to take this annually as a flight attendant, and think it should also be obligatory for anyone that works with horses. Like it or not, we do all work in a high risk industry – and its always better to be prepared just in case. If you have your certificate before you apply for a job as a guide, you  may have an edge over other would be applicants too.

Safety is one of the most important skills that a guide can have. You need to know how to read your clients and read your horses before an accident happens. It is rare than an accident on a ride will happen without any pre-warning, so an alert guide that practices good safe conduct is an asset to any outfitter.

Be prepared to live in some very isolated places. I think this is overlooked by many young people who want to work with horses. Horses are generally not found in cities, so be prepared to relocate to small towns or even national parks or remote farms, where there is no access to night life, restaurants or shopping. Also you should be prepared to live in some fairly cramped or crappy accommodation to start out– often without phone signal or internet connections. This can be hard for people who are used to living with family close by.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?
Usually my holidays are taken in the European off season, and usually these are spent back home with my family in either Sydney Australia or Christchurch NZ.  I tend to keep away from horses when I am on holiday!


Thank you Jess.

Fantastic images and a wonderful article.

You can meet Jess at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Picadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Golegã Horse Fair looks amazing!

portugal_flagGolegã Horse Fair 2015 – Portugal

It is the time of year when Portugal says “Olá” to its greatest horse fair which takes place in the little town of Golegã, located north east of Lisbon on the west side of the river Tejo. Golegã is considered the capital of the horse (Capital do Cavalo) and it has been the site for a gathering of breeders since 1773, dedicated to showing the Lusitano horse at its best.

The area around Golegã is home to some of Portugal’s most famous stud farms. The Horse Fair or known locally as “The Feira do Cavalos” is held every November and lasts for a week. The festival overtakes the town, it is a spectacle like no other in the world and we recommend that every horse person puts this visit on their bucket list.


Centuries old traditions

Golegã has top competitions in all disciplines as well as various shows and displays. Right in the middle of the town there is a large riding arena which is surrounded by the “Manga” where many horses and riders pass in traditional portuguese clothes.

The bustling party atmosphere of the Manga

The narrow streets of Golegã are filled with stands, giving a great opportunity to experience the exuberant Portuguese culture. You can also meet many Lusitano breeders in their ‘casettas’ (small cottages) and see them exhibit their horses in outside stalls.


One of many great sights to see

You can witness some of the finest performances taking place in the town, as well as equestrian games, championships, carriage marathons and exhibitions. The town really bustles with excitement and enthusiasm.


Displays in national costume

As the night falls, the party really begins; featuring evening performances by the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art, and Luis Valença’s Centro Equestre da Leziria Grande. All day and night partying crowds celebrate Portugese style.


Impressive team work

You will find horses everywhere – they too join in on the fun in the bars and even in the discotheques.


An experience you will never forget

And to complement the party mood you will find plenty of  “água-pé” (a local wine) flowing and the smell of tasty roasted chestnuts in the air.


The aroma of roasted chestnuts is a delight



Say “Saúde” with the local tipple?

We can arrange for you to experience all of this for yourselves. If you are planning a visit to Alcainça this November then why not add-on a two day/one night visit to Golegã to join the party.

09 November 2015: Transfer from Alcainça to Golegã (departure time from Alcainça around 08:30 arriving to Golegã around 10:00). Day and evening at Golega. Overnight in Golega.

10 November 2015: Morning at Golega. After lunch transfer to Alcainça.

The cost is only £280 per person sharing and for any single travellers there is a £67 single supplement.

The price includes:

  • Transfers from Alcainça to Golegã
  • 1 night stay in hotel with breakfast (twin room)
  • Transfers to & from the Horse Fair
  • A visit to a Lusitano breeder
  • Guide assistance

There is availability at Alcainça before this Golega visit and for one night after.

Make sure you don’t miss out on this fantastic experience, as availability is limited. To reserve your place or if you would like to find out more information please call and have a chat with one of our specialist agents on 01299 272 997 or email rides@inthesaddle.com

Estamos ansiosos para ouvir de você em breve” :-) (We look forward to hearing from you soon)


Classical dressage at Golegã Horse Fair

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding Holidays Portugal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Homoki Lodge – NEW Luxury Glamping Yurts.

Combine exceptional luxurious accommodation with a magical autumn horse riding holiday amongst Hungary’s famous Puszta (grasslands). Canter along sandy tracks without being hindered by any gates or fences.

Yurts daytime

Homoki’s NEW Luxurious Yurts

Located in Southern Hungary, widely known as the Carpathian Basin, Homoki Lodge have recently opened their new luxury glamping accommodation to riding guests on a full board basis. These offer a unique style of comfort consisting of glorious gallery beds, air conditioning, underfloor heating and satellite TV.


There are seven Yurts – three Superior Yurts, two Deluxe Yurts and two Luxury Yurts.

Apart from one of the Luxury Yurts which is all on one level, the bed in the yurts is on an upper gallery. On the ground floor is a seating area, shower and loo, desk and wardrobe. The yurts have underfloor heating as well as air conditioning for hotter days. They come equipped with a minibar, complimentary tea and coffee, safe deposit box, hair dryer, free toiletries, slippers and a bathrobe. There is also free Wi-Fi and a TV.

For those wishing separate beds, the downstairs seating area can be converted to a bed.

Homoki Yurt Superior gallery with double bed

The Superior Yurt is 20m square with its own individual entrance and a private terrace overlooking the garden. It has a double bed and a shower.

Homoki Yurt Superior (3)

The impressive Superior Yurt

Inside View

Spacious shower cubical

The Deluxe Yurt is available at a small upgrade. It also has its own individual entrance. Slighty larger at 26 square metres and also fully insulated, it has a private terrace and deck chairs overlooking onto the garden. In the Deluxe Yurt the bed is Queen size and there is a Jacuzzi bath (with shower) for a little extra pampering.

Homoki Yurt De Luxe (2)

The Deluxe Yurt with its relaxing whirl pool bath.


Have a good night’s sleep in this large Queen Size bed.

The Luxury Yurt is larger again at 31 square metres. Each of the two luxury yurts has a private sun terrace with panoramic views of the Hungarian countryside. The Luxury Yurt has a King sized bed, jacuzzi bath and separate shower. Those staying in the Luxury Yurt are also offered a complimentary bottle of champagne and fruit basket.

Homoki Yurt Luxury split levels (2)

The Luxury Yurt with its large king size bed.

luxury 2

Enclosed wardrobe and min bar.


Jacussi bath and separate shower in the Luxury Yurt


The horses are never far away.


A comfortable seating area while enjoying your complimentary Champagne in the Luxury Yurt.

For stays up to November 2015, we are offering a fantastic 40% off the regular rate. Prices start at Euro 145 per person per night (c. £109) (based on two people sharing) for the Superior Yurt. This price includes full board and four to five hours riding.

See inthesaddle.com for more information on the riding at Homoki.

To check availability please contact our office on 01299 272 997 or email rides@inthesaddle.com.

Homoki Yurt Luxury Glamping by night (2)

Homoki Yurt Luxury Glamping by night.










Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding Holidays Hungary | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie in Monte Velho – Portugal 2015

In May I had the pleasure of staying at Monte Velho. An enthusiastic rather than accomplished dressage rider, I couldn’t wait to ride the famous Lusitano horses and learn from some fantastic trainers.

As we drive through the Alentejo countryside and begin our approach to Monte Velho, I can see that photographs cannot quite do justice to the beauty of this place. At the top of a hill, flagged by tall cypress trees is a charming collection of bright white and blue buildings with red roofs, surrounded by cobbled courtyards. My driver tells me that it is not unusual for people to cry when they arrive at Monte Velho…and seeing it for myself I can completely see why!!

Entrance to Monte Velho

Entrance to Monte Velho

We go under an elaborate archway, past the stallion block and the chapel and arrive at the main guest building. I am greeted by Diogo Lima Mayer (Jnr), whose illustrious family own Monte Velho.

 From the dining room terrace there’s a fantastic view of the large outdoor arena.

From the dining room terrace there’s a fantastic view of the large outdoor arena.

Diogo shows me around; we wander to the guest lounge with its stylish interior and out to the pool with its amazing views of the lake and the countryside beyond

Great view from the pool.

The next few days are filled to the brim with horses and dressage and I love every second.

The resident peacock ensures an early start one day and as I look out from the dining room terrace, I see glossy horses being brought in from the paddocks. Beyond the outdoor arena I spot shiny round mares with gorgeous foals at their sides. They wander through the spring flowers and then gather in a little herd under one of the cork trees. What a great start to the day.

Mare and foal in the spring flowers.

Mare and foal in the spring flowers.

Instruction at Monte Velho is taken very seriously. Chief Instructor Coralie Baldrey is an inspiring teacher. She trained at the Cadre Noir in Saumur, has been taught by some of most renowned riders in Portugal and regularly trains with Kyra Kyrklund. João Torrão worked at Monte Velho during the holidays as a boy. Now a qualified instructor, he also trains and competes horses like the incredible Equador MVL. A talented rider, he also teaches with great enthusiasm and humour.

João on Equador MVL.

After my lesson there is the chance to watch other guests riding and then I have the pleasure of watching João work the handsome grey gelding Dom Quixote. João is fantastic at encouraging horses to work for him and improve without being forceful.

João working Dom Quixote.

For my first lesson I am paired with Valente, a tall 13-year-old grey gelding who is a firm favourite with guests. He feels balanced and incredibly well-schooled, but is a great teacher because he won’t do more than you ask of him. Over the next few days I ask more from him and am duly rewarded, but can tell that he is keeping a great deal more ‘under the bonnet’ for the more experienced dressage rider!


Lesson on Valente.

Taking a break from dressage, with trainee rider João Pedro Rosa as our guide, we set off on a trail ride through the Alentejo countryside and onto a neighbouring property. Feeling rather lucky we canter our willing horses, ears pricked in anticipation across carpets of blue and purple wild flowers. At the end of our canter is a big lake and João leads us through the shallows trotting and cantering. Off we go, laughing as the spray kicked up by the horses cools us in the heat of the afternoon.

About to set off on a trail ride.

On another day, we are winding our way along shady tracks flanked on both sides by cork oaks and come across a delightful scene; by the lake some of our fellow guests are waiting in the shade to greet us. We dismount and tie up the horses and Diogo toasts our holiday with a cool glass of white wine. As the sun begins to fade, we mount again and return to the stables. Back at Monte Velho a shower and delicious meal await.


I stayed in a standard room at Monte Velho which was really lovely

I stayed one night in the apartment, which is lovely and spacious with a lounge area, bedroom and en-suite shower room. It is roomy and very stylish but has a different feel to the other rooms, being more traditionally furnished. Then for my final two nights I stayed in one of the recently refurbished standard rooms, which are superb. These spacious rooms have high ceilings, en-suite shower rooms and lovely terraces overlooking the gardens and lake beyond complete with an outdoor shower. The premium rooms are absolutely gorgeous and have far-reaching views of the Alentejo countryside. They are larger than the other rooms, with a lovely big bathroom and a terrace with an outdoor shower.

Premium Room quartospre002

A great view to wake up to

The guest lounge looks out onto the pool area and has a little kitchen with a fridge full of soft drinks, wine, beer and juices. There are tea and coffee-making facilities and you just make a note of what you have. On the other side of the courtyard is the dining room and large terrace which have great views of the main outdoor arena”.


A nice place to chill after a thrilling day in the saddle

During another lesson I ride the impressive Bemposto, a 9-year-old dark bay gelding. We seem to click and after cantering spiral circles and doing a few supply exercises, before long we are working on shoulder-in and medium trot. He is an incredible horse and I wish I had more time to learn from him.


Abbie on Bemposto and Kate on Valente

But sadly it is time to say goodbye and all too quickly I am heading back to Lisbon for my flight home. Thank you Diogo for your gracious hospitality, thank you Coralie and João for trying to make me a better rider and most of all, thank you to the horses who have been the very best of teachers. You can read more about Monte Velho here

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Riding Holiday Show

The Riding Holiday Show

The Riding Holiday Show

The next Riding Holiday Show is in London on Saturday 12th December 2015. The event is an opportunity to discover the range of riding holidays all over the world. From beach rides in Europe to ranch holidays in the Rocky Mountains and horseback safaris in Africa.

 Apply for Tickets Here

Meet the guides and talk to fellow riders. There are rides for all ages and riding abilities. There are rides for all budgets, for families, groups, couples and singles.

Current exhibitors include:

Arizona – White Stallion Ranch
Argentina – Estancia Los Potreros
Azores – Green Island Trail
Botswana – David Foot Safaris
Botswana – Limpopo Horse Safaris
Botswana – African Horseback Safaris | Macatoo
Botswana – Ride and Walk | Motswiri
Brazil – Ride in Brazil
Bulgaria – Alfa Centaur
Ecuador – Hacienda Zuleta
Ecuador – Ride Andes
France – Cerf Cheval
Hungary – El Bronco
Iceland – Ishestar
Ireland – Castle Leslie
Italy – Castellare di Tonda
Italy – Rendola
Jordan – Jordan Tracks
Kenya – Borana
Kenya – Ol Donyo Lodge
Montana – Rocking Z Ranch
Morocco – Sport Travel
Mozambique – Mozambique Horse Safaris
Namibia – Namibia Horse Safaris Co
Naibia – Okapuka
Portugal – Alcainca
Portugal – Monte Velho
Romania – Carpathia
South Africa – Cape Winelands
South Africa – Horizon
South Africa – Wait A Little
South Africa – The Wild Coast
Spain – Los Alamos
Turkey – Akle Teke Horse Centre
Uruguay – Coastal Estancias

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Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound, at Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

In February 2015, In The Saddle organised Lucy Higginson’s holiday to Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. In her former position as editor of Horse & Hound, Lucy has been fortunate enough to ride in many countries (although she does rank Africa as her favourite destination) and as a guest on many hunts all over the UK.  We have picked this small selection of lovely images.

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Throughout her stay she had some amazing elephant sightings.



February in the Okavango Delta is known as the Green Season and you can see why from these next couple of images. When the flood waters come in April they flood across much of these plains creating palm tree islands.



But there are some incredibly dry areas which haven’t seen much flood waters or rain the last few months. And then, in summer months of January to February, there is the possibility of bush fires which run through the dead and dry bush.


After the fires it can look a bit blackened, but this will only be for a short time and after a shower of rain there will be lots of green shoots which the animals will love. So game sightings over the next couple of months are predicted to be amazing.


Did you spot the hyaena in the picture above? Here he is a bit closer.


This cheeky fellow (below) is a reminder of why you should always zip up your tent when you go to lunch or to ride.


But the highlight of the week was this amazing sighting of the rare wild dog.

wild dog high res

If you would like more information on how to book an In The Saddle horse safari at Macatoo camp, please click here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 3 – Macatoo

I’ve now reached the third camp in my two week trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, I’d learnt plenty about our camps there and always enjoyed hearing about our guest’s experiences on their return. Even though December isn’t usually considered the prime time to see the Delta, I had high expectations. Would the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ live up to its reputation?

my very comfortable tent at Macatoo

My very comfortable tent at Macatoo

As I sit on the deck outside my tent at Macatoo, the heat of the afternoon is beginning to wane and I gaze out at the horses grazing contentedly. What a day it has been, beautifully warm and filled to the brim with adventure, excitement and good company. Soon it will be time to drag myself from my reverie and don my riding gear for a leisurely afternoon ride. Each evening we gather around the dinner table and recount the day’s adventures. Bongwe or Mod might regale us with stories of past safaris, colourful characters or camp traditions. We may have known the staff and other guests only a few days but it already feels like a dinner party with friends. Each time we gather, whether it be to ride out across the flood plains, for delicious meals or sundowners, such is the relaxed atmosphere and lively conversation, you feel at home, settled, welcome.

Abbie at Macatoo

Abbie at Macatoo

During dinner one evening we are seated around the table and over the conversation we hear a crashing noise close by. It sounds as though branches are being torn down, but nobody turns a hair. ‘Its just Henry’ somebody murmurs. Food continues to be eaten and wine continues to be sipped…as the noises get gradually closer, we turn in our seats to see a huge bull elephant only a few metres away. Henry has a bit of a cheeky reputation for helping himself at mealtimes and occasionally having a little fun chasing people, but tonight he seems content to eat for a while, before turning around and walking away into the darkness.

giraffe almost hidden

Giraffe almost hidden

My instructor always told me “there’s no such thing as a perfect horse”. But on my first morning ride I am given Zorba, a handsome bay gelding who proves the exception to this rule! He is brave, balanced, forward going and full of character. We have a fabulous time together cantering beside impala, following giraffe and careering along twisty forest tracks.

hippo skull

Bongwe & hippo skull

At one point we stop to look at a hippo skull but before long off we go again, zooming along sandy vehicle tracks and hopping over rough ground. As we canter along in some tall grass, we catch sight of a couple of elephant and pull up to watch them. The next moment we see there are many more in the bush to our right and suddenly Bongwe says “go” and we do – off across open ground, our horses only too happy to oblige for another blast.

Then Bongwe calls to us to stop and we turn our horses to see the elephant herd gathered in a circle formation, the youngest safely in the centre. More slowly we make our way back to Bongwe and watch for a while. He flashes a wide grin and remarks at how far we cantered away. Behind us, back-up guide Thomas grins sheepishly; he wasn’t taking any chances!

Fantastic sighting of elephant - the youngest hidden in the middle of the group

Fantastic sighting of elephant – the youngest hidden in the middle of the group

On one afternoon I’m riding a stunning ex-show-jumper called Casa. We’ve just had an amazing sighting of a bull elephant so close we could make out the grooves and wrinkles in his grey skin. As we make our way through the Mopane forest, we see a soft glow lighting up a huge termite mound. As we get closer we see a beautiful bush dinner has been laid out. Some of the staff ride our horses back to camp, whilst others stay and have drinks and dinner with us. On our way back to camp we use the spotlight to see bush babies and other nocturnal creatures as we hang out of the side of the vehicle to get a better look.

a very pretty safari horse at Macatoo

Abbie’s last ride Macatoo – on Apache

The next day we have a fabulous ride in another direction. At a large pool we see about 25 hippo relaxing in the cool water. We have wonderful canters thought the water and even zoom alongside a herd of zebra…wow! This is once in a lifetime stuff and I am enjoying every moment. Later as the heat begins to build, we are cantering through some more water with water lilies either side of us. As we approach the tree line we look upwards and see a huge treehouse up in the branches. There are Katie, Kobus and Riana waving to us from above.

We hop off the horses and climb up into the boughs for a magical view of the Delta. I can just imagine it in the height of the floods – it is beautiful now, but must be really spectacular then. Some of our clothes have been brought from our tents and there is the chance to get changed if we want to. Soon afterwards a delicious lunch is ready and we pile around the table for another magical meal.

a magical tree house lunch

A magical tree house lunch

What a time I’ve had in the Delta. It’s been an experience of a lifetime, I’ve seen amazing game, met some wonderful people and now sadly, it is time to go home. But I can’t wait to be able to recount my experiences and help In The Saddle guests plan amazing adventures of their own.

You can read more about In The Saddle’s wonderful safaris at Macatoo here.

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Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 2 – Motswiri

In December Abbie had a two week trip to Botswana visiting Kujwana, Motswiri and Macatoo camps. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, she knew plenty about the camps but are they going to live up to her high expectations. Read on as she visits Motswiri.

“As our little plane nears Motswiri camp I peek through the window and watch immense grey shapes cluster around waterholes joyfully spurting water from their trunks. A few moments later I see huge herds of buffalo seething across the plains as though one solid mass of muscle. Soon after the plane takes off again there are more elephant right in front of us crossing the airstrip…and I know my stay at Motswiri is going to be special.

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

I’m met at the airstrip by Cliffy who will be my riding guide for the duration of my stay. I am in good hands, as Cliffy has been involved in the guiding industry since 1993. Not only is he an experienced guide and passionate conservationist, but he also trains aspiring new guides and is involved in restructuring the nature guide qualification in Botswana.

As we draw close we are met by the harmonious voices of the staff as they welcome us into camp. After being shown around and hearing about the usual day-to-day route, I am shown to my tent. Wow! It really is fabulous, with a huge high bed giving a great view out over the water, a lovely bathroom with hot/cold running water and a flush loo. In my room I find everything you might need, from shampoo and soap, to insect repellent and mosquito coils. My tent is a short wander from the swimming pool, which is so refreshing after a few hours in the saddle. The central mess tent is superbly located overlooking the spillway, where elephants often come to drink. Sundowners here are often accompanied by the sound of grunting hippo making their way along the water channels.

my really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

My really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

In camp with me are a Swiss couple, who are on safari celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Therys is a non-rider, but tells me what a wonderful stay they have had so far. Each day she has been out with two guides on fabulous game walks and exciting game drives. She tells me it has been the perfect trip, because they have each been able to take part in their favourite activities, but mealtimes, sundowners and afternoons have all been spent together.

I am given Mopani to ride, a stunning liver chestnut gelding who is fit and ready for action. The saddles are comfortable South African trail saddles, although English saddles are available if you prefer. My first afternoon ride takes us along the river. As we round a bend in front of us a disgruntled hippo has been pushed from his watery wallowing place by a large herd of elephant. Our horses graze and we watch enchanted by these amazing creature so close to us. The elephant cross the river as the young ones splash and play. I’ve never seen a hippo out of the water before and it is an amazing sight!

hippo out of water is an amazing sight

Hippo out of water is an amazing sight

We ride back to camp, where the stable staff are waiting to take the horses from us. We dismount to the sounds of popping corks, as the champagne is opened to celebrate our arrival. Sundowners are enjoyed on ‘Motswiri beach’ as we recount our adventures and look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

I am visiting in December, when the days are warm and the bush is green and lush. Cliffy tells me in October the bush is drier but there is more water around. Having said this, there was more water then I was expecting – we still waded through plenty of water and had some fabulous splashy canters.

A real thrill between May and September is the opportunity to ride to fly camp for a night and experience riding in a totally different area.

the very comfortable fly camp

The very comfortable fly camp

Next morning our ride takes us out onto the floodplains, which in the flood season are completely full of water. Right now (in December) there is still a good amount of water left – enough for some refreshing splashy canters which have us grinning from ear to ear. We ride to an ancient baobab tree, a beautiful spot for a snack break. As we make our way along the edge of a forest we hear buffalo not far away and at one point we catch sight of them. Next moment we are crossing over to the other side of the bank and as if from nowhere, we spot a long table laid out for lunch! We dismount and pat our horses, and as if on cue a big herd of elephant cross in front of us.

A spectacular sight at lunch

A spectacular sight at lunch

In the afternoon I try out a new horse called Roman, a Namibian Warmblood. He is cheeky, forward going and great fun. We spot tsessebe, impala and warthog and just catch sight of a beautiful antelope which Cliffy thinks is Oribi.

Next day we ride to King’s Island and have great fun popping over logs and fallen trees. Roman, Sambuca, Mr B and Amigo seem to love the chance for some bush cross country as much as we do! My final morning ride is a long one to Hippo Pools. We have plenty of fast riding along vehicle tracks and over the flood plains, the horses expertly hopping over the fish nest holes. After a few hours we reach our destination and pause to watch about ten hippos in their big pool of water. One female is really curious about the horses and gets closer and closer to us. Finally she plucks up the courage to leave the water and comes within about 10 metres of us, before turning and going back into the water. Not long afterwards, we are riding through a wooded area and come upon a breeding herd of elephant. Some of them are eating and others are digging the ground for minerals. As we begin to skirt around the herd, a big bull elephant begins to charge. But we stand our ground and he pauses, then turns his back to us and retreats. What a way to finish off my time at Motswiri!

Abbie at Motswiri

Abbie at Motswiri

You can read more about the fantastic In The Saddle horse safaris at Motswiri here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie’s trip to the Okavango Delta – part 1 – Kujwana

In December I packed my bags ready for a longed-for trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, I’d learnt plenty about our camps there and always enjoyed hearing about our guests’ experiences on their return. Even though December isn’t usually considered the prime time to see the Delta, I had high expectations. Would the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ live up to its reputation?

From the very start of my two week trip I am on a high. My senses are overloaded; glistening ribbons of water meandering over the flood plains as we fly overhead, elephant walking into camp during dinner, lion roaring in the night so close to camp we almost think we can feel his breath, a surprise champagne lunch in the bush and swimming in the Xudum River as little fish nibble at our toes.

Most guests arrive into camp in style with a helicopter transfer from Maun to camp. But since I am visiting in the dry season, we can be driven into camp in a game drive vehicle. We are met at Maun airport by one of Kujwana’s longest –serving guides Person. He expertly negotiates rickety bridges and deep sand during our 3.5 hour journey to camp. Although only the beginning of our adventure our road transfer is a great introduction to the Delta, as we see zebra, kudu, leopard tortoise, giraffe and elephant.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

We are met on arrival in camp by owners PJ and Barney Bestelink and their team. Barney takes me to the stables to introduce me to the horses. They are contented, glossy and cherished. We watch from a rise in the ground as the horses are put away in their barns. Barney assessing each horse’s well-being as they trot towards their stable.

My tent is gorgeous; spacious and airy atop a decked platform overlooking the river. My bathroom has a flush loo, hot and cold running water, soft fluffy towers, soap, shampoo and shower gel – bliss! As we sip pre-dinner drinks around the fire, the African sun slips towards the horizon turning the sky beautiful shades of soft velvety orange. Gathering around the dining table we are treated to stories of close encounters, fishing successes and exciting rides. Fellow guests Helena and Dan, David, Richard and Coco have had the time of their lives.

Next morning I am woken with tea in my tent at 5am. Breakfast is eaten around the fire as the sun rises over the plains. For my first ride I am teamed with Mahale, a stunning chestnut Arab. Led by experienced guide Thabu, we head out across the Delta, swishing through tall grasses and splashing through streams. We are treated to excellent sightings of buffalo, giraffe, zebra and hippo. We also see the plucky little honeyguide, giant eagle owl and saddle billed stork.

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

Mahale, also known as ‘Mr Posh’ is a real delight. He is well-balanced, polite and willing, with a special presence rarely seen in a safari horse. After two hours or so we dismount and walk the horses on foot for about 10 minutes. Mid-way through our ride we stop in the shade for a snack as the horses graze nearby. We are back at camp by around 11am, giving time for a refreshing dip before lunch. During siesta time, we head back to our tents to sleep off the heat of the day. Afternoon tea refreshes before we head out on the mokoro with our guides. It is such a peaceful way to see the Delta and so relaxing (if you are not poling!).

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

The next day is an exciting one as we bid Kujwana camp goodbye and head to Moklowane camp on horseback. Today I ride the mighty Mpumalanga, a grey Boerperd whom PJ describes as “the perfect safari horse”. He’s not wrong; Mpumalanga is sure-footed, experienced in front of game, eager to go, but easy to stop. He adjusts his stride easily as we pop over puddles or dips in the ground. It is almost as though he has lived before; he seems all-knowing and very wise! We spot wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe, the rare roan antelope and the curious-looking tsessebe. Our mud-spattered faces grin with glee as we canter across open ground. We stop to let the horses drinks at a large pool; lead guide Rogers never stops scanning the horizon for game. His eyesight is truly amazing. “It’s because he has never had to sit in front of a computer,” PJ tells us.

We reach a wooded area dotted with palm trees and a young male giraffe ambles close to us. As we emerge on the other side of the wood, suddenly Rogers stops, focussing on something at the base of an island. We follow his gaze and just make out a barely-there golden shape. All is quiet as we question our eyesight. “Lioness,” breathes Rogers. We watch in silence for a few precious moments before PJ signals to Rogers to lead the group quietly away.

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Less than a mile further on a small army of Kujwana’s staff are waiting to greet us. Our horses are un-tacked, groomed and fed and then led out to graze. We pile into the waiting vehicle and are off in search of the lioness. Skirting the wood we search for the lioness and finally see her lying in the shade. Well-camouflaged she is relaxing contentedly, two exquisite cubs gambolling beside her. We gaze at her for 20 minutes or so, until it is time to leave her to her family. Back at the picnic spot a delicious lunch is served; quiche, fresh bread, salad and potatoes, washed down with cold drinks from the cool box. Camp beds are set out for us in the shade to relax on after lunch. Having had the chance to pack a ‘day bag’ before leaving Kujwana, we can change into shorts and then relax with a book.

After whiling away a few hours, we drink tea, still dozy from our siestas. Soon it is time to mount up for the final few hours in the saddle. Approaching Moklowane you can see that the vegetation is quite different, with taller bush and large islands dotted with palm trees. We have some splashy canters and Al and I argue gently about whose horse would win in a race. In some dense bush we have wonderful elephant sightings. I love the deep slow rumble of these magnificent animals (my favourites!).

doesn't really need a caption!

doesn’t really need a caption!

Moklowane camp is north of Kujwana, situated on the Matsebi River. Five tree houses line the river, high up in the tree line so as to appreciate the view. The beds are under cover, but open to the elements at the front. The en-suite bathrooms have hot and cold running water, a sink and flush loo. We wander down to the deck gin and tonic in hand. We watch the sunset and re-live the adventures of the day. I am so sad to be leaving and wish I could stay longer.

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

People go on safari for many different reasons; perhaps to get away from it all, to see the ‘real’ Africa, to spot game and to experience a true wilderness. A fellow guest turns to me and says, “this is the best thing I could ever have bought for my wife”. And that’s it; this is no relaxing beach holiday, it is no ordinary gift. This is an experience, something that will stay with you forever. It is something you can keep in your mind for years to come. The horses you have ridden, the game you have seen, the laughs, the thrill, it’s all there to be conjured up in your memory whenever you want. Priceless? Yes I think so.

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

You can read more about the In The Saddle holidays at Kujwana here:

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chris Day’s trip to Tsylos

British Columbia offers a magical retreat from the normality of everyday life. In our latest blog Chris Day recounts her recent trip to the wonderful destination of Tsylos in British Columbia…

Tsylos is less than a one hour flight from Vancouver and is situated at the north end of the Chilko Lake in British Columbia. I had an amazing flight! We had clear skies and fabulous views. The flight (on about a twelve-seater plane) was about 45 minutes. Our driver for the journey from the airport to the Lodge was Pat, one of the fishing guides. He was knowledgeable about the area and kept us amused on the journey.

Flying in from Vancouver

Flying in from Vancouver

Sunday 21st September
We arrived at Tsylos at about 12:30, waited for everyone else to arrive and then sat down to a welcome lunch of macaroni cheese. We then had a general briefing before sitting with Theresa, our guide, who asked us about our riding experience and the type of horse we preferred. After an hour to ourselves, settling into our rooms, we met at the barn for our introductory ride. Theresa gave us a full briefing and demo on catching your horse, putting on the halter, tying up to the hitching rail, brushing off, tacking up, mounting and dismounting. Then we went to the corral and caught our horses. I was assigned ‘Joe’, a good looking bay gelding.

We rode out for about 1 ½ hours, with Theresa leading and Dave as back-up. We were mainly walking but we had a short canter too. Back at the barn we washed down the horses and were back in our rooms by 17:00. Time to freshen up before heading to the lodge at 18:00, where pre-dinner nibbles are left on the bar for guests. It was a splendid first dinner of wild sea trout, salad, potatoes and asparagus, all washed down with nice Canadian wines.

From just above the Lodge

From just above the Lodge

Monday 22nd September 2014
It was cold this morning. I slept quite well then headed down to the lodge where coffee was ready and everyone was gathering for breakfast. Breakfast was homestyle hash browns and a scrambled egg medley (ie with bacon, cheese, tomatoes etc), fruit, cereal, yoghurt and bread.

Quickly over, we collected our sandwiches and made our way up to the barn for 09:30. We caught our horses, groomed and tacked up, and were away by 10:00. We went a different route today, following the road for a while, past Chilko campsite (closed to camping due to bear activity!!!) and then on to Green Lake. After lunch we followed the same route back for the majority of the way, but diverted to have a short canter on an undulating track. We were back at the barn by 14:00 which gave people the chance to have a beer on the deck or head for the hot tub!

Riding along the river

Riding along the river

Tuesday 23rd September 2014
What a lovely morning! I was ready for the splendid breakfast of French toast and bacon. Today we headed out on the Mountain Ride. This ride is all at a walk due to the terrain. We left the barn at about 10:00 and started to climb immediately. There were some very scenic bits as we left the treeline and it got very steep in places. We stopped to rest the horses several times and reached the top of the mountain at about 13:00.

What a view! We sat and ate our lunch looking over the spectacular Chilko Lake. It was magnificent! We lead the horses off the top, which was shingle and steep. It took about 2 ½ hours to get back to the barn and we lead the horses several times. We got back to the lodge for a well deserved drink by 16:30!

Chilko River

Chilko River

Wednesday 24th September 2014
It was a cold, bleak and drizzly morning, but breakfast (bacon, egg, cheese and tomato pie) got me going just fine! The plan today had been to do the boat trip up the lake, but due to the weather it was decided to postpone this and to do a cantering ride instead. I had a change of horse to one of the veterans, a coloured horse called Charlie. I think he’s the boss! Again we set off at about 10:00 and rode along the scenic river. We had about three canters on the way to an abandoned lodge. As we were cantering up a trail towards the lodge, we heard the dogs barking and some strange snorting (not unlike a stallion) and looking back we saw three bears (mother and two cubs) crossing the trail, thankfully after the last horses had passed! We tried to track them, but could not find where they had gone.

Riding through the treeline

Riding through the treeline

We reached the lodge at about 11:45 and stopped here for lunch. This time of year it is the peak of the salmon run, which is great for bringing the bears down to the river, but not so nice for the amount of dead salmon everywhere. We stayed around the lodge for a couple of hours, and went to investigate a beaver lodge. It was amazing to see the trees they had taken down. Incredible!

The meals we had throughout the week were really delicious, and tonight’s rack of lamb was no exception. We had fun after dinner reciting poems and playing a game not dissimilar to charades.

Thursday 25th September 2014
Today is a rest day for the horses and so we all headed out in the boat with Bud to Chilko Lake. It was an amazing day with some incredible views. The mountain scenery is really stunning. After about an hour we stopped and walked to a small lake often frequented by moose. We carried on down an inlet, which was calmer, to an old miner’s cabin. From here it was a further five minutes to our lunch spot on a beach. A fire was lit and hot drinks handed round to warm us up.

The little cabin at Spectacular Lake

The little cabin at Spectacular Lake

Back into the boat after lunch had settled, for another hour continuing up the lake. We reached a spot where we walked to a small lake known as ‘Spectacular Lake’. And it was! On the way back up the lake we passed a structure being built by an old Vietnam draft dodger. Bud had a few stories to tell about him! (Walks about in bare feet apparently!) Then, finally, we saw bears! A mother and cub running along the shore (well, they were eating fish until we came along!) and then a little further along there was a mother and two cubs running up the scree into some trees. Amazing!

We got back to the lodge for about 17:30, and were pleased to get back into the warmth. It had been a fantastic trip, and a wonderful way to see Chilko Lake, but boy it was cold on the back of the boat!

Stunning views from the boat trip on Lake Chilko

Stunning views from the boat trip on Lake Chilko

Friday 26th September
Today we had some great cantering rides, through the trees with some great switchbacks – you really had to be in tune with your horse. We rode back to the abandoned lodge where we saw the mother and cubs the other day, as one of the ladies had dropped her sunglasses. When we got to the abandoned lodge there was a group of photographers totally absorbed in photographing the mother bear and her cubs as they sat in the river eating the abundant salmon. We tried to be very quiet and were able to watch the bears for a while, before she spotted one of our dogs, let out a snort and disappeared!

After lunch we had some more canters and opened up on the old airfield and also a nice paddock, which gave for some nice photo opportunities. Back at the lodge there was a mother bear and two cubs just down by the jetty. We dashed down and spent a long time watching them from just 50yds away. Amazing.

Mother and cub on Lake Chilko

Mother and cub on Lake Chilko

Saturday 27th September
A repeat today of the upper and lower ‘roller coaster’ rides, lovely winding canters through the trees and then out onto the ridge; “don’t look down!” We crossed the river via the bridge and stopped in a very scenic spot for lunch. After lunch we had some nice canters along the sandy trails before we reached the river. Here we untacked the horses and the tack was taken back to the lodge by boat. We waited with the horses until our guides returned (lots of hilarity singing very loud songs to keep the bears away!) and then the horses swam across the river and made their own way back to the stables at Tsylos Lodge. This evening was ‘BBQ’ night and we had lovely steaks cooked to perfection! Bit of a party atmosphere and lots of recounting of our adventures!

The horses swam home

The horses swam home

Sunday 28th September
After breakfast we left the lodge at about 09:30 and travelled the hour and a half back to the airstrip. It was quite sad to see the mountains disappearing into the distance.

My favourite breakfast - eggs benedict!

My favourite breakfast – eggs benedict!

To find out more about how you can create your own British Columbian equestrian adventure visit www.inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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