A Dream Vacation in Portugal

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

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

Premium Room quartospre002

One of the luxurious ‘premium’ rooms at Monte Velho

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


Sala finishing a session on her favourite stallion Felix

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


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

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


Meeting like-minded fellow guests was a real highlight

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


“I’ve found my dream vacation spot!”


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


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Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush

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

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

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


Lightweight hats like Troxels are perfect for riding holidays

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

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


Take a portable charger for your phone or camera

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

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


A cotton buff is great for dry, dusty conditions


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


A pair of riding tights are worth investing in

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


Lightweight travel shirts are great to ride in

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

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


We love these dual-purpose boots by Ariat

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

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

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Amazing Argentina

In this blog, Jill Pain, winner of the Riding Holiday Show competition tells us about her prize-winning holiday to the wonderful Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina.

“Having decided to go the In The Saddle Riding Holiday Show in December 2015 and look to see what rides I could look forward to in 2016 and beyond, I only entered the completion to win the holiday to Estancia Los Potreros as I left and only because I knew the answer, however, I didn’t think anything more about the competition as I have never won any competition I have ever entered before, so I get the email from In The Saddle saying that the draw will be in a couple of days and then do not quite believe my eyes when a few emails further down I read the email that says “Congratulations you have won the holiday to Los Potreros” Thank you In The Saddle.

Day 1 (Saturday). On Friday evening we left a wet and windy London to arrive in Argentina to lovely warm and sunny weather – we couldn’t believe how warm it was for spring. Kevin kindly picked my friend Karen and myself up from Cordoba Airport and drove us to the Estancia, out of Cordoba, which is on a flat plain, and up to the mountains. What a wonderful place, we couldn’t believe how peaceful and beautiful it was. We meet our fellow guest, Nicky and see her off on her afternoon ride, and then we are shown to our cottage for the week, and it is beautiful, around 400 years old with a choice of three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with natural floors and original fittings like wood burners to keep us warm. So after choosing where to sleep and unpacking we have a tour of the estancia and afternoon tea.  We all sit down with Kevin and Louisa and the guides for our evening meal, with beef bred on the estancia, what a great way to end the day. Karen and I head off to bed for a good night’s sleep.


Estancia Los Potreros

Day 2 (Sunday). Our first ride, gaucho style! Karen, Nicky and I are introduced to our horses and Karen and I are given a quick lesson in how to ride gaucho style before we set off. The riding seems to be fairly straightforward, with neck reining and simple leg aids and the saddles are really comfortable with the sheepskins. The day is very warm and Louisa takes us for our first view of the estancia and we stop at one of the highest points for a quick break and photo opportunity. Then we are off to one of the many rock pools for a cool down swim, it’s so refreshing, unfortunately one of the dogs has decided that my riding clothes make a really comfortable place to have a nap, along with several sticks. It takes a bit longer to get dressed! Once back at the estancia, it’s time for lunch on the veranda, I can’t tell you how great the food is, even with all the riding, I reckon I will be going home heavier than I was at the beginning of the week. Karen, unfortunately has a bit of sunstroke and goes to have a siesta and so after lunch, Nicky and I head out for a walk, we say hello to the two foals and their mums who live in the field right next to the estancia and carry on one of the many tracks, viewing the scenery and wildlife and having a chat. We come back to afternoon tea and meet two new arrivals from the USA, John and Paula. The evening meal is a chance to get to know them better – and more wonderful food…


Getting used to riding gaucho style!

Day 3 (Monday). Woken up early by the parakeets who nest in the garden trees, much better than being woken up by the alarm clock. Karen luckily is feeling much better and we head off to breakfast and the sun is shining again. We all meet for breakfast (and our internet fix) and just as we are finishing, the hail comes down, and keeps coming down. Apparently due to the mountains surrounding us, localised storms are quite common in Spring and we won’t be able to ride until this has cleared up, due to possible lightning strikes. Kevin and Louisa keep us up to date. Lunch arrives and passes and the weather starts to clear up. Kevin gives the all clear to ride this afternoon and John and I are the only two up for getting a soaking, good job I read the brief and brought my wet weather gear, though turns out we don’t get wet at all. Louisa has put me on a horse with a gaucho saddle to try. It seems to be really comfortable, but my legs seem to be a long way away from the horse’s sides, just hope I don’t fall off in canter, remember lean back. I don’t fall off, but possibly due to the fact I’m hanging on to the front of the saddle at any speed faster than walk.


Making the most of the incredible views.

Day 4 (Tuesday). Today we set off to visit the local school. Education in Argentina is not as extensive as in the UK, and the school day is only 4 hours long. We are welcomed at the school by all the children and teacher, our gaucho guide for the day, Leo’s two children are at the school. Afterwards we mount up and ride about a few hundred yards to our picnic, in a lovely setting by a stream. The lunch was wonderful and afterwards we walk up the lane to the Jesuit church, where we spend time playing with the caretaker’s dogs & puppies – well who could resist, until the caretaker opened the church for us, so we could look inside. After riding back to the estancia we have afternoon tea and rest before our evening entertainment – wine tasting. Unfortunately for me I can’t drink red wine – so more for the rest of them and I had the white wine to myself. The idea being to see who can guess which of the three wines was the most expensive, medium price and the cheapest. They were all Malbec, which is found extensively in Argentina (and in UK supermarkets apparently). My friend Karen wins a bottle of champagne for getting everything right.


Leaving a wintry UK behind, it is lovely to experience some sunshine.

Day 5 (Wednesday). Today we wake up to another day of sunshine, but the weather forecast is not so good, so we indulge in some breakfast. Kevin then surprises us by saying that we are in for a polo lesson and short game, this is great, I’ve always wanted to have a go. It all starts well, we are given our polo ponies, with tails all wrapped, we ride on down to the polo field and Kevin then tries to instill some of the rules into our heads and techniques. The dogs think Kevin hitting balls is great and we think it’s funny, so Kevin lines up some balls on the base line and we are tasked with getting the ball from one end of the pitch to the other, whilst on horseback in a walk.


On the polo field Kevin shows us how to hit the ball; great entertainment for the dogs!

Easy, yes – well Karen was off and reached the other end of the field before I’d managed to hit the ball. After some instruction from the head man, Daniel, I managed to improve and eventually hit the ball far enough to trot to reach it. Polo is harder than it looks! After much laughing Kevin pulls us into two teams, and everyone thinks it’s a fix when Karen and I are on the same team (don’t know why as I’m the liability!). Kevin lines us up and off we go, breaking the rules several times and a few goals scored by both teams (not necessarily in the right goals – yes that was me scoring the own goal). Although somehow I managed to hit the ball twice in canter, must be something to do with the fact I’m riding one of Louisa’s top polo ponies and through no skill of my own. And John, you are not supposed to argue with the umpire, he knows the rules! Everyone had a great time, I’m surprised no-one fell off we were all laughing so much. After the afternoon to ourselves we set out for our evening ride and I am on another favourite of Louisa’s and he is lovely. I still can’t get over how well-mannered these horses are, lift the rein up and forwards and a little kick and off they go, and a pull on the reins and they stop – my horse could learn a few lessons from them.


The horses are so well-mannered.

Day 6 (Thursday). Another lovely day and we are told that we will be helping (?) the gauchos round up the horses for their bi-annual check for equine infectious anaemia, which is fatal in horses and the bi-annual checks are required by Argentinian law. So the idea is to find the horses in 5,000 acre fields and move them to a set of corrals, where the vets can take blood and worm them. So after about 20 minutes we find our first group of horses and try to get them to go in the right direction, typically they are having none of this and head off in the opposite direction, so our gaucho has to ride after them and turn them as they are going much faster than we are. We don’t seem to have picked horse herding up very quickly, however, once turned the horses seem to understand what’s required and take pity on us and head off in the right direction, again much faster than us but we get them there. The next herd take one look at us and head off in the right direction to start with, perhaps we are getting the hang of this. So now the horses are in, we head off back to the estancia for lunch and a siesta.


We got the chance to help the gauchos round up the horses.

Louisa then asks me if I want to ride something a little hotter for the evening ride and I say yes, even though I do have a hot seat. So I am given “Salta”, one of the Pasos who has been ridden by the gauchos as a lead horse, this means I have to stay near the front of the ride. The purpose of the ride was to go and collect the retired horses from over the road and bring them back to the stables, which we successfully completed (could have a job soon), along with picking up a couple of other horses along the way. Salta was amazingly sure-footed on some quite rough and rocky terrain and in the manner of most Pasos showed a very elegant turn of foot. That evening we turned up in the dining room to discover the table was not set for dinner, what was going on? Only to find out that we were going to have a cookery evening. All well and good, but cooking is not my forte, so with some trepidation I entered the kitchen. No need to worry, some of us made bread, some made pasta ravioli and the rest drank some wine before sitting down to eat several courses. Many thanks to Patricia and co who put up with us in their kitchen, and cooked all the wonderful food.


Estancia Los Potreros is home to some super Peruvian Paso horses, famous for their 5th gait.

Day 7 (Friday). Today is our last full day, I can’t believe we have been here for a week, we have done so much. Before we ride off to help with the horse round up, our guide takes us to the highest place on the Estancia called ‘Top of the world’ and the views are amazing, as are the flying ants (which only appear for one day a year), so lots more photo opportunities. Once we get to the corral we have the opportunity to watch the gauchos and vets in action and see the horses released afterwards. Now we are allowed to try our hands at lassoing, this is also harder than it looks, although most of us manage to lasso the stationary pole in the middle of the corral (I was not one of them – came close a couple of times). Now that we have built up our appetite we settle into our barbecue before riding back. Our final evening included a local singer featuring several popular Argentinian songs, which was lovely.


Our trip has been great.

I have ridden at quite a few places in the world and this is definitely one place I would come back to. It has been an amazing experience and many thanks to Kevin and Louise and all the staff for giving us this opportunity to ride and enjoy a wonderful part of the world.”


Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to Los Potreros.

Many thanks to Jill for telling us about her trip. We are so glad you enjoyed your stay at Los Potreros – what a fabulous competition prize!

If you’d like more information on a holiday at Los Potreros, then please contact us on +44 1299 272 997 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com



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Sponsored Rider Update

In this blog post we catch up with In The Saddle sponsored rider Rosie Warner, who gives us a winter round-up. We look forward to hearing how the start of the year goes as she prepares for the eventing season.


Rosie says, “the past few months have been quite quiet on the competition front with all three boys (Aemon, Milo and Romeo) having a well-deserved holiday. But things have been busy behind the scenes…

We’ve built four more stables, so my horses are now living in the lap of luxury. We have also put up more floodlights to make working the horses on these dark nights that little bit easier.


“Milo” is glad to be back in work now and is enjoying his jumping

The new horse-walker has gone in and is a real god-send.


Bertie the terrier inspects the new horse-walker

I’ve invested in a lorry and am really looking forward to going to competitions in style and comfort…no more sheltering in the trailer during a rain shower!

My yard is close to reaching full capacity, so it is going to be a busy few months in the run up to the start of the season.

My beautiful homebred Fleur (by Wish Upon A Star) is away being backed. She’s coming home in the next few days and I can’t wait to start riding her.


I’m looking forward to riding my beautiful homebred “Fleur”

Aemon, Milo and Romeo have bounced back into work…quite literally! They are all feeling great and I am busy preparing them for some BS and BD competitions ahead of our first BE events in March.


“Romeo” finding lunging rather exciting!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank In The Saddle for their support in the 2016 season and I look forward to a very exciting 2017 with a lovely string of horses.”


Many thanks to Rosie for her update…we wish you all the very best for the season and look forward to following your progress.

On another note, Rosie had a very exciting Christmas Day, when boyfriend Charlie enlisted the help of Aemon to propose to her. We’re pleased to say that Rosie’s answer was “yes”!

Congratulations Rosie & Charlie….what a lovely proposal.


Charlie proposing to Rosie with the help of “Aemon”


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Rhythm of the ride

In this blog post In The Saddle‘s Claire Douglas tells us about her exciting visit to Spain to take part in the Pirate Trail.

“I was lucky enough to experience the Pirate Trail in Catalonia at the start of November. We covered 15km–30km each day across most types of terrain. I could not believe how tough and sure-footed these horses were. I was matched with Pocholo, which means pretty or beautiful in Spanish, and he was a stunner.  I was told he was full of personality and very forward going, which I found out to be the case. He was also incredibly photogenic and posed at every moment for a photo.


Pocholo the poser

The horses really enjoy their work, and with 60 to choose from, there is a horse to suit everyone from the steady, reliable ones to the more forward going.  They are a mixture of Andalusian, Spanish horses and crossbreeds.

On these trails, you are responsible for brushing and tacking up your horse, although there is help on hand if you need it.  The process of getting your horse ready meant that you spent quality time with them, not just in the saddle but on the ground as well.  My new German friends were smart enough to pack magic brushes which would have saved me a lot of time as my horse loved to roll and frequently changed colour from his usual grey to brown.


Making friends – on this ride you are expected to groom and tack up your own horse

The lack of phone reception and Wi-Fi at most locations meant it felt like a digital detox.  No phones appeared at the dinner table, just long chats with lots of laughter.  The group was mostly German along with myself and another rider from the UK. Everyone conversed in English, luckily for me.  They did appreciate my one German phrase: ‘Das Leben ist keine Ponyhof’ – which translates as “life is not a pony farm”.  Most of the group were returning guests, one was doing the Pirate Trail for the second time, having previously done the Mediterranean Trail as well. The other two group members had met during the the toughest trail of all, the Andorra Trail earlier in the year.  The Andorra Trail is an epic 11 riding day expedition, covering 350km, from the Mediterranean coast to Pyrenean Mountains traversing three countries. They never stopped raving about how amazing it was – one for the adventurists amongst us.


Lunch with a view – perfect!

I was wondering if I would be fit enough for this trail as it would be tough with long hours in the saddle (up to seven hours on one day) with some walking on foot, steep sections downhill.  However the long lunches and daily siestas meant the riding was broken up and manageable.


The Pirate Trail features some walking on foot, leading the horses

One of my main highlights of the ride was an exhilarating 6km beach gallop.  We lucked out with the weather, sunshine and very little wind.  We were briefed to keep our horses on a very narrow channel on the damp, firm stand, deeper shelves to the sea or the very soft sand on the right.  We had to follow Rudi, our guide and owner of Panorama Trails, on his lead horse Tornardo exactly.  My horse was willing and keen to stick to this path, easily navigating the twists and turns of the tide.  I got completely soaked from the horse in front but it was such fun, I couldn’t have cared less.


As you can tell from my face, the 6km gallop was a highlight of my trip!

After the beach ride, we entered a forest and started to climb again until we reached these spectacular cliffs and where we had our wonderful picnic over the sea.  One of our fellow riders was an accomplished musician and took out her recorder and serenaded us with Vivaldi during our siesta.  It was a magical time.


Another day, another scenic picnic – bliss

Saying goodbye to my horse after 5 days of riding was tough.  Pocholo never tired or went wrong the whole time. Therefore, it was a bit emotional un-tacking them for the last time and before we knew it, they were led away to the lorry.


Time to say goodbye to our horses

If you want to experience an adventurous ride, a different world is waiting for you, not too far away.”

Many thanks to Claire for telling us about her visit….we are glad you enjoyed Catalonia and look forward to hearing about more of your adventures!

If you’d like to learn more about our rides in Catalonia then please call us on 01299 272 997 or email Claire@inthesaddle.com

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A day out to Fairbank ghost town

This morning was a real treat as I met Arizona Bill down at the chuck wagon for a cup of coffee by the campfire. Bill is such a great character and told me all about the history of Tombstone and how the founder of the town (Ed Schieffelin) was buried under the stone monument just a short walk from the ranch.


After a delicious breakfast I headed down to the corral to meet Dave the Wrangler and Ness, another guest here at the ranch. We were the only two signed up for the all-day ride and so were lucky enough to have an almost private ride. We headed out towards Fairbank, an old ghost town a few miles away.


The riding was absolutely wonderful and it was amazing how we covered such different terrain in only one ride. We travelled along old railway rides, washes created by rivers and through some bush. After a couple of hours in the saddle we arrived at the old ghost town of Fairbank and unbridled the horses which gave us the chance to look around before lunch.


Lunch today was a packed lunch of sandwiches, crisps and some ice cold drinks. It really was great after a few hours in the sun. Afterwards we tacked the horses back up and mounted ready for the journey home. It was important to drink plenty of water (which was provided in our saddle bags) as it was getting warmer. It took us another couple of hours to get back to the ranch, which allowed us several opportunities for longer trots. Once we arrived back it was time to water the horses before they were brushed down and turned out.


I am so enjoying my time at Tombstone Monument Ranch and you can read about my first day here:

New Adventures

and my stay at White Stallion Ranch:

Welcome to Arizona

Time to Amp it Up

We All Have a Competitive Streak

Becky Clarke is a Travel Consultant with In The Saddle and is visiting Arizona to experience the riding at White Stallion Ranch, as well as their sister ranch Tombstone Ranch. She will also visit Tanque Verde Ranch. We look forward to hearing all about her stay.

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New Adventures…

Today I had my last ride at White Stallion Ranch. I had another lovely horse called Pinto to say goodbye to as well as all the lovely people I had met. It was a bittersweet goodbye as I had made real friends at the ranch but at the same time, I was so excited to visit my next destination – Tombstone Monument Ranch.


Vaya Con Dios means ‘Go with God’ in Spanish.

On our way to Tombstone Monument Ranch we stopped off in Tombstone itself. The whole place is built as an ‘old west’ town with carriages, saloons and cowboys wandering the streets. The local people all wear western gear and wander around, not forgetting of course the re-enactment of the gunfight at OK corral.


There is absolutely no disappointment as you drive up to Tombstone Monument Ranch (which is only about 2 miles from the town). The rooms are built on a street made to look like the ‘old west’ and each of the rooms are individually decorated and named! I was shown to my room, ‘Wyatt Earp’ which is beautiful but I don’t know which bed to choose!


After I had settled in, it was straight out to the corral to meet wranglers Mike and Dave. They really are the funniest guys and made me feel right at home in the first couple of minutes! I was introduced to my steed for the day, Cheyanne, a gorgeous coloured horse.


This afternoon’s ride was about an hour and all at walk. It’s important that everyone does a slow ride to begin with so that the wranglers can check people are ok on the horses they have been given. The terrain was so different from what I had seen at White Stallion Ranch, firstly because there was no Saguaro cacti – they don’t grow above 4,000 feet in elevation and Tombstone Monument Ranch is at about 4,400 feet (1,400m) and secondly because it was far more undulating.


After we had got back, it was time to head in and rest a while before dinner. Tonight it was steak night and so no one went hungry! I can’t wait for tomorrow – I have signed up for an all-day ride to Fairbank Ghost Town. You can read about it here:

You can read about my previous days at White Stallion:

Welcome to Arizona

Time to Amp it Up

We All Have a Competitive Streak

Becky Clarke is a Travel Consultant with In The Saddle and is visiting Arizona to experience the riding at White Stallion Ranch, as well as their sister ranch Tombstone Ranch. She will also visit Tanque Verde Ranch. We look forward to hearing all about her stay.

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We all have a competitive streak!

On my second full day at White Stallion Ranch, I took the opportunity to wander around and see the whole place and everything that was on offer.


As well as riding, there are plently of other activities to do as well. The ranch has it’s very own tennis and basketball courts, a fitness centre, swimming pool and hot tub to mention a few. It is also possible to play golf and go rock-climbing (at an extra cost).


After lunch it was time to get serious – team penning serious! I had a different horse this afternoon, his name was Tally and after getting to know one another, we headed into the corral. Russell True explained to us how team penning worked and gave up some tips before splitting us into groups of four. We then had three runs each to cut the cattle and get them into the pen. It was so much fun and because it was timed, we all got very ‘into’ it!


We wrapped up just before dark and headed in for our barbequed steaks!

It really was so much fun – a must do at the ranch!

You can read about my previous days at White Stallion here:

Welcome to Arizona

Time to Amp it Up

Becky Clarke is a Travel Consultant with In The Saddle and is visiting Arizona to experience the riding at White Stallion Ranch, as well as their sister ranch Tombstone Ranch. She will also visit Tanque Verde Ranch. We look forward to hearing all about her stay.


Categories: Equestrian Travel | 4 Comments

Time to amp it up…

My first full day at White Stallion Ranch began with a morning of riding! I met today’s steed who was a lovely chestnut called Camacho and we set off on a slow flat ride.


We were riding for about an hour and spent it mostly looking at the scenery and chatting merrily between ourselves.


Soon after we returned, myself and another couple of ladies made our way to the corral where we took our lope test. Everyone who wants to go on a fast ride needs to complete this test first. The wrangler wants to see that you have control over the horse, are able to regulate the speed by yourself and that you do not bounce around too often. Fortunately I passed! and so headed out on a fast mountain ride to the ‘Lookout’.


There was a steep climb to get to the top and the path was really quite rocky. However all you need to do is trust that your horse knows what he is doing and amazingly he does! Plus the view from the top is definitely worth it.


In the afternoon, I decided to join a vehicle/walking tour of the ranch with a local film history expert, Marty. It was great fun learning about how many movies had actually been filmed right here on the ranch. As soon as we returned it was time for the weekly ranch rodeo!


It was so much fun to watch the wranglers and family show us several different sports that are competed at the top level. We watched some barrel racing, team roping, break away roping and bulldogging. All the while the owner of White Stallion, Russell True, was a fabulous commentator, telling us all about the horses, people and disciplines we were watching.


Once it dropped darker (and colder) the rodeo came to an end and we headed inside for dinner.

I have already signed myself up for team penning tomorrow!

You can read about other days at White Stallion here:

Welcome to Arizona

We all have a Competitive Streak

Becky Clarke is a Travel Consultant with In The Saddle and is visiting Arizona to experience the riding at White Stallion Ranch, as well as their sister ranch Tombstone Ranch. In a few days she will be moving onto Tanque Verde Ranch. We look forward to hearing all about her stay.

Categories: Equestrian Travel | 4 Comments

A Dressage Dream in the Orchard of Lisbon

Last month Abbie from In The Saddle visited Quinta do Rol, a family estate in the ‘orchard of Lisbon’. Here, she discovered excellent instruction and gorgeous Lusitano horses so well-trained that they are a treat to ride.


With my own horse injured and having spent much of 2016 in the sick bay, when I got the chance to visit Quinta do Rol in Portugal I literally leapt at the chance. Dusting off my riding boots, I packed and pondered whether I could make it through airport security with spurs in my hand luggage (yes I could).

At Lisbon I was met by the lovely Teresa Pedro, who carries out most of the airport transfers for Quinta do Rol guests. Having spent many years working in the UK, Teresa’s English is perfect and she gives me some interesting background information on the area during the 40 minute journey.

Arriving at Quinta do Rol, I am met by Rita Melo Ribeiro, who along with her husband Carlos own the property. I’m staying in Casa da Águia, a traditional cottage with a spacious kitchen, light and airy lounge and four guest bedrooms each with their own private bathroom.


The beautiful lounge in Casa da Aguia cottage

The main quinta lies across a small country road from the equestrian centre, which is nestled at the foot of a small hill, surrounded by orchards and vines.


Quinta do Rol’s equestrian centre

This is a brand-new purpose built centre where the Lusitano horse reigns supreme. Their every need is catered for, with spacious stables, deep beds and regular turnout. Riders are spoiled too, with their very own lounge encompassing sitting room, well-stocked bar and viewing gallery to the indoor arena – perfect for continuing the learning process by watching other guests’ lessons or the instructors working the horses.


The viewing gallery in the Rider’s Lounge

We watch resident instructor Pedro puts a new horse through his paces. He rides sympathetically and softly as the horse becomes accustomed to his new surroundings. There’s no tension, shoving or pushing, everything is calm and relaxation

After a delicious lunch of shrimp pancakes and salad, I head back to the stables for my first lesson. I ride the stunning Alamo, a 9 year old black stallion; his coat is gleaming, mane and tail brushed out, white boots on and hoof oil applied. Wow, well we certainly look the part and I can only hope my riding measures up. We begin the lesson and Pedro asks me about my riding dressage experience to date and what I’d like to achieve during my stay.

Lessons at Quinta do Rol are always on a private basis, so you can concentrate totally on what you wish. For example, if you’re struggling with your own horse’s flying changes at home, Pedro will give you some approaches to try and you can work on the movement on a few different horses to hone your skills before you go home. Pedro’s English is not perfect, but I can easily understand him and I really like his calm approach.


Owner Rita, with her beautiful horse Alamo

Whilst we are warming up, Pedro explains how controlling the pace enables us to do anything we want with the horse. Soon we’re putting this into practice as we run through some warm-up exercises in walk; leg-yield, shoulder-in, travers, collection and extension. Next we move onto walk pirouettes and half-pass, before repeating some of these movements in trot and on into canter. After some single flying changes, we are on to the finale as Pedro helps me to ride Alamo in passage and piaffe.

An hour has gone by so quickly. Although my own horse is inexperienced, I feel that the fundamentals of what I’ve learnt today can be applied at home. Controlling the step and controlling the shoulders means that if you take things step by step you can in theory ask your horse to do anything!


Resident instructor Pedro in the indoor arena

After a quick shower and change, we convene in the dining room and are joined by Rita’s husband Carlos. A delicious Quinta do Rol rose wine accompanies an local cheeses, olives and lupins. Dinner begins with beetroot soup, followed by pasteis de bacalhau (a delicious sort of cod fishcake), and finally Queijadas de Leite with coffee.


The main dining room

Next morning the sun is shining and I set off on a tour of the estate with Carlos, Rita and Pedro. We wander through eucalyptus forests, pass by the dam and ride through the vines. If you are staying a week, taking a ride through the grounds can make a relaxing break from lessons and is a super way to learn about the quinta’s rural tourism. But with such fabulous horses and instruction, others especially those on short breaks may prefer to concentrate wholly on dressage.


A tour of the estate’s vineyards with owner Carlos

As we return to the quinta the sun’s still out and it is warm enough for a dip in the pool. The current pool is in use until the new guest pool by the tennis court is finished.


The main house and current swimming pool

After another delicious lunch of frittata, pork loin and Salame de Chocolate, it is time to head back to the stables. I wonder vaguely whether the fact that lunch ended up being a fun sort of informal wine-tasting session will improve or hinder the standard of my riding this afternoon!!

I ride Cochixo, a rather handsome grey stallion who is a little smaller than Alamo so I feel quite at home (or maybe it’s the wine?). Pedro tells me that this horse can get a little heavy in the hand when people take too strong a contact with him. So I must concentrate on activating the hind leg into a soft elbow and even contact and try to lighten the shoulders to get the best work from him. Working in, we begin with some shoulder-in, travers, leg yield and half pass in walk and then move on to trot and canter. He’s got a super canter and I feel I’ve got a better connection with him in canter than I achieved with Alamo yesterday (or maybe it’s the wine?). We do some spiral circles in trot and canter and some direct transitions to get the hind end activated.


Cochixo and I after our lesson (as the light starts to fade)

Next we work on some passage and then piaffe, which is successful as long as I remember to ‘sit like a queen’ (the wine must be wearing off by now)! We end the session with some extended trot, building the power but not the speed around the corner and then pow, pow, pow down the long side, getting better each time until I’m grinning from ear to ear. I get a ‘very good, well ridden’ from Pedro and I’m so chuffed that you’d almost think I’d got a 10/10!

What is so special about Quinta do Rol is not only are these horses total ‘eye candy’, but there’s no resistance or evasion. The horses really want to work for you and that makes it such an enjoyable experience.

No rest for Pedro as he’s straight on to working another horse. Egoista is a big stamp of a Lusitano, with floating paces and good looks to boot. He’s relatively new and only given to the more established guests at the moment. Soon he’s showing us his two-time changes and then Pedro tries one-time changes for the first time and he seems to get the idea really quickly – he’s definitely going to be a star!


Egoista, Pedro and Abbie (in the middle of adjusting stirrups hence the wonky irons)

As Pedro lets the horse stretch he unexpectedly tells me it is my turn…so up I hop and after a quick walk and trot, off we go in canter. Spiral circles and lengthening then shortening the stride. Egoista is so light in front and manoeuvrable – wow! What a great way to end my break in a Lusitano-lover’s paradise.

To find out more about Quinta do Rol please visit our website, call us on +44 1299 272 997 or email abigail@inthesaddle.com

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