Monthly Archives: July 2018

Chris’s Lesotho Exploratory Expedition

In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle’s Chris Day tells us about her experiences on the exploratory expedition to Lesotho.

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In May 2018 I had the honour to ride with an intrepid group of guests on our exploratory expedition to Lesotho. It has taken me a while to come down from the great heights we reached, both physically and mentally, and gather my thoughts about everything we saw and did.

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Chris and her trusty Besotho pony, Skevango

I reached the decision that words are insufficient to describe our experiences, so here are a few pictures that I hope capture some of the wonderful moments we shared.

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Heading up to Thamatu Pass

Having met our trusty Besotho ponies and, passports in hand, crossed the border at Bushman’s Nek into Lesotho, within moments the mountains rose to greet us and we started to climb. The views beckoned us on, and our trail led ever upwards to Thamatu Pass.

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A cold and ice morning

The weather in the mountains is always unpredictable. After riding through driving sleet on the first day, we awoke to a cold, frosty morning with snow on the mountains surrounding us.

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As the sun rose over Thamatu Lodge

But the sun started to shine through with the promise of a golden day ahead. We were pleased to head out with the sun on our backs and a trail that kept us well below the snow line!

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Local herdsmen and their cattle

We tried not to disturb the herds we passed, but were always greeted warmly, if a little shyly, by the villagers and herders tending them. We met many shepherds and their dogs high in the mountains; it’s a lonely life.

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Some leading on foot downhill and over rocky terrain is required

The trails led us from the mountains where the eagles soared above us, through narrow valleys and onto open grasslands where we could try out our horses’ paces. There were times, many times in fact, when we had to lead our horses over steep or rocky terrain. Thankfully, this was usually downhill!

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What a view at 3,000m!

The highest point of the trail was riding from Thamatu village over a pass at 3,000m. It seemed like the whole of Lesotho lay before us. My horse, Skevango, seemed to like the view!

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The Three Bushmen

As the clouds swirled around the ‘Three Bushmen’ I think we all had a reflective moment that will stay with us for a very long time. We traversed the mountains before dropping down into Monument Valley, with impressive formations in the weathered sandstone rocks.

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Skevango, a fine example of a Besotho pony

“I will not change my horse with any that treads but upon four pasterns …..” Henry V may have first spoken these words in Shakespeare’s play, but I think they were also written for this very moment. The Besotho ponies we rode ranged in height from 13.2hh to 15hh, and I have never ridden such sure-footed horses anywhere. They had wonderfully calm and happy temperaments, knew exactly where to place their feet on the stony ground we covered, and loved to canter when we got the opportunity. If I could have made space in my suitcase for Skevango ……..

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Looking back from Thule Pass

Blue, blue skies as we road up to Thule Pass at 2,900m.

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Incredible mountain views

Sometimes, these mountains can make you feel very small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things …….

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An amazing journey on horseback

Is it really fair that the last views of the trail are so beautiful? At least it keeps you looking forwards to what will come, and not over your shoulder at what has been. One thing is for sure, Lesotho simply begs for a return visit.

For more information on the Lesotho Expedition or to book your place please call Chris on +44 1299 272 237 or email chris@inthesaddle.com or visit our website.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | 3 Comments

Caves, Waterfalls and Castles of Bulgaria

In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle’s Lucy Downes tells us about her week in Bulgaria in June 2018.

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On our website, the first sentence describing this destination is: “The land in Bulgaria is perfect for riding because there are almost no fences or gates.”

I must admit that I wasn’t convinced. Can you really ride for 6 days and not pass through a gate or ride around a fence? And the answer is a resounding yes. Once we had left the horses’ stables to follow the ‘Caves, Waterfalls and Castles of Bulgaria’ itinerary we really didn’t see any fences all week!

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The open landscape is perfect for riding

Having arrived the day before, at breakfast the whole group chatted over toast and jam, excited about meeting the horses we would be riding over the next week. As if she’d read our minds, our guide Maria arrived and transferred us the short distance to their stables.

Our boys were already tacked up and patiently waiting. The horses ridden by guests are nearly all geldings, with a couple of stallions such as my steed – a little dapple-grey stallion named Hector.

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My stallion ‘Hector’

There is a range of Shagya Arabs, pure Arabians and cross breeds of Shagya and East Bulgarian horses, all ridden in a variety of saddles and bridles. Hector had a very comfortable Podium saddle with a sheepskin cover, perfect for the long 3-7 hours we would be riding.

Some of the horses were in Western saddles, with other in full endurance tack.

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An example of the endurance tack modeled by a gorgeous pure bred Arabian

Straight out of the stables we were riding in beautiful open countryside, with the Balkan Mountains in view. Throughout the week we had the perfect mix of pace and terrain, with long canters through fields and across hillsides. Each day we were treated to views that would go on and on…

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Beautiful views through our guide’s horse’s ears

The horses aren’t the only highlight of our rides in Bulgaria – this is a country full of fascinating history and culture, which your hosts will be eager to tell you all about.

Our first visit, with our guide Rumi, was to the 19th restored village of Gabrovo. Here we saw old-fashioned machines all powered by water set in a beautiful location near the mountains.

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An old style washing machine in Gabrovo

As the name of the ride implies, we also visited some spectacular caves and waterfalls – my personal favourite being Devetaki Cave. When you drive up to the location of the cave, you can only see forests. But as you start walking closer, the mouth of the cave appears and you can see why this natural bunker was used in the war to hide huge fuel tanks. Now that the tanks have been removed, it has returned to its former beauty with a number of species of bats calling it their home.

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The very impressive Devetaki Cave

Another tour not to be missed whilst the horses have a day off is to Krushuna’s Waterfall,  located near Devetaki Cave.

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Krushuna’s waterfall emerging from behind the trees

Rumi’s knowledge about all of these different destinations is extensive and the castle at Veliko Tarnovo has a long and impressive history. It was interesting to learn about the different battles, betrayals and romances surrounding this hill fortress alone!

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Looking down at the wall’s of Veliko Tarnovo castle from a guard tower

All four of our 7 night itineraries combine riding and sight-seeing, allowing you to make the most of your time in Bulgaria. The Caves, Waterfalls and Castles of Bulgaria (which I joined) and the Medieval Bulgaria are based on the north side of the Balkans, whereas the Kingdom of Thracians is in the south – perfect for a return visit to ride your favourite horse.

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Riding across farmland with the Balkans in front of us

The Balkan National Park Trail and our 8 night Old Bulgarian Capitals itineraries are great for more adventurous travelers seeking long hours in the saddle. These rides include camping nights and travel further into the Balkan Mountains.

For more information on our rides in Bulgaria or to book your place please call Lucy on +44 1299 272 238 or email lucy@inthesaddle.com or visit our website.

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