Posts Tagged With: Equestrian travel

Wondrous Wait a Little

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

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

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

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

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

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

me with lion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leopard in tree

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

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

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

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But my experiences go on and on….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Big Adventures on the Big Rivers Ride

In this blog post we hear from In The Saddle guest Sarah Grant, who was part of an intrepid group of riders who undertook the adventurous Big Rivers ride in June 2017.

This exploratory ride journeyed into the Caprivi strip, Namibia’s tropical paradise whose borders are determined by several big rivers. The charm of this area is that it is a corridor for game moving between Botswana, Zambia and Angola. This extraordinary area of biodiversity is in contrast to Namibia’s normally arid landscape. In summer the floodwaters spill out over the riverbanks onto the wide open plains of Linyanti and Liambezi, much like the Okavango does in Botswana.

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“We are riding alongside a wide stretch of water somewhere in the Caprivi, North Eastern Namibia, shortly before sunset. It’s the first day of the 2017 Exploratory Ride, an annual ride that Andrew Gillies of the Namibia Horse Safari Company runs each year, to explore somewhere new in the vast nothingness that is Namibia. It’s a chance to go somewhere that no one has gone before on a horse, but be prepared for the unexpected…

Back to the first day. Setting off from our first camp on the Kwando River, we’ve had a happy day getting used to our horses (mine, Big Red, is an honest, friendly red chestnut gelding, quite powerful and a bit cheeky), getting used to each other (a group of 11 riders from 6 different countries, all of whom have ridden with Andrew at least once and in some cases many times), and getting used to two constant features of the ride – the many herds of cattle herded by the local ethnic groups, with their rather fearsome horns, and the crowds of excited children, who follow us shouting with excitement at seeing 15 riders and 19 horses suddenly appear in their village.

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Who’s herding who?

Now, with the sun slipping close to the horizon, I am secretly thinking: shouldn’t we be at camp by now? Time for sundowners perhaps? “No problem,” says our guide, Andrew, consulting the GPS, “it’s only 5km away.” Until we find a wide water channel, inconveniently placed between the camp and us. With virtually no daylight left, and no way round, the order is issued: “Swim the horses across! Bring the old campaigners first!” I’ll be the first to admit, swimming a horse I don’t know across a channel that may or may not have crocs in virtual darkness is not my perfect idea of an end to the first day, but there was nothing to do except point Big Red at the river, and hope for the best.

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A river crossing at dusk – on an exploratory ride you have to expect the unexpected

We did all make it across, and we made it to our camp, tired, soaking wet but high on the adventure of it. Red usually crosses the Namib Desert, but he swam across that channel like it was second nature, and earned my respect and gratitude. We spent the evening futilely trying to dry boots and blankets around the fire, and cheerfully recounting the adventure.

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The handsome Big Red

This is my first Exploratory Ride with renowned guide Andrew Gillies. I went on the Namib Desert ride last October, which was an incredible, unforgettable experience. Only a few months later I’m back for more.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

What life on safari is all about…those quiet moments alone with your horse

The Exploratory Ride goes to a new area each year, although there is a recce trip some months before by vehicle. So when the ride heads off the road, it really is across open country, navigating by landmarks and GPS. You do need to be prepared for things to not go according to plan. When Andrew and Phoebe did the recce trip in November 2016, they found the Linyanti floodplains full of buffalo. When we got there on the fifth day of our trip, the floodplains were covered in three metre high reeds, towering over our and the horses’ heads. We spent hours pushing through them. Andrew had to resort to the simple navigation technique of standing on his horse’s saddle to try and see where we should be going.

CROP 4 who needs gps anyway (thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson)

Who needs GPS anyway? (Thanks to Clare and Jenn Lawson for the image)

Andrew & co are fantastic at these rides. They have an amazing back-up team that bring food and water (for horses and humans) plus tents and bed-rolls and loos and showers and many other comforts for life in the bush. On most of the Namibian rides you sleep under the stars, but on this ride we had tents due to riding through areas populated with large predators. The horses were guarded by night, with their picket line surrounded by the rest of the camp and fires which were kept going through the night in lion areas.

This is what life on safari should be all about, wonderful company, living close to the earth and time for those quiet moments alone, just you and your horse. Big River Safari, Caprivi,

Savouring the simple routine of camp life, with great company

Camp life is refreshing in its simplicity. I wake each dawn to the sound of the horses on the picket line calling for their breakfast. My first thought is to get coffee (I’m addicted), which never tastes better than from a metal mug with a rusk as the sun rises. Breakfast is in the circle of camp chairs around the fire before grooming my horse and taking it to where the tack is stored on a long tarpaulin, secretly hoping to get some help from our guides, Andrew and Telane, as I find the saddles so heavy.

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Beautiful Namibia at daybreak

We are riding about 30km a day, from the start at the Kwando River to the final camp at Mutoya on the Zambezi. The going varies, between long stretches of open bush (or ‘veldt’), small areas cultivated by the locals, scrub, floodplains and woodlands. There are many shouts of ‘holes!’ (belonging to aardvarks) and ‘thorns!’ (the ‘wait a little bit’ bush). Where we can, we make up distance by doing some of Andrew’s famous LSD – Long Slow Distance – at a steady canter along the road shoulder. There can be anything from elephants or zebras crossing, to villagers greeting you, to lorries sounding their horn right by your horse (thank you Red for only shying a bit).

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One of the many river crossings

When we reach camp, the first thing is to see to the horses. They are un-tacked, allowed to roll and taken for water. Then they are put on their allocated place on the picket line and fed.

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Walking the horses the final few hundred metres into camp at the end of the day

Later they will be groomed and fed again, and Andrew and Telane, will do the ‘ward round’ to check for any sore backs or other ailments. Once they are seen to, the bar will be open – G&Ts (with ice, even here) and Windhoek beers all round. Then find your tent, have a shower, have some delicious food that is incredible considering where we are, and chew the fat until bed.

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The horses enjoying a roll and a drink at the end of the day

The joy of these rides is the freedom. It’s hard to put into words the immense nothingness of Namibia. It’s beautiful. Seeing it from a horse you have time to take in the huge mackerel skies, the vivid greens and yellows of grasslands and bush, the belts of trees on the skylines, the blue of the water channels. You have time to talk and bond with your fellow riders, and time to think and let the city life of home recede.

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Beautiful mackerel skies

There was also the local life to see. In the Caprivi, life is harsh on this unyielding land, with the challenges of living with elephants and lions, and the clash of old and new cultures. We had a talk from Lisse Hannsen of the Caprivi Carnivore Project about how to ensure conservation and humans can co-exist.

Horses are a rare sight here and the leader of one village begged us to stop until the whole village could see the horses (he got a ride on Andrew’s horse).

Although hard to believe in the 21st century these locals have never seen a horse

Many of these villagers had never seen a horse before

There are many other tales from this trip I could write about – galloping through water (someone got a ducking), trucking the horses home one day with the riders sitting on top because we couldn’t make the full distance before dark, the time Big Red decided a short cut through a thorn bush was a good idea – but perhaps the best thing to do is go to see for yourself the immense nothingness that is Namibia. The best way to see it? From the back of a horse, of course”.

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The wide open spaces are unforgettable.

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A huge thank you to Sarah for writing this wonderful account of her adventures in Big River country. What an incredible experience and a huge well done to you and fellow In The Saddle guests Clare Anderton, Nicole Appert, Clare Lawson and Jenn Lawson for completing this challenging ride.

If you’d like to experience some more of their epic adventure, then check out Namibia Horse Safaris’ video from the ride here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbCR4xTuI7w

As well as the annual exploratory ride, In The Saddle offers a range of adventurous trail rides in Namibia guided by Andrew Gillies:

Namib Desert: A challenging 300km journey across the oldest desert in the world to Swakopmund on the coast.
Damara Elephant Safari: Fast riding through the vast and spectacular landscapes of Damaraland, tracking elephant and rhino along the way.
Desert Canyons Safari: Explore the open plains of the Southern Namib and see the famous Fish River Canyon.
Wolwedans to Wild Horses: A breath-taking journey taking you from the great dune sea of the central Namib to Klein Aus Vista near the home of the Wild Horses of the Namib.

For more information or to book your place please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, riding holidays africa, riding holidays namibia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Los Potreros Lovin’

In The Saddle guest Millie recently returned from Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina. Millie writes that her holiday was far beyond her expectations.

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Millie enjoying the view at Estancia Los Potreros

A real highlight were the horses. Millie says, “on every level the horses are fantastic, they look after the guests judging who they have riding them. The horses really know their job as working animals, but also enjoy a good few gallops on the trails”.

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The horses are fantastic on every level.

One feature at Los Potreros that guests really enjoy is that each day is different. Millie says, “the gauchos take you somewhere new on the estancia every day and get you working from day one….anyone who has an inner cowboy would love every second!”.

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Aspiring cowboys would love every moment.

Los Potreros is a long-standing favourite with In The Saddle guests. Check out this additional feedback from recent guests:

Orla from London loved both the riding and the hosting. She says, “The riding was superb. The horses seemed to be beautifully matched to the ability of each rider in the group. They were forward going and responsive but I felt safe at all times”.

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Superb riding and responsive horses are a feature of this holiday.

Orla said, “I had a wonderful time during my week at Estancia Los Potreros. I was a lone traveller but I never felt like I was holidaying alone. My hosts Kevin and Lou made guests feel like friends. The staff were delightful. The riding was everything I could have dreamed. Even the weather was perfect (in defiance of all the forecasts)”.

Jackie from Essex agrees. She said, “everything was wonderful – expectations were exceeded. Hosting and riding could not be faulted – Louisa and Kevin, management, guides, gauchos, cooks and housekeeping”.

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Estancia Los Potreros

This trip over Easter even represented two new activities for Jackie, “my first Easter-Egg Hunt on horseback and my first introduction to Polo!”.

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The annual Easter-Egg hunt is a real favourite!

If you’d like more information about Los Potreros or wish to book your stay please contact Abbie on +44 1299 272 239 or via email abigail@inthesaddle.com

 

 

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

Backward Glance – The Sierra Nevada; an original ride

In this blog entry, we take a look at Dallas Love’s rides in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, which are celebrating a very special anniversary in 2017.

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Here at In The Saddle we’ve featured Dallas Love and her fabulous rides in the Sierra Nevada mountains from the very beginning. After have a rummage around the back office, we found our very first brochure. There on the third page, are details about the Contraviesa and Alpujarra rides…both of which are still running today.

Dallas

The top brochure is from 1997, and only has 22 pages. Quite a difference to the 2017 version, with a whopping 171 pages!

We’ve worked with Dallas for over 20 years, but she has actually been guiding in the Sierra Nevada mountains since 1987. 2017 is her 30th anniversary year.

Dallas has an incredible amount of experience and knows the routes and her horses inside out. Dallas first began guiding back in the 1980’s in order to share with others what she most enjoyed doing; riding a good horse through the mountains.

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On Dallas’s rides you’ll experience fit, forward-going, well-schooled horses

Having 23 horses and offering top-quality riding trips is more of a way of life than a job. But Dallas says it is all worth it. One of the highlights for Dallas is meeting so many interesting and different people from around the world.

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We at In The Saddle heartily agree! That’s the great thing about joining a riding holiday, even if you’re travelling by yourself. By joining a group, you can meet people from all over the world – different professions, interests, cultures and ages. But no matter what the differences are, from the very start you’ll all have at least one thing in common – a love of horses!

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One unique quality of riding in the Sierra Nevada is the vastness of the mountains and the diversity of the terrain. Dallas loves this part of Spain and feels it is a privilege to be able to ride for days on end through unspoilt countryside without fences, roads, gates, and only the occasional person.

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One thing Dallas urges her guests not to leave home without, is good footwear. When riding in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains, at some points you’ll have to dismount and lead the horses. So sturdy boots with a good sole are imperative.

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After a long day in the saddle what’s the best way to relax? Dallas says it’s with a long shower and a cold beer….cheers!

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If you’d like to join one of Dallas’ adventures in the beautiful Sierra Nevada mountains, then please contact us for a chat about your requirements on +44 1299 272 997 or via email Lucy@inthesaddle.com

As well as our classic Contraviesa and Alpujarra rides, we now offer short breaks for those who may be short of time or a little rusty in the saddle. Also on offer are our Buena Vista and El Marquesado routes, which are more challenging options perfect for fit and experienced riders.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, in the saddle, Riding Holidays, Riding in Spain | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Arriving in Delhi – day 1 of the Hola Mohalla Ride, Punjab – Olwen Law writes from the exploratory ride which starts today.

Olwen Law writes from Delhi on Day 1 of the new Hola Mohalla ride.

It has been over ten years since I’ve been to India and initial impressions are that a lot has changed. The airport was very efficient with about 50 desks open at immigration and so our queue was minimal apart from a slight problem when the machine scanning our finger prints wasn’t able to cope with ever so slighty sticky fingers.

But from landing to checking into our very lovely Jaypee Vasant Continental hotel was under an hour which cannot be bad by anyone’s books.

Of course roads around the airports are usually slightly better maintained and while there was litter around, there has clearly been a concerted effort to clean up.

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After a lovely lunch in the hotel café we set off for our afternoon city tour. Some of our group had been on the Christmas Ride 9 years ago and were thrilled to recognise our guide – the lovely Ruby (and I remember her from a trip even earlier than that).

Everyone says Delhi traffic is bad and it certainly was. We crawled along and took almost 1.5 hours to get to old Delhi. Noticeable were lots of new clean cars and not many of the ramshackle vehicles I remembered. There were still lots of people on mopeds and motor bikes seemingly with a death wish as they weave in and out of the traffic but now at least the majority were wearing helmets and I saw only a couple of the “whole family on a bike”.

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Lots and lots of noise. Our driver said that to drive in India it was essential to have “a good horn, good brakes, and good luck”.
Our destination was “old Delhi” where we were going to ride on rickshaws through the bustling narrow streets. It is a perfect vantage point because being slightly higher on the rickshaw you can see everything that is going on and the driver keeps us moving through the crowds.

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This is where people come to buy and the streets were organised by product.  Lots of fabric shops – apparently this is where you come to buy a wedding sari if you are the parents of the bride or to buy saris for all the family if that is part of the dowry.

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Then we moved onto shops selling all the trimmings, then to the jewellery stores although they were mostly closed because of a dispute over excise duty and finally to the stores selling gifts for the wedding couple.

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Look at these monkeys in amongst all the trailing cables. If someone’s power goes off I wonder how they could ever work out which cable was the problem?

We leave the markets just in front of Jama Masjid mosque, which is the largest mosque in India.

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Around 25,000 people can pray in this huge courtyard at any one time. We, as well as lots of Indian families and children were enjoying the sunshine but would have to leave just before 5pm when the call to prayer sounded.

We have to cover ourselves with these huge gowns and take off our shoes.

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Which does make us quite an attraction for some local girls who wanted to have their photo taken with us.

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A very exciting first day in India. The weather has been perfect. Some recent rain has removed all the dust, the bourgainvillea is blooming and this tree about to burst forth into bloom.

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Tomorrow we fly to Chandigarh in the Punjab and meet our guides for the riding section.

You can read the blogs from the rest of the Hola Mohalla trip by clicking on the links below:
From Delhi to Chandigarh

First day’s ride to Pinjore Gardens

From first camp to Siswan

From Siswan to Nalagarh

From Nalagarh to Bharatgarh

From Bharatgarh to Anandpur Sahib

At the Hola Mohalla festival

From Hola Mohalla to Shimla

We do hope to do it all again next year, with only a few modifications to the itinerary. For more information email olwen@inthesaddle.com or visit  www.inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, riding in india | Tags: , , , , , | 1 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?!!

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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

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