Posts Tagged With: equestrian travel experts

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.


“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.

who is herding who

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.

Expect the Unexpected

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.

5 beautiful Namibia at daybreak

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).

6 one of many water crossings

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.

coming home at the end of the day 2 cropped

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.

horses enjoying a cool off

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.

8 mackerel skies cropped

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”.

9 wide open spaces

The wide open spaces are unforgettable.


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:

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


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”.


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!”.


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”.


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!”.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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.

Alpujarra 2 Aug 14

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.

Spain Holland Paris 08 050

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!


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

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

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

Incredible Andalucians

In this blog entry, Lucy revisits her trip to the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain back in July 2015. Using a mixture of her own appraisal of the ride and In The Saddle guest feedback, she explains just what makes these rides so appealing.


Our rides in the Sierra Nevada Mountains are special for so many reasons; from the spectacular scenery to the excellent guiding by Dallas Love. What stood out for me and for many of our guests, were the fantastic horses.

During my visit back in July 2015, I fell madly in love with my mount for the week – Laurel. He was the veteran of the group at 17 years old and Dallas’s former lead horse. He was such a pleasure to ride, forward going and sure footed.

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Lucy & Laurel

Let’s also hear from some In The Saddle guests:

Mary from Mid Glamorgan said her mount was “one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden!”.

Helen from Devon said, “this is a fantastic ride; great views and varied riding on very sure-footed, forward-going horses who are very well-mannered. I only wish I could have taken “Mora” my horse home!”

During our trail we were joined by Mordecai, Dallas’s brother. Mordecai is an exceptional horseman and helps Dallas school and prepare the horses for the trail.

The care given to the preparation of the horses is often echoed in guest feedback. For example, Caroline from Northumberland said, “the horses are extremely well-schooled and well-mannered. I’d highly recommend this ride.”

Red from Dallas 2014

Mordecai helping with the school work

I thought the pace might feel a bit slow, with one or two canters a day, but not once was I bored. The terrain varied daily, which kept the riding interesting and exciting. Leading the horses down steep rocky paths was never a problem. And of course, you are riding wonderful quality horses, which is always enjoyable.

Jane from Somerset agreed and says that “the horses were amazing – fit, sure-footed and well-schooled while still being their own ‘characters’. I liked the fact that every day we had times when we had to get off and lead because of the steep terrain – good for preventing rider stiffness!”


All of the horses are trained to walk a polite distance behind you when leading. I never felt rushed or pushed by Laurel and there was never a fear of being stood on. I was so impressed with these horses, I have now taught my own horse at home to lead this way.

Cathrine from Manchester also noticed how polite the horses are, saying, “these horses are a pure delight to lead. They walk behind you, at your pace, never interfering with you.”

Dallas has 22 horses at her stables in Bubion. Some she rescued from around Spain and some are now retired, living the luxury life with a stunning view from their mountain pasture.

The love and care that Dallas puts into her horses is really appreciated by guests. For example, Gill from Cumbria says, “all Dallas’s horses are extremely well cared for and well-schooled – a joy to ride.”


Having only a small number of horses over a long period of time, means that Dallas knows each one individually. It is clear to see the love Dallas has for each horse with each pat and cuddle she gives.

It was an honour to ride with her on such beautiful Spanish horses in the equally beautiful Spanish countryside.

Sue Donovan from Lancashire agrees. She says, “Dallas and her team know their horses well and certainly matched the right horse with the right person”.



Many thanks to Lucy for this insight into what makes Dallas’s rides so special.

We still have some availability for week-long and short-break rides this season. For more information on our rides in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, please call the office on +44 1299 272 997 or email Lucy on

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

An unforgettable safari

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

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

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

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


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

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


Pic: Camp manager Duncan & Katie

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


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

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

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

Pic: David’s tent at Kujwana camp

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

Pic: Elephant in camp

Pic: Elephant in camp

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

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

Pic: Great game sightings from day 1

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

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

Pic: Hippo in the water

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

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

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

Pic: Gliding along in a mokoro

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

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

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

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

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

Pic: Guides extraordinaire Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

Pic: Rogers & Person (aka Percy)

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

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

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

Pic: The mess tent at Moklowane

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

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

Pic: Splashing through the delta was great fun

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

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

Pic: A magnificent breakfast spread at Moklowane

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

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

Pic: Zebra blending in with the bush

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

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

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

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

Meerkats to Moonlight, in the Kalahari

The Kalahari makes you feel very small in the grand scheme of things as everything around you is larger than life and endless. The Makgadikadi Pans stretch out in front of you into infinity, and you would think you were on the surface of the moon except for the scorching desert heat – this magical space holds no sounds at all, no noise whatsoever – just the sound of the blood running through your own ears.

Yet despite being in such a magical and desolate space it is teeming with wildlife; here you see the zebra racing their own shadows during the golden African sunsets; here you meet the Meerkat families; here you learn desert survival skills from the indigenous Bushmen and follow in the same footsteps of missionaries such as Livingstone. Here you get to canter by moonlight on the white salt crusted plains underneath the black-velvet African sky studded stars;  here you enter the Africa of storybooks.

The great zebra migration

The great zebra migration

I have been in the Kalahari for just two hours and now I am sat in the saddle, just as the vast round orange sun is setting on the horizon watching a dazzle of zebra set off at a gallop, stirring up the dust as they go. But this is a really unusual sight, like an illusion. The sunlight mixed in with the airborne dust particles, meant that I was looking at zebra racing their own upright shadows. The dust had turned their shadows the correct way up, so it appeared as if the shadows were also zebra and running alongside them, overtaking them as they ran past us. I have never seen shadows do this before and it was a ‘goose bump’ moment, and probably never to be repeated, as it would be hard to replicate the light. Simply stunning! This perfect evening was rounded off by discovering a set of chairs and a drinks box. Toasting the zebra shadows with a sundowner overlooking the pans as the last of the light faded. What a perfect first impression to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans in the Kalahari.


My goosebump moment!

You stay at the delightful Camp Kalahari, with lovely spacious tents, poster beds and a vast oak dining table. The food is so delicious and plentiful it is a challenge to finish it all, so you certainly will not go hungry.

During the day it seems hotter here when compared to other African destinations, not sure why, maybe the white salt pans reflect the heat and sun, plus there is very little breeze to cool us down. But luckily we ride in the early morning when it is cooler, and are in the shade of the mid-day sun enjoying lunch by the time it gets really hot. The horses are a lovely bunch of well behaved and kind, generous souls. I was lucky enough to ride four of them during my stay and each horse was forward going and willing in his work. They were all incredibly sure footed over all terrain and I think that they enjoyed their gallops as much as we did.

Camp Kalahari

Camp Kalahari

Halfway through my stay we set off to Xau Xai fly camp. On the way we pass through quite different terrain to the Pans themselves, riding past woodlands and parkland with long open plains where we could gallop and push on a bit.

En route we stopped for a break at Chapmans Baobab, this is acknowledged to be one of the largest trees in Africa and could easily be seen from a great distance on the horizon.


This is me riding proving I rode on the same path as some of histories great missionaries

Settling into the foundations of this famous tree, David Foot your guide for the week makes the tree come to life by retelling the tales of missionaries such as Livingstone and Chapman who had visited this tree, and their journeys through these parts. He conjures up images of the past by elaborating upon and retelling stories and experiences that their wives and children had to undergo during these arduous journeys by Ox cart across the Kalahari. He describes the hardships that they encountered over the years, all of which have been documented within their diaries at the time. He ends the tale with descriptions of their deaths during the journey, and the accuracy of his descriptions of how it must have been for them during these times brings a real sense of history to the ground you are riding upon.

Spot the human hiding...

Spot the human hiding…

At fly camp you get the chance to meet the Kalahari meerkats, and so with an early start you set off to find them. The ‘sleepy dust’ from your eyes is soon blown away as on the way we enjoy some great canters on the plains.

The meerkats are not quite awake yet, and we occasionally see one pop his head up above ground, look around, decide it is too cold and retreat back underground again. We only had to wait about 15 minutes and then the whole troop decides to emerge… they have babies too! A family of 9 in total, 4 babies and 5 adults.


Imagine that the first thing you see in the morning is me! At least he didn’t run away…

We watch them stand upright to warm themselves, all facing the sun warming their bellies (like soldiers on parade) and then off they go never stopping, foraging for food along the way, each adult feeding the babies in turn. Such teamwork, the adults would dig up grubs and bugs etc. and then eat one themselves and the next was always without fail diligently passed to the babies. Each adult had a ‘kid’ to look after and their charge would follow them the whole way waiting for their treat.  We walk with them, watching them dig for food and feed. They cover a good distance and are habituated well so that they do not fear our human presence. You can get really close, and if you sit still long enough they will often climb up you and use your head as a lookout tower.


Having spent the morning with the meerkats we decide to head onward with our horses to the Pans themselves. The surface at the edge of the Pans is perfect for a good blast and WE ARE OFF. Everyone fires off, and we are all flat out. My horse for the day is an older experienced gentleman, who is usually a quiet back up horse, and after about 20 metres he decided that a gallop is far too much effort and slows himself to a steady loping canter (I had been warned he would do this, so I didn’t expect him to win the race or keep up). Everyone disappears from view galloping into the distance, and I am left loping on my horse on my own in the middle of the pans. Utterly wonderful. In the middle of nowhere, empty as far as the eye can see, just emptiness and the sound of my hooves on the crusty salt in in a three beat stride. What a magical moment just loping quietly along,  never once worrying about where the others were or trying to speed up or slow down to trot, my boy just kept his steady pace and rhythm. When I caught up with the others still blowing from their gallop there were smiles all around, but I still believe I had the most secretive and enchanting moment out of us all.

Later after the heat of the day we set off for a quite ride with horses, onto the pans in the sunset. The silence of this area is so great that if you close your eyes you can hear only the sound of the blood in your ears and nothing else. There can not be many places left in the world without any ‘white noise’ at all. We wandered and stood, wandered a bit more, quietly meandering along into the pans salty surface.

It goes on and on and on, such a unique environment

It goes on and on and on, such a unique environment

By now the sun has set but we carry on into the dark, just looking at our very own moon shadows of our horses marching along. David points out various stars including Venus and Orions belt, which can all be seen so clearly. Towards the end of the ride we pick up a steady canter and in the moonlight we are just loping along quietly at the edge of the pans in the darkness of the night with the ground lit up by the moon, the cool air making a refreshing change to the heat of the day. It’s been a long but magical day, from Meerkats to moonlight.

David taking advantage of the African evening sunset, to get some piccies of my lovely ride for the week, General.

David taking advantage of the African evening sunset, to get some piccies of my lovely ride for the week, General.

On the last day I was lucky enough to meet the bushmen trackers of the Kalahari. This rural tribe took us for a bush walk and gave a very detailed insight into their survival techniques in this very harsh landscape and heat. They showed us how they hunt for scorpions, and clean the scorpions inside your own mouth to temporarily paralyse them. They talked us through the plants around us and how they use them for healing cuts, medicine, even which tubers to dig up for liquid quenching refreshment when no water can be found in the Kalahari. They show us how they set traps to catch birds for meat, and proudly talk about their lion encounters, showing us the scars on their bodies from arguing with a lion over who was to claim the carcass of a Kudu. The Bushmen won apparently.


They also showed us their poisoned arrows from the guts of a worm larvae. This poison can only be collected in their spring, and can only be used once on an arrow, but is so strong it will kill anything.. Women and children are never allowed to touch the arrows, only the men, and I can understand why if they are that deadly.

I did ask how old the chief was and was told he was 98 years old. I don’t quite believe that, but then they probably don’t use a calenders and diaries or have birth certificates, so how would he know? Maybe that’s the answer to our age obsessed culture, not to count the years and to just live simply and happily gaining memories along the way. The Kalahari certainly gave me memories that will stay with me forever, a unique environment, that is surprisingly breathtaking!

Ostrich certainly can kick up the dust - they are seriously fast!

Ostrich certainly can kick up the dust – they are seriously fast!

If you want to find out more then call Sarah at In The Saddle on +44 (0) 1299 272 234 or email


Categories: Equestrian Travel, riding botswana, riding holidays africa, Riding safaris | 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.


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

new swimming pool 2

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


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.


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.


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.



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.



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


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 – Pedro Alarcão from Ecotura, Portugal

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


1.  How long have you been a riding guide?

I’ve been guiding for 10 years.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


8.    What has been your most memorable ride?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.   Where do you go on holiday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Win a Holiday to Estancia Los Potreros at The Riding Holiday Show

Come to the Riding Holiday Show on 12 December and enter a competition to win a riding holiday at the fabulous Estancia Los Potreros in Argentina. Sadly owners Kevin and Louisa Begg cannot join us at the event, but representing Los Potreros in their absence will be former guides Holly and Georgina.

Here, Kevin and Louisa tell us a little about life on the estancia.


1. How long have you been at Los Potreros?

Kevin: This is my family home and so I have lived here all my life. We have been taking guests for 15 years this time round, although my grannie, Louie Begg, used to take home-stay guests between the late 1940´s and the 1960’s.

Louisa: I came here on holiday with In The Saddle 10 years ago and didn’t go home!

2. Where did you guide and/or ride before this?

Kevin: This is my first time guiding as such, but I have ridden all my life – it is an essential part of growing up on an estancia in Argentina as it is the only practical way to get around and work with cattle. As a young boy I remember my dad, Robert, who still lives on the estancia, making us get up early, go out and fetch the horses, groom them and saddle them up. In those days it felt a bit more like a chore than a pleasure!

Estancia Los Potreros Argentina by Astrid Harrison (8)

Louisa: I have ridden since I was a small girl – my parents gave me the choice of riding lessons or piano lessons which at 6 years old was a relatively easy choice. Through my teenage years I spent every spare moment mucking out stables and cleaning tack in return for riding, and this led to me working for a couple of years in the racing world. Life took me in a different direction after that (although I always kept riding), coincidentally into the hospitality industry, which has stood me in very good stead in the ten years that I have been here. Kevin always says that he checked my CV before asking me to marry him!

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

Kevin: Actually, it was my brother Robin who originally had the idea of re-starting the estancia as a riding holiday business. I had been working in Spain but was posted back to Argentina with my work and when they decided to close their offices in Buenos Aires I decided to stay – I felt I had come home. Robin asked me to come up to the estancia to help out with a few rides and 12 years on I’m still here. Now Robin has gone on to other things and Lou and I have been running the guest and cattle business for over 10 years now.

Louisa: I had always dreamed that one day I would have some form of job that would base me mainly outdoors, but really again I blame In The Saddle! I had a week off between 2 jobs, had been on an amazing riding holiday with them in Chile some years before and they suggested Los Potreros. I came here for a week and mentioned to Kevin that if he ever wanted a manager for the guest/guiding business I would be interested; it combined my service industry experience with my passion for animals and riding. I never imagined my dream would become a reality.

pompeya131014 304

4. If you hadn’t stayed at Los Potreros, what was your Plan B?

Kevin: I had always thought that one day I would come back to the family farm. Aside from the riding holiday business, we have an extremely successful cattle business, each year winning prizes at auction for highest price and best animals. I am really keen to develop the herd further, based on the amazing foundation work that my father and grandmother did.

Louisa: I had worked in the service industry all my life in one form or another, and before I came to Los Potreros I had set my sights on another 5 years of a ‘proper’ job, before looking to buy a little B&B business possibly in Devon or Wales, with the idea that I would be able to spend more time riding and being outdoors. Nowadays, if I couldn’t guide I think Kev is resigned to the fact that I would turn the estancia into a rescue home for horses/dogs/cats and probably a few other animals besides. We have already collected a few of each along the way.


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

Kevin: For me it is such a privilege to have found a job that allows me to live on my family estancia. One of my passions is sharing with guests the history of my family and the area, the traditions and culture of the gaucho and some of the stories of Argentina. I also love taking guests out to visit the cattle on horseback as I am very proud of the herd. Although it is wonderful having so many horses, cattle and other animals unfortunately they don’t know when it is your day off, and so sometimes the main downside is that it really is a 24/7 job.

Louisa: There is just nothing better than being able to ride out in our beautiful scenery on the back of one of our lovely horses every day. I love a good gallop as much as the next person, but I particularly enjoy helping people build their confidence on horseback, or introducing people to riding or polo who never thought they could do it. This year we had a couple in their 70’s who had never ridden in their lives, and in their first ride I had them cantering over the hills as I can put my trust completely in the horses. In terms of downsides, I am a person who wears their emotions on their sleeve, and as a riding guide you can never have a ‘bad’ day. This is really hard, especially if for example one of the animals is poorly and you have to carry on as though nothing has happened.


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

Kevin: I enjoy riding all of our horses but I have a special fondness for a homebred Peruvian Paso called Negro 11. He is in his early 20’s now so there is nothing he hasn’t seen or done. He has a very noble air about him, and carries himself beautifully, so he would probably be some sort of conqueror or hero – maybe Alexander the Great?

Louisa: I can honestly say that out of our 140 horses I don’t have a favourite – they are all wonderful and brilliant in their own way. I do however often chat with the back-up guides about if ‘this horse was a human what would they be’ and we have a supermodel, everyone’s favourite uncle, an investment banker, a princess, some Barbie girls and a ‘boy at school that all the girls wanted to be with and all the boys were jealous of’ to name but a few!

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

Kevin: Malbec and beef – I am Argentine after all!

Louisa: My border collies (currently I have 6) and horses in the garden. Both are guaranteed to bring a smile to my face every day.

8. What has been your most memorable ride?

Kevin: A few years ago I took a long distance trail ride with 5 ladies of ‘a certain age’. We stopped at some beautiful pools for lunch and a swim, and the ladies decided to strip off completely and recreate a ‘calendar girls’ type photo. Not something I will forget in a hurry – nor will the gaucho!


Louisa: So many, so very hard to pick one out, but possibly the first time I rode out on my little Peruvian Paso mare, Aurora. There is just nothing like a home-bred horse – following the foal through his or her early years, and training, and probably a few dramas and heartaches in between, until they are ‘ride ready’. She has a very exaggerated front leg action and is as pretty as a picture, so being honest I probably was enjoying the chance to show off a bit!

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

Kevin: A glass of Malbec – did I mention I am Argentine?

Louisa: My favourite de-stresser would be either spending time with the foals, or more recently we bought a pair of Nigerian pygmy goats. They are just the cutest things, incredibly cheeky, and very funny. Sometimes we take a glass of wine down and sit with them – guaranteed to make you laugh.

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

Kevin: Work hard at whatever you do – it will stand you in good stead for a guiding job. The riding itself is wonderful, but never forget there is a lot of hard work that goes in before the ride, after the ride and behind the scenes, and so developing a good work ethic is vital.

Louisa: Coming from a background in the hospitality industry I would definitely remind people that guiding is a service business, so any experience they can gain in terms of working with people will be time valuably spent. Sometimes you may have to manage people in difficult situations, handle group dynamics, be sensitive to individual guests needs or just be able to chat along happily on the ride. In terms of riding and horses, get as much experience of different horses, environments, riding styles as you can. Your dream may be to ride dressage in Portugal, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider a season as a polo groom. Never stop learning and soak up information from as many different people as possible. And definitely keep an open mind – there is never just one way of doing something and you, your horses and your guests will ultimately benefit the more open your mindset is.


11. Where do you go on holiday?

Kevin: We have one month off a year but have no fixed destination. In recent years we have been to Brazil, Spain, Mexico and the United States. I do like to spend at least part of our holidays somewhere where we get great service – it is very nice to be looked after, when you spend 11 months of the year looking after other people.

Louisa: I always go back to the UK once a year to visit family and friends, but other than that we tend to go somewhere different every year. We do like to be active so often do some driving and of course I always like to ride, although Kevin sometimes takes some persuading. We have ridden with In The Saddle guides Shane and Laura at Horizon in South Africa, John Sobey at Macatoo in Botswana and Paulo in Brazil. This year we are hoping to visit Eddy in Peru to try out some of his fabulous Peruvian Pasos.

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Many thanks to Kevin and Louisa for sharing an insight into life at Los Potreros.

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

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

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

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