Big Adventures on the Big Rivers Ride

In this blog post we hear from In The Saddle guest Sarah Grant, who was part of an intrepid group of riders who undertook the adventurous Big Rivers ride in June 2017.

This exploratory ride journeyed into the Caprivi strip, Namibia’s tropical paradise whose borders are determined by several big rivers. The charm of this area is that it is a corridor for game moving between Botswana, Zambia and Angola. This extraordinary area of biodiversity is in contrast to Namibia’s normally arid landscape. In summer the floodwaters spill out over the riverbanks onto the wide open plains of Linyanti and Liambezi, much like the Okavango does in Botswana.

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“We are riding alongside a wide stretch of water somewhere in the Caprivi, North Eastern Namibia, shortly before sunset. It’s the first day of the 2017 Exploratory Ride, an annual ride that Andrew Gillies of the Namibia Horse Safari Company runs each year, to explore somewhere new in the vast nothingness that is Namibia. It’s a chance to go somewhere that no one has gone before on a horse, but be prepared for the unexpected…

Back to the first day. Setting off from our first camp on the Kwando River, we’ve had a happy day getting used to our horses (mine, Big Red, is an honest, friendly red chestnut gelding, quite powerful and a bit cheeky), getting used to each other (a group of 11 riders from 6 different countries, all of whom have ridden with Andrew at least once and in some cases many times), and getting used to two constant features of the ride – the many herds of cattle herded by the local ethnic groups, with their rather fearsome horns, and the crowds of excited children, who follow us shouting with excitement at seeing 15 riders and 19 horses suddenly appear in their village.

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Who’s herding who?

Now, with the sun slipping close to the horizon, I am secretly thinking: shouldn’t we be at camp by now? Time for sundowners perhaps? “No problem,” says our guide, Andrew, consulting the GPS, “it’s only 5km away.” Until we find a wide water channel, inconveniently placed between the camp and us. With virtually no daylight left, and no way round, the order is issued: “Swim the horses across! Bring the old campaigners first!” I’ll be the first to admit, swimming a horse I don’t know across a channel that may or may not have crocs in virtual darkness is not my perfect idea of an end to the first day, but there was nothing to do except point Big Red at the river, and hope for the best.

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A river crossing at dusk – on an exploratory ride you have to expect the unexpected

We did all make it across, and we made it to our camp, tired, soaking wet but high on the adventure of it. Red usually crosses the Namib Desert, but he swam across that channel like it was second nature, and earned my respect and gratitude. We spent the evening futilely trying to dry boots and blankets around the fire, and cheerfully recounting the adventure.

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The handsome Big Red

This is my first Exploratory Ride with renowned guide Andrew Gillies. I went on the Namib Desert ride last October, which was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Only a few months later I’m back for more.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

What life on safari is all about…those quiet moments alone with your horse

The Exploratory Ride goes to a new area each year, although there is a recce trip some months before by vehicle. So when the ride heads off the road, it really is across open country, navigating by landmarks and GPS. You do need to be prepared for things to not go according to plan. When Andrew and Phoebe did the recce trip in November 2016, they found the Linyanti floodplains full of buffalo. When we got there on the fifth day of our trip, the floodplains were covered in three metre high reeds, towering over our and the horses’ heads. We spent hours pushing through them. Andrew had to resort to the simple navigation technique of standing on his horse’s saddle to try and see where we should be going.

CROP 4 who needs gps anyway (thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson)

Who needs GPS anyway? (Thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson for the image)

Andrew & co are fantastic at these rides. They have an amazing back-up team that bring food and water (for horses and humans) plus tents and bed-rolls and loos and showers and many other comforts for life in the bush. On most of the Namibian rides you sleep under the stars, but on this ride we had tents due to riding through areas populated with large predators. The horses were guarded by night, with their picket line surrounded by the rest of the camp and fires which were kept going through the night in lion areas.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

Savouring the simple routine of camp life, with great company

Camp life is refreshing in its simplicity. I wake each dawn to the sound of the horses on the picket line calling for their breakfast. My first thought is to get coffee (I’m addicted), which never tastes better than from a metal mug with a rusk as the sun rises. Breakfast is in the circle of camp chairs around the fire before grooming my horse and taking it to where the tack is stored on a long tarpaulin, secretly hoping to get some help from our guides, Andrew and Telane, as I find the saddles so heavy.

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Beautiful Namibia at daybreak

We are riding about 30km a day, from the start at the Kwando River to the final camp at Mutoya on the Zambezi. The going varies, between long stretches of open bush (or ‘veldt’), small areas cultivated by the locals, scrub, floodplains and woodlands. There are many shouts of ‘holes!’ (belonging to aardvarks) and ‘thorns!’ (the ‘wait a little bit’ bush). Where we can, we make up distance by doing some of Andrew’s famous LSD – Long Slow Distance – at a steady canter along the road shoulder. There can be anything from elephants or zebras crossing, to villagers greeting you, to lorries sounding their horn right by your horse (thank you Red for only shying a bit).

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One of the many river crossings

When we reach camp, the first thing is to see to the horses. They are un-tacked, allowed to roll and taken for water. Then they are put on their allocated place on the picket line and fed.

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Walking the horses the final few hundred metres into camp at the end of the day

Later they will be groomed and fed again, and Andrew and Telane, will do the ‘ward round’ to check for any sore backs or other ailments. Once they are seen to, the bar will be open – G&Ts (with ice, even here) and Windhoek beers all round. Then find your tent, have a shower, have some delicious food that is incredible considering where we are, and chew the fat until bed.

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The horses enjoying a roll and a drink at the end of the day

The joy of these rides is the freedom. It’s hard to put into words the immense nothingness of Namibia. It’s beautiful. Seeing it from a horse you have time to take in the huge mackerel skies, the vivid greens and yellows of grasslands and bush, the belts of trees on the skylines, the blue of the water channels. You have time to talk and bond with your fellow riders, and time to think and let the city life of home recede.

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Beautiful mackerel skies

There was also the local life to see. In the Caprivi, life is harsh on this unyielding land, with the challenges of living with elephants and lions, and the clash of old and new cultures. We had a talk from Lisse Hannsen of the Caprivi Carnivore Project about how to ensure conservation and humans can co-exist.

Horses are a rare sight here and the leader of one village begged us to stop until the whole village could see the horses (he got a ride on Andrew’s horse).

Although hard to believe in the 21st century these locals have never seen a horse

Many of these villagers had never seen a horse before

There are many other tales from this trip I could write about – galloping through water (someone got a ducking), trucking the horses home one day with the riders sitting on top because we couldn’t make the full distance before dark, the time Big Red decided a short cut through a thorn bush was a good idea – but perhaps the best thing to do is go to see for yourself the immense nothingness that is Namibia. The best way to see it? From the back of a horse, of course”.

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The wide open spaces are unforgettable.

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A huge thank you to Sarah for writing this wonderful account of her adventures in Big River country. What an incredible experience and a huge well done to you and fellow In The Saddle guests Clare Anderton, Nicole Appert, Clare Lawson and Jenn Lawson for completing this challenging ride.

If you’d like to experience some more of their epic adventure, then check out Namibia Horse Safaris’ video from the ride here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbCR4xTuI7w

As well as the annual exploratory ride, In The Saddle offers a range of adventurous trail rides in Namibia guided by Andrew Gillies:

Namib Desert: A challenging 300km journey across the oldest desert in the world to Swakopmund on the coast.
Damara Elephant Safari: Fast riding through the vast and spectacular landscapes of Damaraland, tracking elephant and rhino along the way.
Desert Canyons Safari: Explore the open plains of the Southern Namib and see the famous Fish River Canyon.
Wolwedans to Wild Horses: A breath-taking journey taking you from the great dune sea of the central Namib to Klein Aus Vista near the home of the Wild Horses of the Namib.

For more information or to book your place please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Los Potreros Lovin’

In The Saddle guest Millie recently returned from Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina. Millie writes that her holiday was far beyond her expectations.

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Millie enjoying the view at Estancia Los Potreros

A real highlight were the horses. Millie says, “on every level the horses are fantastic, they look after the guests judging who they have riding them. The horses really know their job as working animals, but also enjoy a good few gallops on the trails”.

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The horses are fantastic on every level.

One feature at Los Potreros that guests really enjoy is that each day is different. Millie says, “the gauchos take you somewhere new on the estancia every day and get you working from day one….anyone who has an inner cowboy would love every second!”.

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Aspiring cowboys would love every moment.

Los Potreros is a long-standing favourite with In The Saddle guests. Check out this additional feedback from recent guests:

Orla from London loved both the riding and the hosting. She says, “The riding was superb. The horses seemed to be beautifully matched to the ability of each rider in the group. They were forward going and responsive but I felt safe at all times”.

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Superb riding and responsive horses are a feature of this holiday.

Orla said, “I had a wonderful time during my week at Estancia Los Potreros. I was a lone traveller but I never felt like I was holidaying alone. My hosts Kevin and Lou made guests feel like friends. The staff were delightful. The riding was everything I could have dreamed. Even the weather was perfect (in defiance of all the forecasts)”.

Jackie from Essex agrees. She said, “everything was wonderful – expectations were exceeded. Hosting and riding could not be faulted – Louisa and Kevin, management, guides, gauchos, cooks and housekeeping”.

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Estancia Los Potreros

This trip over Easter even represented two new activities for Jackie, “my first Easter-Egg Hunt on horseback and my first introduction to Polo!”.

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The annual Easter-Egg hunt is a real favourite!

If you’d like more information about Los Potreros or wish to book your stay please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding in Argentina | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Morocco – Sun, Sand and Arabian Stallions

In this blog entry, Lucy Downes from In The Saddle tells us about her recent trip to join the Essaouira Coastal Trail in Morocco. Here, she highlights the best bits of this ride, from the first-class horses to the delicious food.

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If you feel in need of nice weather and a gallop on beautiful horses, but don’t want a long flight from the UK, then our rides in Morocco are ideal. We have a number of itineraries from riding along the coast or camping in the desert to trekking in the mountains.

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Welcome to Morocco

I jumped on a flight from Stansted and arrived in Marrakesh less than 3 hours later. I couldn’t believe the difference in culture and way of life just a short journey away. It was fascinating wondering around the medinas and little shops of Marrakesh and Essaouira. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not get hassled and it was fun haggling with the locals.

I bought a lovely sheep leather handbag and there were lots of wooden carved jewellery boxes and ceramic pots to buy, as well as beautiful rugs – it’s just a shame I couldn’t fit more into my suitcase!

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One of the back streets in the medina at Essaouira

I met the group in Marrakesh where we all got to know each other over dinner. The following day we all headed off to be introduced to the beautiful Arabian horses that would be our steeds for the week; most were stallions but there were also a couple of geldings.

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The horses are ridden in GP saddles and snaffle bridles

Abdel, our knowledgeable guide and experienced horseman, talked about each horse with passion and a lot of love. We were then shown how to tack up and handle the stallions with a firm but very fair approach.

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Lucy and Tissia meeting for the first time

All of the horses are forward going, well behaved, sure footed and great fun to ride. When on the beaches, it was such a thrill to be able to let the horses go – and they can certainly shift!

My horse, Tissia, was around 15.1hh. This was the average height of all the horse, although one or two were slightly taller. When cantering on the beach there were some horses that had an extra gear, but all were easy to stop and everyone had big grins on their faces at the end of the beach! The beach canters were incredible and were a real highlight for me.

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Splashing through the waves just before some faster riding

The days were a mixture of fast beach rides, scenic mountain tacks and riding through little country villages. On the way we would see people fishing, donkeys, camels and goats.

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The local donkeys would wander over and finish any food the horses had left after dinner!

After an exciting morning ride, we would ride on to our lunch spot. The back-up team would already have arrived and set up a large tent with the sides rolled up to provide some shade. Lunch would be served and the horses would be watered. The food was so tasty and there was always plenty to go around.

For breakfast there was a range of cereals, toast with jam and fruit. Lunch would be a buffet of pasta or rice with fresh salad and fish – it was lovely have a lighter lunch as we would remount after an hour of relaxing.

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Relaxing at the end of the day

When we had finished riding for the day and un-tacked the horses, we would help ourselves to biscuits and nuts. Dinner would be served after everyone had showered (or washed off with a very appreciated hot bucket of water!) and then the tents were pitched.

For dinner we helped ourselves to vegetables and there was always a meat dish – lamb, chicken etc. All our meals were always served with classic Moroccan tea.

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It was lovely having a canter at the end of the day when the sun was setting

At the end of the day, we would let the horses roll and pitch up our tents. Then we’d look over the map to see where we had been and where we would be heading the following day.

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It was such a pleasure to ride fit and sure footed horses

By the end of the week I’d had a blast on sun-drenched beaches, enjoyed Moroccan cuisine, had an insight into the local culture and loved riding my little Arabian stallion.

If you are looking for some fast, exciting riding on lovely horses that you are forward going each with their own character, then our rides in Morocco are perfect. You will need to be willing to get stuck in with tacking-up, grooming the horses and pitching tents, but for me this just added to the overall experience. It was nice to be able to bond with the horses off and on the ground.

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Many thanks to Lucy for this insight into what makes Morocco brilliantly unique.

Whether you want to join a desert, mountain or beach ride, we still have availability for  this season. For more information on our rides in Morocco, please call the office on +44 1299 272 997 or contact Lucy via email on lucy@inthesaddle.com

Categories: beach riding, Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Riding Holidays, riding holidays in morocco | 1 Comment

Backward Glance – The Sierra Nevada; an original ride

In this blog entry, we take a look at Dallas Love’s rides in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, which are celebrating a very special anniversary in 2017.

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Here at In The Saddle we’ve featured Dallas Love and her fabulous rides in the Sierra Nevada mountains from the very beginning. After have a rummage around the back office, we found our very first brochure. There on the third page, are details about the Contraviesa and Alpujarra rides…both of which are still running today.

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The top brochure is from 1997, and only has 22 pages. Quite a difference to the 2017 version, with a whopping 171 pages!

We’ve worked with Dallas for over 20 years, but she has actually been guiding in the Sierra Nevada mountains since 1987. 2017 is her 30th anniversary year.

Dallas has an incredible amount of experience and knows the routes and her horses inside out. Dallas first began guiding back in the 1980’s in order to share with others what she most enjoyed doing; riding a good horse through the mountains.

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On Dallas’s rides you’ll experience fit, forward-going, well-schooled horses

Having 23 horses and offering top-quality riding trips is more of a way of life than a job. But Dallas says it is all worth it. One of the highlights for Dallas is meeting so many interesting and different people from around the world.

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We at In The Saddle heartily agree! That’s the great thing about joining a riding holiday, even if you’re travelling by yourself. By joining a group, you can meet people from all over the world – different professions, interests, cultures and ages. But no matter what the differences are, from the very start you’ll all have at least one thing in common – a love of horses!

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One unique quality of riding in the Sierra Nevada is the vastness of the mountains and the diversity of the terrain. Dallas loves this part of Spain and feels it is a privilege to be able to ride for days on end through unspoilt countryside without fences, roads, gates, and only the occasional person.

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One thing Dallas urges her guests not to leave home without, is good footwear. When riding in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains, at some points you’ll have to dismount and lead the horses. So sturdy boots with a good sole are imperative.

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After a long day in the saddle what’s the best way to relax? Dallas says it’s with a long shower and a cold beer….cheers!

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If you’d like to join one of Dallas’ adventures in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, then please contact us for a chat about your requirements on +44 1299 272 997 or via email Lucy@inthesaddle.com

As well as our classic Contraviesa and Alpujarra rides, we now offer short breaks for those who may be short of time or a little rusty in the saddle. Also on offer are our Buena Vista and El Marquesado routes, which are more challenging options perfect for fit and experienced riders.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, in the saddle, Riding Holidays, Riding in Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Incredible Andalucians

In this blog entry, Lucy revisits her trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain back in July 2015. Using a mixture of her own appraisal of the ride and In The Saddle guest feedback, she explains just what makes these rides so appealing.

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Our rides in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are special for so many reasons; from the spectacular scenery to the excellent guiding by Dallas Love. What stood out for me and for many of our guests, were the fantastic horses.

During my visit back in July 2015, I fell madly in love with my mount for the week – Laurel. He was the veteran of the group at 17 years old and Dallas’s former lead horse. He was such a pleasure to ride, forward going and sure footed.

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Lucy & Laurel

Let’s also hear from some In The Saddle guests:

Mary from Mid Glamorgan said her mount was “one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden!”.

Helen from Devon said, “this is a fantastic ride; great views and varied riding on very sure-footed, forward-going horses who are very well-mannered. I only wish I could have taken “Mora” my horse home!”

During our trail we were joined by Mordecai, Dallas’s brother. Mordecai is an exceptional horseman and helps Dallas school and prepare the horses for the trail.

The care given to the preparation of the horses is often echoed in guest feedback. For example, Caroline from Northumberland said, “the horses are extremely well-schooled and well-mannered. I’d highly recommend this ride.”

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Mordecai helping with the school work

I thought the pace might feel a bit slow, with one or two canters a day, but not once was I bored. The terrain varied daily, which kept the riding interesting and exciting. Leading the horses down steep rocky paths was never a problem. And of course, you are riding wonderful quality horses, which is always enjoyable.

Jane from Somerset agreed and says that “the horses were amazing – fit, sure-footed and well-schooled while still being their own ‘characters’. I liked the fact that every day we had times when we had to get off and lead because of the steep terrain – good for preventing rider stiffness!”

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All of the horses are trained to walk a polite distance behind you when leading. I never felt rushed or pushed by Laurel and there was never a fear of being stood on. I was so impressed with these horses, I have now taught my own horse at home to lead this way.

Cathrine from Manchester also noticed how polite the horses are, saying, “these horses are a pure delight to lead. They walk behind you, at your pace, never interfering with you.”

Dallas has 22 horses at her stables in Bubion. Some she rescued from around Spain and some are now retired, living the luxury life with a stunning view from their mountain pasture.

The love and care that Dallas puts into her horses is really appreciated by guests. For example, Gill from Cumbria says, “all Dallas’s horses are extremely well cared for and well-schooled – a joy to ride.”

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Having only a small number of horses over a long period of time, means that Dallas knows each one individually. It is clear to see the love Dallas has for each horse with each pat and cuddle she gives.

It was an honour to ride with her on such beautiful Spanish horses in the equally beautiful Spanish countryside.

Sue Donovan from Lancashire agrees. She says, “Dallas and her team know their horses well and certainly matched the right horse with the right person”.

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Many thanks to Lucy for this insight into what makes Dallas’s rides so special.

We still have some availability for week-long and short-break rides this season. For more information on our rides in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, please call the office on +44 1299 272 997 or email Lucy on lucy@inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding in Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Rides for 2017 – Costa Rica

In this mini-series of blogs we learn about some of the new In The Saddle rides for 2017. From cantering along sun-drenched beaches in Greece, to viewing big game in Swaziland, we hope one of our new adventures will be right up your street.

First up is our exciting exploratory ride in Costa Rica.

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Our new Wilderness Ride takes you from the pristine rainforest of Carara National Park into the high coastal mountains of Turrubares.

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Go off the beaten track to experience rural Costa Rica at its best.

You’ll journey along mountain trails and forest paths far off the beaten track. Your guide will be on hand to help you identify flora and fauna along the way. You might spot species like macaws, toucans, coatimundis, sloths, pecaries and perhaps even the elusive jaguarondi.

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You might spot toucans along the way.

During the first part of the ride you explore Carara National Park, one of the last significant portions of primary rain forest in the Central Pacific region and a destination popular amongst wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

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Keep looking skywards and you could see sloths in the canopy above.

The park is a great spot for seeing scarlet macaws, boat-billed herons, fiery-billed aracari and American egrets.

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Scarlet macaws are often spotted in Carara National Park.

Later on in the week you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views as you climb into the coastal mountain ranges. As you ascend you will notice the forest changing in constitution and characteristics; the lower temperatures encourage the growth of ferns, moss and bromeliads.

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There are wonderful views as you approach the coastal mountain ranges.

Your first and last nights are spent at a comfortable hotel in San Jose, but during the ride itself you stay at more authentic accommodation which reflects the style of rural Costa Rica.

You’ll spend two nights at Rio Carara Lodge, nestled in a secluded part of Carara National Park. There are no near neighbours, so you are assured a tranquil atmosphere to make the most of the rainforest.

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Spend two nights at the peaceful Rio Carara Lodge.

For the next three nights you stay at Finca Galán, an ecological farm in the Turrubares Mountains. Here you can relax and unwind in peaceful surroundings. Be woken by birdsong as the first rays of light creep into your room. At night the sounds of the tropical forest will lull you to sleep.

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Experience the delights of rural Costa Rica whilst you stay at Finca Galan.

You could be riding for up to 6 or 7 hours a day and so you’ll need to be riding fit to undertake this challenge.

This is an exploratory ride, so you will be the first intrepid guests to undertake the ride. It is sure to be a wonderful adventure. Numbers are strictly limited, with only 5 places available. The ride will run from Saturday 25th November to Saturday 2nd December 2017.

If you’d like to hear more about this exclusive In The Saddle adventure, or book your place then please contact Abbie or Sarah on +44 1299 272 997 or email rides@inthesaddle.com for more information.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Travel news | Leave a comment

I couldn’t live without…

We chat to sponsored rider Rosie Warner about some of the things she couldn’t be without. From items of kit in the tack room, to some things which are a little closer to her heart.

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Rosie says, “There are a few things I really wouldn’t be without. They might not win competitions on their own, but they do make my day to day life as an event rider that little bit easier!

EQUIAMI
The EquiAmi is a lunge aid which has been designed to work in harmony with the horse. I use it on all my horses and it is really easy to use.

The EquiAmi works in a similar way to the way we ride; nurturing a soft contact and discouraging resistance, in a consistent ‘loop’. My horses are encouraged to use their hind end correctly, lower their heads and lighten their withers.

We often use the EquiAmi in conjunction with raised poles and also during ride and lead roadwork. It is a really effective tool to help strengthen my horses’ core and encourage correct muscle development.

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Romeo working in the EquiAmi

MY BOOTS
Another essential piece of kit are my Ariat boots. I’ve tried numerous brands over the years, but Ariats are great. They are comfortable to wear all day and robust enough to last. The insulated Ariat Bromont boots are great for winter conditions and I keep my Heritage Ellipse tall boots for competitions because they fit perfectly and look really smart.

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These Ariat Ellipse boots are perfect competition-wear

IN THE SADDLE KIT
I love how smart my horses look in their In The Saddle kit. It is great to have the support of In The Saddle and I am looking forward to sporting my ITS gear at lots of upcoming events.

I’d love to go on a trip with In The Saddle one day. I’ve got my eye on one of the African safaris – riding with big game would be a once in a lifetime experience!

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Romeo looking smart in some of our In The Saddle kit

MY SADDLES
I use Fairfax saddles on most of my horses. These saddles are scientifically designed to improve your horse’s performance and my event horses go really well in them. Fairfax is an English company who use a combination of riding expertise, saddle-fitting knowledge and technical design to create these fantastic saddles.

SARACEN HORSE FEEDS
At my yard I use Saracen Horse Feeds. I feed my eventers the Enduro Performance Mix, a high fibre feed with slow release energy, which has been specially designed for performance horses. The Shape-Up Balancer is perfect for the good-doers amongst my liveries and one of the old-timers is blooming on the Veteran Mix.

As well as their range of products, what’s great about Saracen is their advice service. If I’ve got a feeding query and can’t call during office hours, then I’ll use their online advice form. This is a really useful tool for those of us who practically live at the yard!

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My eventers go really well on Saracen’s Enduro mix

A FAMILY AFFAIR
I couldn’t get by without my family. They are a tremendous support and have helped me get to where I am today. They come with me to competitions, help with the horses at home and are always supportive of my ambitions as an event rider. Every success and step along the way is a real team effort.

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A real team effort

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My gorgeous little dog Lola goes with me everywhere & is definitely part of the team. She loves coming out hacking with us and is always keen for a jaunt in the lorry. ”

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Lola when she was little

Thank you to Rosie for this insight into daily life as an event rider. We wish you a swift recovery from your back injury and a successful season going forward.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle | Leave a comment

Spring Training – catching up with our sponsored rider Rosie Warner

In this blog we catch up with In The Saddle sponsored rider Rosie Warner as she prepares for the start of the event season.

Rosie says, “with the event season almost underway I have been busy training to get myself and the horses well prepared for the exciting season ahead of us.

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to get some fantastic training from 4* event rider Ben Hobday and Olympic equestrian Jeanette Brakewell.

In January I headed to Somerford Park in Cheshire for an arena cross country lesson with Ben Hobday. The facilities at Somerford are fabulous, with a huge variety of fences. I chose to take Milo to this lesson as I have never had a cross country lesson on him before. Although Milo is a machine cross country, as we start moving up the levels it is very important that we are well-established as a partnership.

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Rosie on Milo, with Ben Hobday

Milo was absolutely awesome, jumping fences and combinations that you would get at intermediate/2* level. It was amazing how much we developed throughout the lesson. It helped me to realise how important the ‘right canter’ is and also how keeping the same rhythm through the technical combinations without pushing the horse out of rhythm can help the horse get to the fence at the right place and improve the jump technique. I learnt a huge amount and I would definitely recommend a lesson with Ben to my fellow equestrians.

I also took Romeo my 5yo along to have a play over some cross country fences after my lesson with Ben. Romeo has only been cross country once before. He was brilliant and jumped everything like an old pro, so I’m feeling very excited for our first event season together.

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Rosie & Romeo having a go at some of the arena fences

Then, a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to have two one-to-one lessons with Olympic rider Jeanette Brakewell at her yard in Derbyshire. I took Romeo and Milo.

Romeo was up first. We worked on his straightness and getting him sharper off my leg aids. It sounds basic but it plays a big part in a young horse’s education and now is the time to teach Romeo to work properly so we can get the best out of him in the future. It really sharpened Romeo and I up and made me realise that I need to be more disciplined with my horses when schooling at home. We finished off with a bit of grid work and gymnastic jumping which really helped with Romeo’s straightness and technique over a fence. Jeanette seemed to really like Romeo and said we are lucky to have bred such a nice horse!

My session with Milo was next and although he is a very different horse to Romeo, we worked on the same kind of basics with him. I had to work on getting him sharper to my aids and engaging more, which created the most incredible canter. Jeanette then asked if she could have a sit on Milo….what an honour!

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Jeanette shows Rosie some techniques to keep the canter engaged

This was really helpful for me as I was able to watch from the ground and Jeanette was able to give me feedback and help me push the right buttons. She really gave me some great pointers to get the best out of him, especially in his huge canter which I sometimes  struggle to keep engaged. He’s such a clever horse and learns so quickly; once he understands what you are asking of him he will always try his best to give it to you. I have lots of homework to work on at home and I can already feel the difference”.

Thank you Rosie. What an exciting couple of training sessions with some top riders. It is great to have some input into a few new techniques and as we all know, you never stop learning with horses!

STOP PRESS: Some bad news, unfortunately Rosie took at fall at the weekend and has suffered a fracture to one of her vertebrae. We would like to wish you a speedy recovery Rosie. We know with your hard work and determination, you’ll be back in the saddle soon and will be ready to make a big impact of the rest of the event season.

 

 

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A Dream Vacation in Portugal

In this blog, In The Saddle guest Sala Scarcello tells us about her recent visit to Monte Velho in Portugal.

“After years of being notorious for not making the time to take vacations, I finally took the plunge this year to get organized for my first riding holiday. My criteria? I was looking for a trip that was warm (Canadian winters are cruel), centre-based (relaxing), and with advanced dressage riding. I had grown up riding Lusitanos, so based on this and my other criteria, In The Saddle’s Abigail Wood recommended the Monte Velho Equo-Resort in Portugal for my holiday. As luck would have it, they had one opening left, and I quickly snapped up the spot!

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One of the luxurious ‘premium’ rooms at Monte Velho

I landed in Lisbon on a Thursday morning, and thankfully all of my luggage landed too (success!). After quickly rolling through customs, I was greeted by Monte Velho’s driver and we got started on the hour and a half drive to Monte Velho. The Portuguese countryside is absolutely beautiful, and the weather reminded me of California’s climate. Much better than the snow and ice we had been experiencing in February in Canada!

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A warm and sunny day in Portugal – a welcome relief after a cold Canadian winter

The drive went quickly, and I was met by Rita, the lovely office manager, who quickly checked me in, gave me a tour, and guided me to the dining room for lunch. The dining room at Monte Velho is stunning, and overlooks the dressage arena down below. No better way to start off a vacation than by sitting in the sun, enjoying great food, chatting with other international guests, and watching some riding!

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Watching the lessons of fellow guests can be a great learning exercise

For my trip, I had organized two dressage rides a day, scheduled to start the day after my arrival. So, I took the first afternoon to relax and explore. First stop? Checking out the stables of course. I made my way down to the stables, and was greeted by João, one of Monte Velho’s resident trainers and instructors. He gave me an enthusiastic and energetic barn tour, showing me the lay of the land and telling me the history and personalities of the horses. He also welcomed me to watch the lessons that were running that afternoon. Within just a few minutes of watching the lessons, I knew that I had picked the right vacation spot. The quality of teaching from João and Coralie (Monte Velho’s other trainer) was absolutely correct from a dressage perspective; focused on forward, supple, engaged and straight riding, instilling confidence in the horse and rider, and a good balance of insisting on the basics and allowing guests to ‘play’ with the upper level movements. I was in for a fun trip!

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Once the basics are mastered, guests can try some upper level movements

My days at Monte Velho fell into a perfect and relaxing pattern: breakfast at 8, lunch at 1, and dinner at 7. My two rides were generally both in the morning, or sometimes one ride in the morning and one ride in the afternoon. Either way, I had ample time to watch other lessons and training sessions for the Monte Velho competition horses. As a visual learner, this was a great way to enhance the overall educational aspect of the trip. Getting to live this schedule for a week against the beautiful backdrop of the Monte Velho resort was just perfect!

Over my 7 days of riding, I had lessons on 5 different horses with 3 different instructors (Joao, Coralie, and Coralie’s sister Cendrine).  I rode a good variety of younger horses where we focused on the basics, and older horses where I was allowed to practice advanced dressage movements. In my first ride alone, I rode through piaffe, passage, half passes, and flying changes.

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A number of the horses are established at piaffe, passage and flying changes

The horses were well schooled and honest – if you rode well, they were happy to do their jobs! My favourite horse was a younger stallion named Felix, who I was able to ride almost everyday during my trip. Felix was a newer addition to the Monte Velho stables, and just my kind of ride. Sensitive, forward to the aids, a good personality, and a fantastic modern mover. The running joke of the week was that I was going to pack him up in my suitcase and take him home!

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Sala finishing a session on her favourite stallion Felix

It is worth mentioning that in addition to great horses and teaching, that the Monte Velho property is huge, and equipped with great trails for running. After riding everyday, I would take a run around the property. Those runs were an adventure all on their own. I was greeted by horses, cows, goats, dogs, cats, and peacocks on various days. I joked that it was my own version of a safari!

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In between lessons, you are free to explore the estate on foot, by bike or on horseback

Another trip highlight was getting to meet all of the international guests at Monte Velho. As the only North American there for the week, I had a great time getting to meet fellow riders from England, France, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland. We would share meals in the communal dining room, and were all great friends by the end of the week. As the icing on the cake, Abbie from In the Saddle arrived at the resort on my second to last day, so I was able to meet her (and say thank you!) in person.

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Meeting like-minded fellow guests was a real highlight

Overall, I was thrilled with my trip to Monte Velho. The resort had all the ingredients for an amazing vacation: fantastic and healthy horses, correct training, beautiful accommodations, friendly staff, and great food and wine. The weather even held up for the entire week! I am already searching for some time on my calendar to return – I can easily say that I’ve found my dream vacation spot!”

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“I’ve found my dream vacation spot!”

 

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Many thanks Sala for your fantastic blog, which we have really enjoyed reading here in the office. We’re so pleased your stay at Monte Velho went well and we look forward to arranging a return visit for you before too long.

 

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Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush

There’s nothing worse that embarking on a riding holiday only to find you’ve forgotten to pack an essential piece of kit. In this feature we ask the In The Saddle team to share some of their top packing tips.

Chris won’t leave home without packing a pair of boot laces. They have a myriad of uses, but are especially useful on expeditions like our Gobi Steppe Ride in Mongolia. You can use them to tie your jacket to the saddle, they are good for creating a loop on your camera so you don’t drop it and they can be used to secure bandages in the event of an accident. You can even play cat’s cradle with them around the fire in the evening!

Olwen says her must have items include a lightweight hard hat such as a Troxel and her hat bag, which also doubles as hand luggage. She also always packs a bum-bag to keep essential items like sunscreen and a camera readily to hand. Re-hydration sachets are always on the packing list too, especially when visiting somewhere warm and sunny.

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Lightweight hats like Troxels are perfect for riding holidays

Lucy always packs wet wipes, which are ideal for washing the dust away after a long day in the saddle when you are in the middle of nowhere. Make sure you ask your guide how best to dispose of them; it might be on the fire if you’re on a camping trip.

Hannah’s top packing tip is to take a portable charger if you’re going on a safari like the Tuli Trail or heading somewhere off the beaten track. This means if you’re careful, you can keep your phone or camera charged for the duration of your trip. Resist the temptation to look through your pictures in the evening so that you maximise the juice left in your device.

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Take a portable charger for your phone or camera

Sarah always takes a tube of lip balm with her. It is worth its weight in gold, whether you are going to warmer climes or might encounter cold and windy weather. Make sure it has SPF in it!

Becky’s favourite piece of kit is her handy buff, which helps keeps the dust off your face. If you’re going to a hot climate, they can be dipped in cold water which helps keep you cool as you ride. A fleece buff, such as those made by Musto are perfect if you are travelling to colder places.

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A cotton buff is great for dry, dusty conditions

 

Abbie says comfortable breeches are vital. Make sure you pack some appropriate to the weather you’re likely to encounter. A pair of thermal soft-shell breeches are ideal for somewhere like Torres del Paine in Chile. They’ll keep you toasty warm and dry throughout the day. If you’re riding across the Namib Desert or going to be doing lots of hours in the saddle in warm temperatures, a pair of riding tights are well worth investing in. We love the ‘Balance Riding Tights‘ by Noble Outfitters and the ‘Kerrits Flow Rise Performance Riding Tights‘ by Irideon.

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A pair of riding tights are worth investing in

Claire says a lightweight travel shirt is a must-have for warmer weather. If you’re going somewhere tropical then the long-sleeved version is good because you can roll the sleeves up when it is warm, but you can also cover up your arms when the sun is at its strongest or if you encounter any biting insects. The shirt’s lightweight design means you can rinse them out, hang them up and they’ll be dry by the morning. Make sure you go for muted colours like green, brown or beige if you are going on safari. We love these ‘Craghoppers NosiLife‘ shirts from Cotswold Outdoor.

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Lightweight travel shirts are great to ride in

Imogen never leaves for a trip without her trusty Telluride boots by Ariat. She says they are super comfy for long days in the saddle, last well and sturdy enough to double up as walking boots. You might need to go up a size with your half chaps to fit over these boots as they are quite chunky, but they are ideal for many different types of riding holiday from safaris to expeditions.

Ariat also offer range of styles which are perfect for instructional holidays. For example, their Heritage Contour tall boots or Devon Pro paddock boots teamed with a pair of Chorus chaps are ideal for dressage holidays in Portugal.

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We love these dual-purpose boots by Ariat

When we send out your booking confirmation pack, there is a detailed packing list towards the end of your personalised itinerary. This has been added to and evolved over many years and should have everything you might need on that particular trip.

We hope you’ve found our essential items useful. If you’ve got any ‘must-have’ packing tips then we’d love to hear your ideas.

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