Riding Holidays

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

An unforgettable safari

Earlier this month In The Saddle guest David Faen headed out on a long-awaited visit to Kujwana in Botswana. David has written this super ‘blog’ of his safari which he describes as “unforgettable”.

“I booked this holiday 22 weeks before my departure date – I know that because I put a weekly count-down note in my electronic diary, and for quite a while it seemed like it was a long way off, then all of a sudden, it was about to happen. I was very excited!

Whist this was my 5th riding holiday with In The Saddle, I was hoping that it would be something really special, not only because I had never been to Africa, but the thought of seeing, and riding alongside big game was just so incomprehensible.

I arrived at Johannesburg from Sydney and had a night in an airport hotel, and the next morning took the short flight to Maun, Botswana where I was met by a representative of Okavango Horse Safaris. She assisted me with the formalities, and before too long I was up in the helicopter for the 25 minute flight to Kujwana camp. I hadn’t been in a chopper before, so that in itself was exciting, but then seeing the landscape change from burnt scrub, near Maun, to lush green as we flew over the delta was quite an experience.

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Pic: Flying into camp by helicopter – the only way to travel!

On landing at the camp I was greeted by camp manager Duncan & Katie, and some of the staff. I was given an iced tea, and we walked to main dining tent, where I met some of the other guests, who had arrived earlier.

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Pic: Camp manager Duncan & Katie

I then received a safety briefing, was shown to my tent, and was told to return to the dining tent at 4.00, dressed to ride, as we would have afternoon tea and then go on a short 1 hour ride to acclimatise. I think that this was also for Duncan and Katie to assess our riding, to ensure that they would match us with suitable horses for the rest of the stay.

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Pic: Heading out on a ride with Rogers as lead guide

Two items that I vividly remember from the safety briefing were:

  1. Don’t leave any items like shoes, gloves, towels etc . out on my deck, as they would be stolen by the monkeys, and
  2. When walking from my tent to the dining tent, if I came across an elephant on the path, turn around and go back. Someone will soon work out there is a problem, and will come and get me.
Pic: David's tent at Kujwana camp

Pic: David’s tent at Kujwana camp

It made me realise very quickly that the animals I had only previously seen in books and on film, were now very real , and very close.

Pic: Elephant in camp

Pic: Elephant in camp

We were told that on the short, 1 hour ride, we probably wouldn’t see much game. WELL, we only saw elephant, giraffe, baboon, impala, red lechwe, kudu, waterhog and an eagle – not a bad start!

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

After dismounting and getting our drinks, Duncan indicated for us to stop speaking, as a young elephant had come right up to the camp, and was feeding only 3 or 4 metres away from us.

During that first night I heard hippos in the water directly in front of my tent. I couldn’t see them, as it was dark, but I could certainly hear them.

Pic: Hippo in the water

With a few exceptions, we then fell into a comfortable daily routine. At 6.00am the staff would come to our tents with a thermos of boiling water and some milk, so that we could enjoy a tea or coffee.

We would then assemble in our riding clothes for breakfast at 6.30, after which we would be introduced to our horse for the day, and then head out around 7.00. We would normally return around 11.30/12.00 and lunch would be at 12.30. The next activity would then be afternoon tea at 4.00, after which we then did a variety of things – sometimes going for a short ride, sometimes going in the safari vehicle searching for game, sometimes going in the boat and then doing a walk.

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

If we wanted to do something that wasn’t on the itinerary, it was never a problem – like the time 3 of us wanted to try out the mokoros (traditional dug-out canoes). That afternoon we had our chance, and whilst we found going in a straight line relatively easy, turning them around was a different matter!

Safety was always paramount. On every ride, car trip, boat trip or walk, we were always accompanied by two guides, and we were given briefings specifically relating to the area that we were in.

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

Pic: Your guide / back-up will carry a rifle and bear-banger

The knowledge of the Botswana guides was totally amazing.  On horseback my guide was always Rogers (obviously his English name, but as everyone referred to him as that, I don’t know his African name). In the safari vehicle or boat, it was Percy.  They knew everything there was to know about footprints, dung, breeding habits, age of animals etc, and could spot game kilometres away, when all we could see was trees and termite mounds, although we did become more skillful as the week progressed. They were both passionate about the birds in the delta, and when asked, said that they could identify all of the 500 species in the area.

Pic: Guides extraordinaire Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

Pic: Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

On day 4, we were told to pack a backpack, as we would be changing camp for 2 nights. Apart from a siesta on camp beds after a picnic lunch it was a full days ride, culminating in a short bareback section to arrive at the campsite. Some of my group had not ridden bareback before, but we were all in our swimmers, it was only at the walk, and everyone enjoyed it immensely.

The second camp was called Moklowane, and it felt more remote than Kujwana, however, our facilities were just the same as the main camp.

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Over the whole week, the riding didn’t change a lot. It was not like rides in Europe, where you have a destination. We would head out, in a different direction each morning, looking for game. Whenever we spotted some, Rogers would always steer us around, so that we approached from downwind, and then we would get as close as we could, with safety always in mind. We would be walking, trotting or cantering, with the canter through the shallow water always being so much fun. As there were no major landmarks on the horizon, I asked Rogers if he ever got lost, and he replied in the negative, saying that he had an inbuilt GPS in his head!

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

I found all the food very good, well balanced and healthy, particularly the ‘baboon curry’, which turned out to be lamb, but which gave the staff the opportunity to play a trick on us.

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

My last night there also happened to be Duncan’s birthday, so after dinner 5 of the Botswana female staff came out to the dinning tent and sang a couple of songs for him. The simplicity of the song, and their natural harmony just gave me goose bumps.

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

I loved everything about this holiday – Africa to start with, then the accommodation, the staff, the horses and horsemanship, the food, the fact that there are not too many guests (in my case – 5), the knowledge of the guides and the planning that has gone into making every guest’s stay so memorable. I found it to be a once in a lifetime experience, and I urge anyone thinking about it to do it – there is no point ending this life with an unfulfilled  bucket list.”

A huge thank you David for writing this wonderful blog which has brought back fabulous memories of our visits to Kujwana.

Please contact abigail@inthesaddle.com if you’d like to add a safari at Kujwana to your bucket list.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ride reviews, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, riding kujwana, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sapey Success for In The Saddle Sponsored Rider

In this blog post, In The Saddle sponsored rider Rosie Warner tells us about her progress over the last few weeks.

Rosie has had a busy time, despite her top horse ‘Cult Legend’ being under the weather and on light duties.

On 16 August, Rosie and ‘Ars Big Time’ (aka Milo) headed to Shrewsbury Flower Show. A pole down in the first round was followed by a superb clear in the second round. Despite only being a 5 year old, Milo coped incredibly well with the big atmosphere and didn’t seem to mind a change of career being a show jumper for the day!

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Rosie and Milo at Shrewsbury Flower Show

A week or so later Rosie and Milo set off again, this time for the BE90 at Solihull.

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Milo looking smart in his In The Saddle kit

A solid dressage test was followed by an unlucky pole in the show jumping, but they then stormed round the cross country clear to finish 10th overall.

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Milo flying at Solihull BE90

Next it was the turn of home-bred ‘Finest Star’ to have an outing, as he went XC schooling for the first time.

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Finest Star (Romeo) during his first ever attempt at XC

Romeo flew over all the BE80 fences at Berriewood in fine style and had great fun in the water jump. Exciting times ahead for this beautiful boy.

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Having a splash in the water

After an inspirational visit to Burghley Horse Trials at the weekend, it was time to test Milo with the BE100 at Sapey.Following a lovely dressage test, Rosie and Milo followed through with a foot perfect double clear to finish 2nd. What a great result!

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On their way to claiming second place at Sapey BE100 – sporting their ITS saddle cloth

Well done Rosie…we’re very proud of you.

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

Blogging from Big Sky Country

Becky from In The Saddle is currently on an exciting adventure in Montana. In this blog we hear about her first few days, spent at Rocking Z.

Becky says, “After the long flights out to Montana the last thing I felt like doing was driving anywhere. However as soon as we drove outside of the Helena city limits it was totally worth it; it was just like stepping into another time. The beautiful countryside seemed to roll on forever with dramatic mountains creating the backdrop to our journey.

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Rocking Z – a perfect choice for aspiring and experienced Western riders alike

My first full day at Rocking Z was brilliant. Since I had never ridden in a Western saddle before I was nervous that I wouldn’t take to it or that I would just be terrible! However, I found the saddles really comfortable and the horses were just so responsive. We trailered up to a neighbour’s ranch and rode up into the mountains for a full day ride.

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Making dreams come true – moving cattle in Montana

I didn’t think the riding could get much better after the first day but then it was announced that we had to move cattle from pasture to pasture. Now this is genuinely my biggest dream come true, ever since I was little and used to round up my Grandad’s sheep!

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It may have been a long day in the saddle, but what an experience!

The riding was a little slower as we were crossing such varied terrain, but it was an experience that I will never forget. Even though I ride 5 times a week at home, I must admit that my legs were starting to feel the saddle a bit by the end of the day!

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How could you ever get tired of this incredible view?

When people said that Montana was ‘big sky’ country, I understood that they meant it was really open and beautiful, but I never truly understood it until I arrived. Once you ride up into the mountains you can look for miles in any direction and all you see is rolling green and sky. It is absolutely breath-taking”.

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A very happy Becky!

 

Thanks Becky – we’re looking forward to hearing more about your adventures over the next few days.

If you’ve been inspired by Becky’s blog and are looking for a last-minute getaway, then there is still some space at Rocking Z in late June. You can contact us on 01299 272 997 to book your place.

 

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

Adventures in Ecuador

In this feature, Vincent Obbard tells us about his recent trip to Ecuador to take part in the Andean Adventure ride.

“We had a GREAT holiday.

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Our adventure started in the Antisana foothills, relatively gentle these hills are good grassland for cattle and afford super views of the Andes beyond. My mount was small but full of energy. Our accommodation that first night was a characterful hotel perched on the side of a hill. The hospitality was warm and the food was wonderful.

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Joining us on the ride were 4 Finnish guests, a Dutch lady and two other Brits. We were all experienced riders and so had a great time together.

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For the next portion of the ride we moved on to Pinan, a remote mountain village of only 200 inhabitants. Then followed an exciting few days of riding through staggeringly beautiful scenery, on lovely horses. Conditions in Pinan were poor; the villagers don’t own their own land despite appeals to the Government. The remote lodge we stayed in was clean and we enjoyed wonderful hospitality.

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Pinan was a magical experience; the village nestling in the valley with its friendly villagers, its thatch, its animals, its community, its hospitality.  We came away having enjoyed time with the people and shared a little of their way of life. We rode the villagers’ horses which were willing, strong and loved.  The ornate harness and reins were made by someone I had the privilege to talk to.

view from pinan accommodation

Our circular ride around the lake in the Pinan region was a real experience. After a long but thrilling day in the saddle, we returned to the lodge for a special celebration dinner with the villagers.

CA & VV northern lake & riders

Leaving Pinan by a different route we were surrounded by staggering views of distant mountains, ice and cloud. Soon we were descending deep into a second valley still covered by tropical rain forest, complete with tree ferns, bromeliads including orchids and dense vegetation.

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Our next night’s stay on Ivan’s coffee plantation was good and really informative. No cup of coffee is ever going to be quite the same after learning how the beans are grown, harvested, roasted and ground!

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For the last part of the ride we explored San Clemente and the pastoral Zuleta Valley. Here we enjoyed excellent hospitality throughout and lovely horses.

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All of it was fantastic, but the best bit was visting Pinan. It was ecotourism at its best; truly a remote area, a seldom visited village. We were privileged to be there while the idea of visiting this region is still fresh. It was really a great experience. We have been on a few trips, but this was one of the very best.

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We are already talking of going back to South America!”

Many thanks Vincent, we have really enjoyed reading your blog. Do you have an exciting riding adventure to tell us about? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please email abigail@inthesaddle.com  with your travel stories.

Related posts:

Abbie’s blog on the Colonial Haciendas ride

Perfect Ecuador extension – the Galapagos

 

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

Mad about Macatoo

Famous for its exciting riding and thrilling game viewing, In The Saddle guests continue to be ‘mad about Macatoo‘. Here are just a few recent comments;

“Exceeded the highest expectations. It will almost certainly remain the most memorable and enjoyable riding experience in 25 years of riding holidays abroad”. (Ingrid, UK).

“Another brilliant ‘holiday of a lifetime’! The highlight of the riding this time was cantering full speed with a group of about 20 giraffe so close we could almost hear their heart beats!” (Linda, UK).

“This was my fourth visit. The riding was excellent as ever. Saw so much game, the highlight being a big male leopard which was just magical”. (Karen, UK).

“The horses are amazing. I cannot think of a single thing to improve. It was absolutely incredible”. (Noga, Israel).

“A fantastic team on site, felt like part of a family or of a group of old friends. Knowledgeable guides with a passion for their country, all this in a very special bit of paradise – loved it !” (Amelie, France).

In other news…

You may already have heard about 23 year old Khwai’s retirement. He has been a firm favourite throughout his working life at Macatoo and many of you will have some wonderful memories of cantering across the Delta on this lovely boy. Khwai is off to Maun for a relaxing retirement. Happy retirement Kwai!

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Recently Macatoo has gone green with the addition of solar panels. Camp is now operating completely on solar power.

Macatoo goes green! We are now operating completely on solar power!

Showing off the new solar panels

Earlier this month Macatoo was blessed with some much-needed rainfall. Now the bush is looking lovely, with bright green grass and foliage.

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Down at Hippo Lagoon this little one was spotted recently, making a balance-beam out of a fallen tree.

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

There have been some amazing sightings from the scenic helicopter flights. Why not plan one during your stay to see the Delta with a bird’s eye view?

Hippo pod from above

Hippo pod from above

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out this video from In The Saddle guest Kim Simkins: Cantering at Macatoo

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, Riding Macatoo, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

News from Kujwana

Kujwana in the Okavango Delta is looking really amazing at the moment. Game is hiding around every corner and the landscape is vibrant shades of green after the rains.

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Kujwana main camp has seen many improvements over the last 12 months.

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A lovely new pool went in last year and there are now two gorgeous Riverside Suites for those who would like some added luxury.

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Some of the young horses have been out and about, getting used to their surroundings. These two homebreds, Bongo and Africa are doing really well with their training.

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There are many elements that make Kujwana special, but one of the things that really makes it stand out is that not only do guests stay at Kujwana main camp, but there is also the chance to go to Moklowane for a few nights as well. The long adventurous ride between camps with a sumptuous picnic lunch en route is an experience not to be missed. At Moklowane you stay in treehouse style accommodation with amazing views out over the Delta.

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Camp manager Duncan Over is working hard keeping things running smoothly. Many of you may have met Duncan at our Riding Holidays Show in December. You can read more about him here: Meet the Guides – Duncan Over.

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Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, in the saddle, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding kujwana, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A riding adventure along the Queensland coast

Sandie Davis tells us about her adventure along the Sunshine Coast of Queensland with husband Simon in celebration of their 25th anniversary.

Such tales traditionally start with “Sunday 4th October dawned bright and clear”…..well dawn it certainly was, bright and clear I am not sure so sure, let’s just say that although we had been looking forward to our In the Saddle Bush and Beach Ride in Queensland for many months, it was not the lure of trail riding, cattle mustering and galloping along pristine shores that roused us from our bed at 05.00 but a sleepy shuffle to the television.  Not even the kookaburras and the butcher birds had roused yet. For those rugby fans out there, you know our sorry conclusion to that particular early start!

However, our disappointment at losing our World Cup pool match at Twickenham, to Australia, while in Australia, was soon forgotten as we concentrated on the real purpose of the day, meeting the rest of our ride at Noosa for the start of our long-anticipated 6 day riding holiday.  We were met at the Sunshine Coast airport by Rebecca, whose easy chat and open manner quickly put us at ease as we transferred to hers and Alex’s equestrian property at Verrierdale.  There we were introduced to Alex, our ex-Olympian host, guide and social secretary for the next few days and met the rest of our group, Vivian from Perth!

After a short introduction to our horses; Clint, a beautiful grey ex-racehorse for my husband Simon, Moose, a coloured Clydesdale/Pinto cross for me, and Scout, a chestnut stock horse with an eating habit for Vivian, we had a 45 minute ride in the arena to get comfortable with each other and then loaded onto the lorry to transfer to Kilkivan, home of the Great Horse Ride.

Kilkivan

Kilkivan

There  we had been promised pre-dinner drinks and supper hosted by Bruce and Rae in the dining room at the Left Bank B&B. Fortunately Alex had already tipped us off that for the first time in a very very long time, there were 2 Queensland teams in the NRL (National Rugby League) Final that very night. We were encouraged to choose our team, the Cowboys or the Broncos, and were joined by Mike Webb, the stockman, bush poet and raconteur for a TV supper, sweepstake and plenty of alcohol!  It was delicious and great fun, and I am pleased to report that our team’s win paid our bar bill. Who needs rugby union?! And it deflected any teasing about the losing whingeing Poms.

On Sunday morning we were up earlier than we needed to be, with the promise of a beautiful, clear Queensland day, and enjoyed tea on the veranda watching the finches, lorikeets and a rare red shouldered parrot on the bird feeder.

Hanging Rock Trail

Hanging Rock Trail

After Bruce’s delicious breakfast we collected the horses from the public corral and paddock (what a great idea!) and transferred to the start of the ride where we met Mike and his iridescent chestnut 17hh Roscoe.  Mike is a true local, having only really left the area to complete his National Service in South East Asia, what he doesn’t know about Kilkivan and the Widgee Valley is not worth knowing. And, as our ride leader for the day over the Hanging Rock Trail, he regaled us with stories of his childhood, local lore and shenanigans, as well as having an eagle eye for wildlife.

Widgee Valley

Widgee Valley

We enjoyed a stunning ride over the Blacksnake range, with Scout living up to expectation getting his head down at every point of interest and view, Clint posing at every given opportunity, Roscoe shimmering in the sun and Moose worming his way to the front given half a chance. Mike kept us very well informed, spotting goannas on the other side of trees (possibly as a result of childhood trauma, but to tell more would ruin the suspense!).

Blacksnake Range

Blacksnake Range

Having descended into the Widgee Valley we were met by Alex and his horse Mack, and escorted onto his stunningly beautiful property Edenview….can’t imagine how it was named. After hosing down the horses, we were transferred (a little adrenalin buzz!) by quad up to the property where the table was laid on the deck for a barbeque lunch provided by Bruce.

The horses relaxing at Edenview

The horses relaxing at Edenview

It was lovely to be left to relax for an hour or so at our own leisure in the shade, or to mooch around at will. We were amused to observe Alex moving 4 horses from the corral to their overnight paddock, leading them all at the same time from the quad bike. I wonder how our horses at home would cope with that?

We then transferred back to the Left Bank, had a little while to relax and have a walk around the town, and then reconvened for drinks on the veranda before dinner. Bruce treated us to champagne with wild hibiscus flowers in honour of our 25th wedding anniversary the next day, and the resident possum put in an appearance in the tree right by where we were sitting.  Over dinner Mike and Bruce regaled us with more stories, including the unforgettable quote “I felt like a long-tailed rat in a room full of rocking chairs!”

After another early start (by choice, that veranda was too good to ignore) and lively and sustaining breakfast, we made our farewells and transferred back to Edenview for a day’s riding on the property.

Edenview - not a bad spot for lunch!

Edenview – not a bad spot for lunch!

The horses were well rested after their night in the valley and we quickly brushed them down and tacked up ready for another stunning day in the saddle.  The first couple of hours were spent looking around the property and valley, with Alex proving to be a mine of information about the local flora, trees and bird life, as well as his neighbours, dead and alive!

Cooling off

Cooling off

Following a refreshing drink and splash in the creek (for the horses), we moved on to the business of the day, moving 20 odd cattle, including a bull to a new paddock. After one false start, when they decided that they preferred it on the old grazing, we really did have them all rounded up and pointing in the right direction, and with Alex and Vivian leading, and me and Simon pushing them along, we kept them moving to the new paddock without incident or mishap. Then the happy newly fledged Jackaroo and Jillaroos returned to the homestead for a cold beer and lunch, with a sense of a job well done!

Moving cattle

Moving cattle

Once again we had an hour or so leisure, which we spent poking around the old cattle pens and races, and original sheep dip which dated back over 100 years with original timbers. Fascinating. We thought we were done for the day, but before we knew it Alex was rounding us up, gave Simon a quick introduction to a second quad bike, and we were off in tandem across the bush, back to check on the cattle. Not quite Mad Max but it was great fun and very exhilarating! Sadly after that it really was the end of the day, so we loaded the horses onto the lorry, said our farewells and headed off – yes, into the sunset!

Home for the next 2 nights was Amamoor Lodge, and we were a little later than expected, so our hosts Malcolm and Christine were ready and waiting for us with coconut chicken satay cooking over the camp fire and a well-stocked fridge! Malcolm is a qualified chef and dinner was delicious, served out by the camp fire in view of his beautifully restored Cobb & Co mail coach. All in all it really was a day and anniversary to remember!

The next morning we had breakfast on the veranda, overlooking the swimming pool and a view to the hills. Unfortunately Simon’s horse Clint had grazed his leg in the creek the previous day, so it was decided to rest him and Simon had the opportunity to ride Mike’s gorgeous 17hh stock horse Roscoe for the day through the Amamoor State Forest. Alex was able to point out many different varieties of tree and also proved to have an eagle eye for a goanna! We stopped for a short break at the Skyring Lookout with stunning views to the ocean and distinctive volcanic “mountains”.
Alex had thoughtfully provided energy snacks, liquorice for the horses and jelly frogs for us!
Lunch was provided and delivered by Malcolm to the Amama Park, a delightful picnic spot next to the river, where we listened to the whip birds and tried without success to spot the elusive duck-billed platypus.

Would I make it as a Jackaroo?

Would I make it as a Jackaroo?

Returning to the lorry, Roscoe showed his true mettle as a stock horse. In spite of being totally used to dealing with “toey” Brahmann cows and bulls, he absolutely could not handle a tiny lamb that stuck its head through a fence to say g’day!

On return to the Lodge, and having settled the horses, we were served tea and cake on the veranda and then made use of the swimming pool, before we climbed back into the lorry to sample the unique experience that was the Kandanga Pub and its colourful clientele.  Alex told us the story of one particular local who had built him a dog proof fence around his property, only for the dog to promptly escape…when challenged the response came back “I didn’t expect him to go UNDER it!!” Lo and behold, said character appeared in the bar and stood us a beer!

Such was the generosity of our hosts, when we got back we were served champagne and canapes in honour of our anniversary the day before, and subsequently drifted on to a delicious dinner on the veranda and long and lively evening. Once again we slept well!

Simon was up early the next morning, making the most of the opportunity to watch the sunrise and the amazing variety of birds visiting the gardens.

Vivian and I had a more leisurely start, but never the less we were all packed and ready to go at the appointed hour. Today’s ride took us onto the Noosa Trail Network, henceforth immortalised as the NTN. Alex had chosen Trail 5 for us, starting at Cooran and heading to Pomona, taking in views of Mounts Cooran and Cooroora.

Thankfully, after a heavy shower early on which we avoided by sheltering under a tree, the rest of the day remained dry, if somewhat overcast. We were able to enjoy several lengthy canters along the forest tracks, and the day as a whole was irreverent with Alex inciting mischief and mayhem by instigating sniper attacks with the peanut-sized she oak cones plucked from branches overhanging the trail.  Lunch was also light-hearted, taken at the chintzy Taste of the Past café in Pomona, but which had an unlikely selection of very raunchy literature scattered around the tables.

Having returned to the lorry and hosed and rested the horses in another public grazing area, we loaded up for the transfer back to Noosa, and checked into the luxury RACV Noosa Resort. Our accommodation was a massive self-contained apartment with a plunge pool and a roof top patio. Alex took the horses back home to Verrierdale, and we had the evening free at our own leisure to enjoy the resort and explore Noosa. We had a bite to eat in the bar and an early night!

In the morning, Alex picked us up bright and early with the horses and we took the cable ferry over the river to Noosa North Shore for the eponymous Bush and Beach Ride!

Fantastic beach riding

Fantastic beach riding

We were not disappointed (except that it didn’t feel nearly long enough!)! Who wouldn’t enjoy splashing in the sea and a gallop along a wide, empty sandy beach with the surf rolling in?

What a view!

What a view!

Too soon it was all over, and it was time to say goodbye to Moose, Clint, Scout and Roscoe. Sadly we loaded them onto the lorry, and settled back for the transfer back to the resort…or so we thought… A grinding of gears and spinning of wheels later and we were well and truly stuck in the sand!  Luckily for Alex, Equathon had another vehicle at the beach that morning and having unloaded the slightly confused horses, with the help of Simon and a tow rope, we were eventually able to pull it free and continue on our way. Alex delivered us safely back to the resort and we were free to have lunch and explore Noosa at our leisure – which we did this time!

It must have been one of those days…on return to the apartment after a moderately steep walk up to the lookout over Noosa we decided to try out the plunge pool. Unfortunately we only discovered that the door onto the terrace only opened from the inside after it had clicked firmly shut …and due to the lay-out of the apartment blocks there was no other escape!  Vivian was dozing on the top floor, behind a balcony…we spent an interesting half hour looking for stones and finally hit on the extendable pool pole and eventually she came to explore the strange knocking noises!

That evening Alex and Rebecca collected us, not in the lorry this time(!) and we went out for a delicious meal at Rasa’s Restaurant on Gympie Terrace. I chose Moreton Bay Bugs, a local speciality that I had heard about on many previous occasions but never sampled. They were strange looking but delicious! And I think Alex has forgiven me for throwing a glass of red wine over his favourite white shirt! I suppose that there had to be a third incident to round off the day.

And that, reader, was that. Rebecca picked us up in the morning and delivered us to Eumundi for the markets, and to meet up with our friend Claire and continue our Aussie adventure. And Alex moved on to another group of jolly cavaliers – well, we are from Worcester!

For more detail on the Equathon rides visit https://www.inthesaddle.com/rides/view/9_bushbeach_sunshine-coast_australia

 

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

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – David True from Arizona

Rounding off our articles about the guides who will be at the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015 is David True from White Stallion ranch in Arizona.

David (4)

1. How long have you been guiding at White Stallion?

I have lived on the ranch my whole life (my family owns it). I have been a wrangler since I was 16.

2. Did you guide anywhere else? 

No.

3. How did you get into guiding/riding? Was there someone who inspired you? 

Watching my family run the business inspired me to learn all I could. The corral and the horses are central to our business and life, so that is the role that I wanted to step into the most.

4. If you hadn’t become a wrangler, what was your Plan B?

I enjoy cooking and learned how to cook from our long-time chef, Judy (she has been working at the ranch since my Grandparents bought it 50 years ago. It’s a little different as we can cater for to up to 100 guests, but it is always good, fresh, ranch food.

David (8)

5. People coming on a ranch holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

There are no downsides! My job is to keep people safe and make them happy. I get to share my knowledge of horses (we have approx 165 on our property), teach people to ride, and go out and enjoy the amazing desert scenery that surrounds the ranch.

6.  What is the name of your favourite horse? And if they were a human, who would he/she be and why?

Gilbert is my favorite horse. He is a grulla quarterhorse who had a rough start to life with illness. We saw him through it and I took him on to be my main trail horse. He can be tough on others in the herd but he’s great with people and we get along pretty well.

7. What can you not live without (when riding or just generally)?

My horse, my family, my dog and my truck.

David (2)

8. What has been your most memorable ride?

I once took a ride where a guest fell into cactus. She had to remove her shirt to get a lot of it off her – I gave her mine to cover up. I think she was pleased!

9. How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

I like to chill, watch a movie, drink a beer and hang with my dog.

10. What advice would you give a 21 year old who wants to train for your job?

Buckle up! In all seriousness, the best thing you can do is keep your head. People are there to have a great time, you are the captain of the ship, keep them safe. But… a lot of people want to learn and one of the best things we can do is share what we know – it really enhances the experience.

11.  Where do you go on holiday?

What is this “holiday” you speak of?!!

David (1)

Thank you David for some fantastic images and another amazing article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you at the Riding Holiday Show.

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

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

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, Ranch holidays, Riding Holidays, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Pedro Alarcão from Ecotura, Portugal

One of our new rides for 2016 being launched at The Riding Holiday Show is in the Peneda-Gerês National Park in the extreme north of Portugal. This is a beautiful yet wild landscape, home to the Iberian Wolf and a rare breed of horse called Garrano. The Wolf is not easily seen although you might see their footprint or hear their howl at night. The wild Garrano horses are much easier spotted and you frequently ride past herds of horses. Pedro Alarcão is the owner and riding guide on this exciting new holiday which we call Wolves and Wild Horses and you can meet Pedro, along  with his wife Anabela (who is also a guide) at the Riding Holiday Show.

Pedro+Ventania

1.  How long have you been a riding guide?

I’ve been guiding for 10 years.

2.   Did you do any guiding before setting up at Ecotura? 

Both of my parents love horses so I started to ride when I was 3 or 4 years old. I learnt under two great teachers but like most of the young riders in Portugal I trained for the classical disciplines. For many years I did show jumping, with an olympic rider as a teacher, and later studied dressage. Then, in 2005,  when my wife Anabela and I decided to create the horse riding company I started to guide.

3.   How did you get into guiding? Was there someone who inspired you?

To be honest it was not a person that inspired me but my own dream to be close to horses and the nature. I always tried to organise my life in a such a way that every change that I made brought me closer to this dream. When I met my wife I discovered someone else with the same goal and so everything started to be possible. We were both born in Lisbon and now, 48 years later, we have a trail riding company in the north of Portugal inside Peneda Gerês National Park, the most beautiful and wild region in the country.

Ecotura-horseriding24

4.   If you hadn’t become a riding guide, what was your Plan B?

Before we had this company I was a wildlife photographer and filmmaker and my wife an environment journalist. We made books and wildlife documentaries so I imagine we would still be doing the same.

Ecotura-Horseriding02

5.  People coming on a riding holiday often think you have the ideal job – what do you love about it? And what are the downsides?

The great thing is to work in something that I love a lot. To discover great people from all over the world, learn with everybody, and ride every day. If you are good, guiding is not only a job. It is the way you live. If a person see guiding as a job I think he will not do it for long because sometimes it is very hard. When the riders are resting I’m preparing my horses. Every day there are other horses that need to be ridden or looked after.

6.   What is the name of your favourite horse? And if they were a human, who would he/she be and why?

All the animals that we have on our farm are part of our family. Almost all the horses where bred and taught by me. I love all of them and I know them very well. All of them are special because at some time of their life they do something that leaves a memory that will never go. For example: We bred a horse that we call Átomo. He is a big cross bred of a Lusitano and an Arabian horse. When he was born, during his first week he couldn’t stand properly and so many times each day I had to help him stand so that he could drink from his mother. At that time I promised him that I would be the only person to ride him. 10 years later this is still true and now he is a powerful horse who really gives meaning to the phrase “riding with the wind”.

SpecialAtomo

7.   What can you not live without (when guiding or just generally)?

I couldn’t live without my close family, my animals and the green of nature

Ventania-Ecotura-Lusitano-h

8.    What has been your most memorable ride?

I have many stories and many great rides but maybe the biggest experience that “brand” me for life was a few years ago when I was guiding a group of four riders in a place that I like to call the “Wolf Valley”. In all the mountain this is my special place. It is beautiful and full of good energy. Almost everytime that I go there I experience something special.

Along the valley there is a small trail with soft curves and small water ditches. It’s the perfect place for a canter or a fast gallop jumping the water. These four riders were all experienced riders and we were doing it in a fast gallop with me at the front. Suddenly my horse started to be agitated and trying to turn to the left. When I turn my head in that direction what I saw was indescribable. A beautiful wild stallion was running 20 meters to my left in full gallop and stayed with us until we decided to slow down and stop. I think that I can speak for everybody – it was the experience of a life time.

Portugal Nationalpark Peneda-Geres 9. bis 16.9.2012 Wildpferde-Tour auf den Spuren der "Garranos" (Veranstalter Perlenfänger/Sabine Bengtsson) Foto: Julia Rau Am Schinnergraben 57 55129 Mainz Tel.: 06131-507751 Mobil: 0171-9517199 Rüsselsheimer Volksbank BLZ 500 930 00 Kto.: 6514006 Es gelten ausschliesslich meine Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen

9.    How do you relax after a day in the saddle?

Seated in my garden with a cold beer looking at the amazing mountain that I have in front of me.

10.   What advice would you give a 21  old who wants to train for your job?

Don’t work with horses that you don’t know. You need to be able to detect a different behavior of the horse in a few seconds; so when you start with a new group of horses just spend time looking at them. You are the boss but treat your horses like family. What you give is what you (and the riders that are with you) will get. Don’t work your horses too hard. They are not just meat and when they are tired they get grumpy which is not good for you or your guests.

Make sure you are physically fit yourself. On long riding days you need to always be the freshest rider. If you are tired you lose the capacity to judge and decide. When all the others are riding in a relaxed mode you should ride always in full attention to predict something that might happen. This will make you very tired.

Don’t look at this work “through rose tinted glasses”. The responsibility that you have with the riders in your group is huge. Learn how to read your new guests in the first few moments. The big secret of this profession is to make a perfect match between horse and rider.

Learn everything you can about your region. There is nothing worse than a guide that rides well but doesn’t know anything else. Be happy. Your energy will pass to the group. And finally, you should learn from all your guests. They are the link to the world and you are not the only one that knows something about horses.

11.   Where do you go on holiday?

We make short holidays several times a year. We love to hike in the mountain for several days and we love rock climbing so we try to go in different destinations where we can do these two things.

Portugal Nationalpark Peneda-Geres 9. bis 16.9.2012 Wildpferde-Tour auf den Spuren der "Garranos" (Veranstalter Perlenfänger/Sabine Bengtsson) Foto: Julia Rau Am Schinnergraben 57 55129 Mainz Tel.: 06131-507751 Mobil: 0171-9517199 Rüsselsheimer Volksbank BLZ 500 930 00 Kto.: 6514006 Es gelten ausschliesslich meine Allgemeinen Geschäftsbedingungen

Thank you Pedro for introducing yourself. We all look forward to learning more about the Wolves & Wild Horses holiday and meeting you at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015.

Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.

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

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Lusitanos, Riding Garrano horses, Riding Holidays, Riding Holidays Portugal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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