Monthly Archives: March 2014

In The Saddle unearths the mysteries of Morocco

Morocco is not a country that is synonymous with horseback holidays, however in 2014, thanks to In The Saddle, that is going to change…

After years of searching for the perfect Moroccan equestrian adventure, we have discovered several hidden gems in this spectacular location. Horseback adventures in this part of the world give riders access to amazing riding and sensational scenery whilst providing an insight into the unique culture which has Berber, Arab, African and European influences.

Morocco offers views that will take your breath away

Morocco offers views that will take your breath away

Most commonly known for the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, Morocco has so much more to offer than just being a bargain hunter’s paradise. From the sands of the Sahara where visitors will find date palm oases and Berber communities, to the High Atlas mountains in the middle of the country where riders get the chance to view peaks rising to over 4,000m and ride through woodlands of pine, oak and cedar. The colourful souks and Kasbahs, trips through exotic cities, fabulous aromatic culinary delights and opportunities to see real Moroccan culture first hand makes a horse riding trip to Morocco a feast for all the senses!

With more than four different itineraries to choose from, a riding holiday in Morocco with In The Saddle is varied and offers exciting riding, beautiful sights and a wonderful equestrian experience. Riding Barb Arabian horses, visitors can expect well schooled, well behaved and well cared for equine partners, ridden in good quality English-style tack. Riding in Morocco is challenging, so not for the novice rider, yet it offers a peaceful escape from everyday life.

The Toubkal Trail is exciting and exhilarating

The Toubkal Trail is exciting and exhilarating

The toughest itinerary is the Toubkal Trail, which is a 7-night trail ride in tented accommodation that takes riders on a journey through the High Atlas Mountains and close to Jbel (Mount) Toubkal, which at 4,167m is the highest mountain in North Africa.  This trip is not for the faint hearted but delivers exceptional sights and experiences.

The Desert Trails vary depending on the season

The Desert Trails vary depending on the season

The Desert Trails vary in location depending on the time of year to ensure a comfortable riding temperature for both riders and horses. From mid October the horses are based in the south, near Ouarzazate and there are a number of exciting trails to embark on including riding through the highly scented rose plantations and past the saffron terraces, as well as kicking on for some fast-paced riding in the remote desert. Between May and October guests will have the chance to ride along the Atlantic coastline south of Essouraira – where they will enjoy a cooling coastal breeze and endless riding along beautiful beaches, along with adventures through date palms and Argan forests!

Stay in riads along the way on the Horses, Dunes and Nomads journey

Stay in riads along the way on the Horses, Dunes and Nomads journey

An alternative trip for those not wishing to camp is the Horses, Dunes & Nomads itinerary which gives travellers the opportunity to ride in one of the most beautiful parts of the Moroccan desert whilst staying in comfortable riads and lodges. Alternatively visitors can choose a centre-based holiday at Terres d’Amanar, which is a recently opened Eco-Hotel in the High Atlas Mountains just 30kms from Marrakech, yet, worlds apart from the busy city centre! Ride out from Terres d’Amanar into the mountains whilst also relaxing and enjoying the hotel facilities.

Prices for In The Saddle riding holidays to Morocco start from £465 per person based on a 4-night stay at Terres d’Amanar, not including flights. Contact us if you want to embark on your own Moroccan adventure!

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

Heard on the grapevine: So good you can’t go just once!

How many of you have been on a trip of a lifetime and wished you could go back? In our latest In The Saddle Heard on the Grapevine blog we hear from some of our clients who have been lucky enough to return to a destination that they love! We hope that their confidence in a location inspires you to book the trip you have always wished for…

A stay at Los Alamos is one of our most popular trips, and it is no wonder that people return time and time again. The beaches, the food, the hosts and the horses all make for the most spectacular holiday and Una Curran confirms this, especially having already booked her next trip out. “This was my fourth trip to Los Alamos and again it did not disappoint and exceeded expectations,” she says. “It was my first experience of a winter break at Los Alamos and I was a little concerned that I would be cold and it could be bleak. We were very lucky with the weather, but from the roaring fire in the lounge to the heaters in the rooms and the lovely warming winter food my fears would have been unfounded no matter the weather. Our only regret was that we had booked a short break instead of the full week! It is a fabulous experience and I now feel part of the Los Alamos family and I can’t wait to return my second home – only seven months before my next trip!”

The beach riding at Los Alamos is second to none

The beach riding at Los Alamos is second to none

For Georgina Smith, she returned to Los Alamos for the second time in a year to enjoy the Train and Ride trip and it didn’t disappoint! “Fabulous riding once again,” she says. “I rode five different horses for the riding out, all of whom were very fit, well-mannered, responsive and fast when you wanted them to be but with complete confidence that the brakes worked! I really enjoyed all the riding whether that was walking through the forest or having a blast up the firebreaks, the beach riding was amazing as ever – everyone galloping with big smiles on their faces! All the team at Los Alamos go out of their way to make sure we are matched well to our horses and to ensure we have the best rides possible – even tacking them up in the very early dark morning so we could get to the beach for a good tide.”

“The training part was excellent and I learned a lot. I had asked if I could try flying changes as this is what I am working on at home – and by the last lesson that is what I was doing. Antonio is amazing, his eye for small details when you are riding is second to none and the horse you ride is a perfect schoolmaster – ask correctly and it is lovely. This was the second time I’ve been to Los Alamos in a year and won’t be the last – I can’t imagine having a better holiday!”

The terrain is varied at Los Alamos

The terrain is varied at Los Alamos

Another fan of the Train and Ride trip is Natalie Hudd who is on her second trip! “Rachel, Andrew and Rhiannon are incredibly accommodating to all the guests, and Rachel is unbelievably adept at matching guests to the right horses. The downside of this is that there are at least four horses at Los Alamos whom I would like to take home! This is in addition to two horses at Antonio’s yard where we had our lessons. Once again, I found the lessons to be brilliant at improving several aspects of my riding.”

The balance of training and trail riding provided the perfect way to de-stress for Gilda Kelly. “The three training sessions with Antonio were full on, both mentally and physically taxing,” she admits. “It was a privilege to ride on his incredible and very forgiving stallions who always tried to interpret any poor aids but when you get it right… oh my goodness! Then the rides through the forest were a real antidote, with time to absorb what had been taught and think about how to improve before the next lesson, as well as just enjoying the lovely countryside on happy, well behaved horses.”

“The beach rides were exhilarating, especially when the tide was just right on the last day, there were smiling faces all round. Rachel and the team were terrific and constantly trying to match us with our perfect equine companions. Most of us rode a selection of different horses during the week, which was a treat. This was my second visit to Los Alamos but first Train and Ride week. The majority of our group were on return visits, which shows how well the holidays are run. You are made to feel like part of the Los Alamos family from the time you arrive and encouraged to make yourself right at home. Relaxation starts from the moment you get off the plane in the Spanish sunshine and continues (with the exception of Antonio’s lessons) until you fly back into a rain storm at Heathrow! Start planning your next trip immediately.” Ok Gilda… if you insist!

Exhilarating beach rides at Los Alamos

Exhilarating beach rides at Los Alamos

Africa is said to get under your skin, and it certainly has for Linda Parker who returned to Macatoo in Botswana for her third trip! “Mod has an uncanny ability to match horse and rider but will immediately change if you are not happy,” she says. “All the horses are fit, forward going but with brakes when you need them. I loved the fast morning rides and our group was well matched for the pace we did – sometimes very fast, long canters and gallops and some quiet walks and trots in the afternoons. We got to canter across the plains with zebra, which was absolutely amazing! This was our 3rd trip to Macatoo in 6 years and unbelievably it exceeded our expectations again. All the staff are helpful, kind and good at what they do. Our guide, Sekongo, was outstanding. We now have lots of new memories to store and enjoy in the future. There really are not enough superlatives to describe the Macatoo experience. We have said each time will be our last (lack of money and advancing age) but who knows!”

Macatoo gets under your skin!

Macatoo gets under your skin!

And heading to another area of Botswana, Barbara Tollett is a huge fan of the Tuli Trail at Limpopo. “This is an amazing adventure riding from camp to camp amongst plenty of game on beautifully schooled horses, guided by experts – quite perfect! The horses at Limpopo are beautifully cared for and schooled. Louise has an expert eye for a horse and manages to pair horse and rider very well. My horse Monate was a gentle kind horse with enthusiasm and manners. He was so balanced and uphill to ride it was a joy to be in the saddle for 6 hours a day! We were in tented accommodation, but they are large walk-in tents with comfortable beds and hot bucket showers with lanterns to provide light. It makes you feel part of the bush and not just an onlooker! This was my second time doing the trail, it was brilliant the first time but I think this time it was even better!”

Limpopo has a huge fan base, and Caroline Ramsay just can’t seem to keep away! “This was my third time at Limpopo and it was just as good as the last two. The horses are exceptional and Louise is brilliant at matching riders with their horses. They are incredibly well cared for and obviously enjoyed their work. We saw loads of game and the pace was just right. The food was fantastic – how they cook so well in the bush is beyond me! I cannot really imagine going on any other holiday now! It is so special.”

The Tuli Block is famous for spotting elephants

The Tuli Block is famous for spotting elephants

For Sarah Grant she is hooked on the Argentinian Adventure after a return visit to Los Potreros. “The riding was as much fun this time as the first time I came to Los Potreros. The horses are a pleasure to ride, forward-going, sure-footed and happy in their work. We had plenty of fast, exciting rides as well as doing some cattle work and some polo and even a moonlit ride. Riding over the hills in the late evening light can’t be beaten – it was really beautiful. Los Potreros is the last word in homely comfort. I had such a welcoming, comfortable room and everything is thought of. I arrived in need of a real rest and couldn’t have asked for more relaxing surroundings. I loved seeing the mares and foals outside my window! And coming back from a rainy ride to a blazing wood fire was wonderful. The food and wine was as good as ever – of course I had far too much of both. Los Potreros is a really special place for anyone who loves horses, good food, beautiful scenery and good company. It was my second trip and I loved it as much as the first time. Everyone is very welcoming and life really does feel effortless there. I was so sad to leave!”

Los Potreros is a special equestrian adventure

Los Potreros is a special equestrian adventure

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

Moolmanshoek: The ride must go on

In September 2013 Moolmanshoek, which is situated in the shadow of the Witteberg mountains in South Africa, suffered a terrible bush fire across around 2,400ha of the 3,000ha game reserve. No people were harmed and the team managed to get nearly all the horses to safety but rounding up all the other animals was not easy and sadly 50 of their 500 head of game were killed, including most of their hartebeest, 5 eland, 5 gemsbok and also springbok.

Just a few weeks later the World Horse Welfare were set to carry out one of their Challenge Rides, yet despite the devastation the grit and determination of the management at Moolmanshoek meant the ride could go on. We hear from seasoned equestrian traveller Di Stark as she tells us how Wiesman and his team fought adversity and provided the trip of a lifetime…

The World Horse Welfare Challenge group at Moolmanshoek

The World Horse Welfare Challenge group at Moolmanshoek

Moolmanshoek is not just ‘another riding holiday’ destination, it is home to two award-winning studs, the South Africa Boerperd horses and Arabian Endurance horses. There are over 300 horses at Moolmanshoek and in 2007 and 2008, they bred and trained some of the top ranking FEI horses in the world for endurance and it is highly likely when you embark on a holiday here you will be riding a potential, or retired endurance champion. It genuinely is a horse lover’s paradise!

“In early October we were set to embark on one of the World Horse Welfare Challenge rides to Moolmanshoek,” Di tells us. “However not long before we travelled we received the distressing news that a terrible fire had caused significant damage to the reserve. We were given the option of traveling somewhere else but I don’t think any one of us even contemplated this – we were only too pleased that we could go and support Wiesman and his team in what must have been such a difficult time. The fire damage simply added another element to the challenge.”

The fire damage did not spoil an amazing trip

The fire damage did not spoil an amazing trip

“The Charity Challenge is all about riding to raise money for the World Horse Welfare,” Di goes on to explain. “In The Saddle have organised several of these trips, and I have been lucky enough to embark on many of them. On this trip alone, between us we managed to raise £35,000, of which a small amount goes towards accommodation and flights, but a really good chunk of the money goes to the charity – so they are very important for fundraising. We had a fabulous team on this trip, and we all supported each other – without any whining!

Moolmanshoek is a horse lovers paradise

Moolmanshoek is a horse lovers paradise

“There were many highlights of the trip, particularly when we were really pushed out of our comfort zone on some of the steep descents,” Di says. “There were things that we did at the end of the trip that we never would have felt comfortable doing on the first day! On the last day we went for some amazing long canters through the hills, and climbed some really steep and challenging terrain. At one point our horses had to have all four feet on one tiny bit of ground while they paused to consider their descent – I had complete trust in my ride at all times! They were all such personalities, from an enchanting little Welsh C who was smaller than any other of the horses on the ride but made up for it in determination, to the exciting, beautiful stallions that were sensible and sure-footed having been raised on the land. All were fit and calm so the canters were a pleasure, and their rock climbing abilities were unbelievable! The only problem with my main horse was that he wouldn’t fit in my hand baggage on the way home!”

The steep descents pushed riders out of their comfort zone

The steep descents pushed riders out of their comfort zone

“It was hard to see photos of what the area looked like before the fire, when we went it was just a few weeks after and the whole area was covered in black ash where there should have been trees and grassland,” Di goes on to explain. “However, there was already the first shoots of green coming through and we are all hoping to do the trip again one day to see it in all its natural glory. Despite the fire, we still saw plenty of wildlife, including herds of zebra, eland and brown wildebeest – which were so funny to watch as they frolicked and chased each other!”

The scenery was breathtaking despite the fire damage

The scenery was breathtaking despite the fire damage

“One of the things that was evident throughout the trip was the sense of community, with the local town having a population of just 95,” Di states. “The neighbouring farms had all offered grazing for the young horses and although the farm had been badly damaged by the fire, Wiesman and his family managed to provide magnificent riding both on the areas affected by the fire and on their neighbours’ land. They could not have done more to make our stay comfortable and the riding was everything we could have asked for. I can’t wait for my next adventure!”

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

Heard on the grapevine: Kicking off the season

If you are pondering where to go, which trip to embark on or how best to see some of the world by horseback this year then hopefully comments from our past clients will help make the decision easier! In our latest blog, we hear about trips across the globe, from trekking in Spain to thought-provoking challenges in Romania…

Somewhere that is not often considered as a destination for horseback riding is Romania, however Peter Lewis had a fantastic adventures when he booked the Equus Silvania centre based ride. “I thoroughly enjoyed the riding and rode four different horses over the five days.” He tells us. “All of them were well behaved, responsive and forward going. As someone who hasn’t been riding for long, but keen to improve, I found the mix of paces excellent and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to “let the horses run” – although my legs were feeling it a bit at the end of the week!”

“Transylvania was great riding country, with quite a lot of climbing through forests to beautiful view points and the chance for faster riding on the lower meadows,” Peter explains. “Although the accommodation was not “five star” it was perfectly appropriate for a riding holiday – clean and comfortable with en-suite facilities and the food was filling and tasty. Juliane, Ame, Tilmann, Tabea and Theresa were very friendly and made me feel completely at home .The visit to the bear hide was great (we saw 11 bears) and the site seeing at Sighisoara and Viscri gave a great insight into Romania. I was also able to squeeze an extra half day sight seeing at Brasov.” Sounds perfect for combining riding and some cultural experiences to learn more about this wonderful country!

A trip to Romania is memorable for all the right reasons

A trip to Romania is memorable for all the right reasons

Another destination that is still relatively undiscovered for horse riding is Hungary, and if you like varied riding then take note of what Mrs Winup says… “The countryside was excellent, long sandy lanes perfect for long canters and gallops, beautiful woods and wide open fields and common grounds where you could let the horses go. Accommodation was in a rustic farmhouse – think white washed walls and local knick knacks – simple but clean and perfectly in tune with the local surroundings.” As with any riding holiday fitness can make a difference, as Maria Harvey found out. “The riding in Hungary was fantastic, but you do have to be fit. Expect your muscles to ache, but a great massage will sort them out midweek. I rode 6 different horses and felt completely safe on all of them, although I did have a favourite!”

Hungary is relatively undiscovered

Hungary is relatively undiscovered

Spain is well known for its equestrian culture, exquisite food and great wines, and all of our In The Saddle trips to Spain combine these important elements to create the perfect horse riding holiday. Although well known for it’s fantastic beach riding, Spain has other hidden treasures as Sarah West found out when she took part in the Alpujarra Ride in the Sierra Nevada. “My husband and I had a fantastic holiday,” she says. “The scenery is absolutely stunning and each day brought with it very different views and terrain. The group was a perfect size and lovely mix of ages and riding experiences, giving us plenty of conversation along the mountain tracks, not to mention in the evening over a glass of Tinto de Verano.”

Of course having the right horse always makes a difference and this is something that is carefully thought out. “Dallas has such a good understanding of the personality of each of the horses,” Sarah goes on to say. “She was able to brief us all on our allocated horse before setting off. By the end of the week we all understood the personalities of each other’s and agreed we’d been perfectly matched. The riding challenged us all in different ways with long canters along mountain tracks, steep inclines/declines, narrow mountain paths, and a good number of hours per day in the saddle. We each finished the week having learned something from our horses. If I didn’t have a flight home booked I might have stayed forever! “

If a week is too long however, why not do what Amanda Volkmer did and book onto the Poqueira Sierra Nevada Short Break. “This was the most amazing experience I’ve ever been able to be a part of,” she says. “I would do it again in a heart beat… Dallas and Janette were wonderful people and guides and the stables and horse were beautiful and well maintained.” What more could you want?

The Sierra Nevada offers a wonderful view of Spain

The Sierra Nevada offers a wonderful view of Spain

Going a little further afield, Costa Rica is thought of for beautiful colours, sunshine and a tropical vibe – but also, for Dawn Burdyshaw, as a haven for horse riding! “The entire holiday exceeded all expectations,” she says. “The country is amazing. Our guide, Hector, has unlimited knowledge and explained everything with great understanding and enthusiasm! Anna, our cook, produced the best food, was accommodating, friendly and took very good care of the house and guests. The horse master, Stanley, was the BEST! He was fun, witty and took us on fabulous rides! It was hard and sad to leave!”

Beautiful scenery and wonderful horses in Costa Rica

Beautiful scenery and wonderful horses in Costa Rica

They do say that horse riding is addictive and far more than just a hobby, and for Helena Broad a recent trip to the Azores was, in her words, life changing, and rekindled her passion for equestrianism. “Although I had chosen a learn to ride week (I was returning to riding after an 8 year absence), Christina and Steffy scheduled half day rides for me so I spent less time in the indoor school,” explains Helena. “This was exactly what I needed! Christina and her team spent a great deal of time and thought matching riders with mounts. They took into account what I’d asked for when I filled out my rider profile form, and after seeing me ride, they challenged me a little more each day. It was a privilege to see horses so well cared for and loved, many of them have had an unfortunate start in life and bear the physical scars but have certainly fallen on their hooves living at the Quinta!”

“São Miguel Island has some fabulous scenery, and the ride leaders always checked that the riders were happy,” Helena says. “Steffy happily chatted away about the flora and fauna, and told us about life on the island. I was in a fairly advanced group and we had some fantastic canters and gallops, particularly next to Sete Citidades. The meals were fantastic and always ready on time, and you must take the time to give Vivaldi an apple or pear in the evening. I am so pleased I chose this holiday, I had a fantastic time and it has reignited my passion for horses. I will return to Quinta da Terca.”

The food, hosts, horses and scenery are fantastic in the Azores

The food, hosts, horses and scenery are fantastic in the Azores

For a trip that is as spectacular out of the saddle as it is in the saddle, then Suzanne Segerstrom recommends Castellare di Tonda in Italy. “Riding through the Tuscan landscape is so beautiful, it’s almost surreal,” she explains. “Jess and Matteo made sure that we had an amazing experience both in and out of the saddle – they took great care of us out riding, but on days we were rained out, they were our tour guides to experience other sides of Tuscany. Long views across valleys and long canters across a field or up a road will feed your soul and the food was so good that my trousers don’t fit anymore”.

An Italian adventure to remember at Castellare di Tonda

An Italian adventure to remember at Castellare di Tonda

And last but by no means least, the Balkan Rides in Bulgaria is a ride that was introduced to us in 2013 and has proven to be an insightful adventure, as Eleanor Green explains. “I loved my horse, who was forward going but easy to stop and didn’t pull,” she says. “The horses are mostly Arabs and Shagya Arabs and all seemed capable and happy. They are pretty tough animals and are very used to being tethered at night or during lunch breaks. There is quite a lot of cantering so you do need to be a confident rider and the terrain is a mix of open fields, woods and heath/scrubland. You ride through some pretty dense undergrowth so long sleeves and chaps are a good idea! It is rural Bulgaria so the food is rustic, it’s not haute cuisine and the service is pretty informal (and slow on occasions) but portions are large and as a vegetarian, I had no problems. Bulgarians love cheese and it is in everything so it helps if you like cheese! Each day had some non-riding activities, visiting caves, monastery, preserved villages and craft centres, Veliko Tarnovo and the waterfalls so it is a good holiday if you are interested in the region and want to learn more about the country as well as riding. The countryside appears to have been almost completely depopulated with lots of abandoned and neglected land and villages which was a bit sad to see, but it does need make for good riding! You need to be fairly laid back and accept that rural Eastern Europe is in a time warp in terms of some elements!”

You can ride almost endlessly in Bulgaria

You can ride almost endlessly in Bulgaria

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

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