Author Archives: GGJourneys

Ecuador – “One of the Best”

In this edition of GG Journeys, In The Saddle guest Vivien Gwynne-Howell tells us about her recent adventure in Ecuador. Out of more than 23 riding holidays, Vivien rates our Colonial Haciendas ride as one of the best she’s done – high praise indeed for this wonderful country!

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Vivien says, “I decided to book a riding holiday (Colonial Haciendas ride) in Ecuador which was a country I initially knew little about. However, having returned from there, I think it was one of the best riding holidays I have ever been on. The two areas I visited are so beautiful (the northern and the central highlands) and the riding holiday itself was fab. The first few days were spent in the pastoral mountains and valleys of the northern highlands, riding along country tracks and across steep slopes used for a multitude of farming crops. We saw a condor soaring on the first day’s riding! Any rough patch of land between the fields was usually occupied by a cow, a pig or a horse, all looking really healthy and in good condition, calmly watching us passing by on horseback. The Ecuadorians working in the fields were friendly and looked amazing wearing their brightly coloured clothes, complete with trilbies, going about their day-to-day work.

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In the Northern Highlands you get a taste of what rural Ecuadorian life is like

The second part of the holiday was spent in Cotopaxi National park in the central highlands, riding around the volcanic terrain. This was my favourite region for riding. The scenery was absolutely stunning, surrounded by four volcanoes, rock faces, rivers, waterfalls, open plains, snow-capped Cotopaxi etc..etc..

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Cotopaxi National Park, where this conical peak dominates the skyline

As a Geography geek, I was in my element, immersed in a region marked by glacial and volcanic evidence, each of the four volcanoes seeming to generate its own weather system. Despite this, we had great weather and never got wet apart from a few drops of rain at the end of Day 5.

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Riding up into the paramo (high Andes)

There were also several herds of wild horses on the plains that were curious about us and would inspect us from a distance – there was one magical moment where we were able to canter along beside them which was absolutely beautiful and I will never forget the experience.

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Curious wild horses in Cotopaxi National Park

Before I left home, I was initially a bit apprehensive about the high altitude and whether I would struggle with it. However I need not have worried. Sally, my guide, managed the ride very professionally. It was planned with slowly increasing altitude, giving enough time to acclimatise and with regular reminders to keep sipping water and having small meals and regular snacks (so as not to overload the digestive system with big meals). It worked, and I was not affected at all apart from occasional mild breathlessness at the highest points.

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This ride is high in parts, but designed so that you can acclimatise to the altitude gradually

The horses we rode were superb. All very healthy and happy, well-schooled and much loved. I rode a selection that were all responsive and behaved beautifully. Difficult to choose but my favourite was Capuli who gave me some wonderful smooth canters across the Cotopaxi plains (I could have spent weeks there). The saddles were incredibly comfortable, covered in sheepskins and I had no aches at all to contend with.

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The handsome and smooth-gaited Capuli

The food was delicious and so full of flavour, a testament to the fertile volcanic soil that the crops grew in. It was a relatively simple fare but tasted amazing (especially the tomatoes and avocados).

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Locro de papa soup – delicious

Outside of riding, we had a trip to Otavalo market and also visited some traditional weavers that created some beautiful scarves, blankets etc using a completely manual method. Absolutely fascinating, and I came away with a brightly coloured scarf (they have a small shop where you can buy their creations).

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During the ride we visited a weaver’s workshop

The haciendas we stayed in were wonderful. Most were very traditional with lots of history, my favourite of these being La Merced in the Zuleta valley which is a working dairy farm, plus the owners breed Andalucians and their herd and stallions were lovely to watch (such a beautiful breed).

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The very lovely La Merced, home to gorgeous Andalucian horses

The hacienda I stayed at in Cotopaxi (Los Mortinos) was modern but built very tastefully and in a fab location with stunning views of Cotopaxi (my second favourite hacienda!).

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Los Mortinos, with Cotopaxi behind

Sally is a great guide. With immense knowledge of Ecuador and its history, I learnt so much from her. Sally’s horses are a real credit to her and the ride itself was organised very well. I also enjoyed the company of the two volunteers Marie and Josh who were very nice to ride with.

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Guide Sally, aboard her horse Annemeike (photo credit: Tony Marshall)

All in all, it was a great holiday. Ecuador was absolutely beautiful and amazing to see from the back of a horse. I would massively recommend it as a place to ride.

Thanks very much to In The Saddle for organising the holiday….now have to start thinking where to go next!

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Many thanks to Vivien for this super insight into riding in Ecuador. We are so glad you enjoyed your trip. If you’d like to find out more about our Colonial Haciendas, Andean Adventure and Volcanoes & Vistas rides please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

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

Wondrous Wait a Little

Africa does tend to seep into your veins, and often once you have visited this astonishing continent for the first time, it is almost like a poison in which you feel the need to go again and again – you just need to get yet another fix of her formidable sights, sounds and experiences.

Wait a Little in South Africa certainly lived up to my expectations and provided me with my African drug, whereby horses, game and laughter were overdosed on throughout the week.

In the space of 7 nights I ticked off each and every member of Africa’s Big 5, plus countless other game and bird species – and trust me when I say that there’s not many places where you can do that easily within one week, especially whilst on horseback.

My first encounter was with the lions, and whilst riding one evening past a dam we stood to watch the crocodiles and hippos in residence. “Oh hello there” announced Philip our guide for the week. We (the guests) were so busy chattering about the ducks upon the dam and musing as to how come the crocs weren’t eating them, that we had failed to notice initially just to whom Philip was referring to. As a collective we all looked into the direction of his comment to see four lionesses watching us watching them!

“Let’s take a closer look!” said Philip and off we went, all grouped tightly behind him. We slowly made our way towards these ladies. It was such an intoxicating feeling, I was scared, nervous but also daring, the result of Philips professionalism and experience with guiding over decades. Our bravery was rewarded with 30 minutes of my life alongside these formidable felines, and if I’m honest I not sure who was the more intrigued or who was studying whom.

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After a while these ladies decided to look at us from a slightly different angle, and so we shifted our positions too and were afforded a new view. I still can’t believe how close I was to them! But my picture tells a thousand tales…

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We bid farewell and rode home before the sun dropped out of the sky – taking on the African sunset en route with a victory gin and tonic (well it had to be done surely).

My second days adventures didn’t disappoint, and within 100 metres of camp we discovered lion tracks. Did these ladies come looking for us overnight? There’s a saying about curiosity and a cat isn’t there?

But it didn’t stop there as today we met with our second of Africa’s Big 5, the elephants.

This was a mixed herd of bulls and cows, and it was hysterical to watch one of the ladies tell us in ‘ellie talk’ to “go away please”. She did this through the universal language of throwing a stick at us! I do not lie, she literally picked up a stick and threw it at us. There was no misinterpreting her meaning, and you could feel her frustration when the horses stood like rocks, ignored the sticks and didn’t move away. She then became curious as to why her bullying hadn’t worked and gradually crept closer and closer, with her trunk extended tentatively trying to touch the horses – but not quite daring herself to do it.

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During this week you stay at Wait a Little camp for the first three nights, then at Beacon rock where you sleep beside the horses under the stars, followed by two nights at the stunning Xidulu Lodge on the Makalali reserve before returning the the homely Wait a Little Camp for your last night.

It is a wonderful blend of experiences, and after spending the night around a camp fire, sleeping next to your trusty steed and reliving a night in the life of a missionary, it is a real treat to rock up the next day to Xidulu Lodge in the neighbouring Makalai reserve. This lodge is simply stunning and overlooks a dam complete with hippos and crocodiles. In fact within 10 minutes of being there we watched Mr Crocodile take his luncheon upon a poor unsuspecting bird at the waters edge.

Having indulged in my own lunch shortly afterwards, and then taken my afternoon ‘nap’ I woke to the astonishing sight of a leopard sitting on the edge of the dam just some 50 metres away. As we were about to take afternoon tea, followed by a game drive, I hotfooted it to our guide Patson, and excitedly told him of my sighting. Off we went in search of her, and luckily just some 10 minutes later we found her (or rather Patson did) with her fresh kill.

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We were so close to this our third of Africa’s Big 5, and she wasn’t bothered by us in the slightest. After filling her belly, we watched her jump up into the tree right beside us and stash the remainder of her kill in the branches. There’s something very primative at seeing half an eaten antelope hanging from the branches, and apparently this lady had a litter of cubs to feed, so we assumed that this hoard of fresh meat was for them.

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The next day we came across a first for me, the endangered black rhino on horseback.

We had seen two of them upon arrival at Makalali, but we had spooked them and they were running so fast through the bush at great speed, trampling everything in their path that I hadn’t time to get my camera out, in fact gripping my reins in terror was more the truth (just incase they changed direction and ran that fast at us)!

However today was my incredibly lucky day and I was so privileged to get so close to this staggering animal – Big 5 number four spotted. We all gazed in complete silence and with absolute respect at his colossal presence, and it is with a heavy heart that we have to accept that man is capable of such monstrous widespread acts against this giant creature. Thank the Lord for the guides, rangers and protectors of this animal, the work they do is priceless and above a figure of value. Their never-ending war and efforts against the poachers, and more importantly against the instigators of these violent crimes, is invaluable and they will win of that I am sure.

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But my experiences go on and on….

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This Majestic fellow above and below was met upon our last sundowner ride of the week!

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And this herd of buffalo were met upon our last morning (completing the Big 5 tick list).

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Our final canter provided us with the everlasting memory of a giraffe cantering alongside with us….

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A final word has to be given to the praise of the Wait a Little horses. Such a well schooled, perfectly behaved, brave selection is to be found at their stables. There is an equine partner to match everybody, tall and short, fast and steady, grey, black or dun. But what they all have in common is that they are all really cool during the game sightings and stand like rocks, brave and fearless. My hero of the week was a chap called Monarch (2nd in from the right), whose nickname of “Bush Ferrari” was incredibly apt. He was an adorable and competitive character that wanted to get everywhere first, and carried me steadfastly all the way, that I didn’t have to worry at any moment in time about what we would happen to come across! I adored him and that is the truth (but please don’t repeat that to my mare at home).

I’ve been rambling on so much about the game, that I haven’t even mentioned what fun riding we enjoyed. We bush-wacked around acacia trees and through Wait a Little bushes, we galloped along sandy tracks and across even terrain, we blasted down the currently dry river beds… and not one horse put a hoof-oiled toe out of place! They are an absolute delight to ride, and at sundowners in the evening you can practically see your reflection in their gleaming coats. They are the wondrously wonderful!

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Visiting Wait a Little is like home from home, everyone is so friendly, such fun to be around and my only criticism is that you will gain a few more laughter lines across your face during the course of your week.

So you would think that for the time being my hankering need for the drug of Africa has been abated, but actually thanks to this wonderful trip, it has put a greater fire in my belly which is yearning to return…. signed off for the time being (Sarah – In The Saddle.com)

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, Riding safaris, riding south africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

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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 2 places remaining. The ride will run from Saturday 25th November to Saturday 2nd December 2017.

If you’d like to hear more about this exciting In The Saddle adventure, or book your place then please contact Sarah on +44 1299 272 997 or email Sarah@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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