Posts Tagged With: riding holiday

Romania’s Wide Open Spaces

Becky Clarke from In The Saddle tells us about her trip to Romania in October 2017. Here, she highlights the best bits of her trip from the beautiful scenery to the sure-footed horses.

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Romania, and particularly Transylvania, was somewhere that’s been on my ever-growing list for some time. The thought of wide open spaces, no fences and a willing horse made me eager to visit Equus Silvania, the home of Barbara and Christoph Promberger.

Equus Silvania Lodge

I actually arrived mid-way through a Centre- Based week where riders go out for c. 4 – 5 hours a day and then overnight at Equus Silvania. I then joined the first few nights of the Transylvania Trail ride which starts and finishes at Equus Silvania but throughout the week you move on to various villages as you journey through the countryside.

The accommodation in the lodge is in lovely ‘cabin’ style rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. Downstairs there is a lovely long dining room where everyone sits together for breakfast and dinner.

On the Transylvania Trail ride, the accommodation is more basic because you are staying in local guesthouses and even sometimes people’s homes. I really enjoyed that feeling of being right out there in rural Romania and particularly the guesthouse in Corbor which is lovely.

The landscape that we rode through was amazing and I was lucky enough to experience the full splendour of the Autumn colours from so many different vantage points.

The riding itself was the most fantastic experience; the horses were truly a pleasure to ride. Their stamina was impressive and they were so willing to do what was asked of them.

One of my highlights both on the Transylvania Trail and also whilst on the the Centre-Based ride was un-tacking the horses at lunchtime and just letting them roll (if it wasn’t raining). They absolutely loved it!

Transylvania is a relatively unspoilt area, rich with history and culture. Whether you are on the Equus Silvania stay or the Transylvania Trail ride, there is an element of culture included.

Bran Castle

Something else I really enjoyed was visiting the bear hide. Deep in the woods, a short walk from a forest track is a bear hide where we had the opportunity to try and spot bear – it was very exciting and we were lucky enough to see eight!

The areas that we rode through were so diverse, from the forests with their bright beautiful canopies to the open and rolling farmland and the autumn colours just made everything so much more vibrant.

I think that for those who’d like as much riding as possible and don’t mind basic accommodation, the Transylvania Trail would be perfect; for those who would like to ride for  few hours a day but with the choice to be more flexible and come back to the same place each night, Equus Silvania is more ideally suited.

In my opinion, Romania is somewhere everyone should visit at least once. One day I’d love to go back and experience the Winter riding!

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For more information on the Romanian rides or to book your place please call Becky on +44 1299 272 244 or email rebecca@inthesaddle.com.

Categories: Carpathia, Equestrian Travel, Equus Silvania, horse riding, Horse riding in Romania, Horses & riding, in the saddle, in the saddle, Riding Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking back at my Cowgirl Adventure

In this edition of ggjourneys, In The Saddle’s Becky Clarke tells of her stay at Hidden Hollow Hideaway in June 2016.

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It’s been a while now since I visited Montana and still most days I find myself day-dreaming of the wide open spaces, beautiful horses and the immense sense of freedom that comes with having the wind fly through your hair!

I have been to a fair few places in my life and yet whenever anyone asks me about my favourite, my mind skips back to the days I spent chasing calves and watching the sun rise over the Rockies.

When I first arrived at Hidden Hollow Hideaway Ranch, I was beyond excited to be joining one of their  cattle drives! My childhood summers as far back as I can remember would consist of my cousins, my sister and I riding off from the farm, across the fields in search of some cattle to round-up (much to my grandfather’s annoyance)!

Hidden Hollow Hideaway is owned and run by the Flynn family whose roots can be traced back to the 1860s when Kelly’s ancestors followed the gold rush to Diamond City. Kelly, Jill and Siobhan Flynn were at the ranch whilst I was there and after welcoming the group and showing us to our rooms, it was time to ride.

First though, we got to meet our steeds and it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you the beautiful ‘Cub’ – and what an absolute gentleman he was too.

As it happened our first full day of the week was the cattle drive itself. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it was everything I hoped it would be!

To start with we had to scour a huge pasture for a couple of hundred head of cattle! This was a slow and careful process, making sure to get all of the calves and not split them from their mothers. Getting the bulls to move sometimes also proved difficult……

The bulls were sometimes more interested in each other than moving on.

After we had brought the whole herd together and crossed the river, we proceeded to drive the cattle up towards the mountains.

Kelly explained to us all that it was really important to keep the calves up in the middle of the herd. This was because once the herd is moving and they separate from their mothers, they try to go back to where they last fed. In this case it would be several miles back down the mountain and so we all worked hard driving the herd from the back and sides.

Once we had navigated up through forest paths, down ditches and over streams, it was time for what Kelly called the ‘stampede’! I’ll admit I wasn’t quite sure what to expect…….

About a mile along from where we were, the track became narrow and twisted downhill through a section of forest. This is where the cattle would start to run due to the downhill momentum. At the bottom they needed to be turned 90° right so that they didn’t head straight into a deep gully….. and guess who got taken along with Kelly…. yep it was me!

I’ll be honest – it was exhilarating! We sped around and ahead of the cattle before dropping down and through the forest. Before we’d even gotten to the bottom of the track, we could hear the herd picking up the pace, the sound of their hooves echoing through the trees.

I’m glad I didn’t try to take any pictures during the stampede but here is a nice one at the bottom of the hill once the herd had settled again. My angel Cub stood like a rock the entire time.

Although it was a hard 7 hours in the saddle, it was the cattle drive I have always dreamed of! And the view from the top was just …..WOW…..

Becky on the beautiful Cub

The riding during the rest of the week was an array of trails across the beautiful countryside. Siobhan told us stories as we rode which made the hours slip by far too quickly for my liking! In the afternoons when we weren’t riding, there was the chance for gold panning, rifle shooting or even fishing if we didn’t want to relax.

Hidden Hollow Hideaway is a working ranch and so every week is different depending on what needs to be done. However something that always needs doing is changing the irrigation pipes.

One morning I volunteered to meet Kelly at 5:30 and help him. It was great to hear all about how he set up the pipes to run water uphill and how each of the different systems work. It really put into perspective how much work is done behind the scenes – and also helped work up an appetite for breakfast!

Working at sunrise on the irrigation pipes.

Jill’s cooking throughout the week was another highlight for me. The family style, help yourself approach worked really well and we would all sit around the table together each meal time. There was a different desert each evening which was brilliant but I was slightly worried I wouldn’t fit back into my jeans by the time I left!

The main lodge at Hidden Hollow Hideaway

Each evening there was the option to go with Kelly on a wildlife drive. I remember finding these drives really interesting and learned to identify several different dear types as well as being lucky enough to see mountain goats!

There is no wi-fi at the ranch which is really nice. It allows you to just get away from everything and really get immersed into rural Montana life. With the big belt mountains behind you and the brilliant horses you get to ride, you can just forget about everything else and enjoy your surroundings.

If I had the opportunity,  I’d be back out there in a heartbeat.

And the last picture has to be of Cub.

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

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Susan Wirth from Turkey

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December will be full to the brim with talented and experienced riding guides from around the world. Here, we have an article by Susan from Akhal-Teke Horse Center in Turkey.

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1. How long have you been guiding in Turkey?

6 years

2. Where did you guide and ride before this?

I grew up in southern Africa where I learned how to ride on retired race horses and polo ponies. We had a lot of wild places at our disposal and as children we would spend all our spare time exploring the bushveldt on horse-back. Even though I later bought a horse in the US and decided I needed to learn how to ride ‘properly’ I was always happiest thinking about where I could actually go on a horse.

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

I had gotten away from riding as I was living in New York city and working in the publishing field. Occasionally in a fit of nostalgia, I would rent a horse and ride in Central Park but the ‘fire cracker’ went off again when I took a 6 month sabbatical and did my first multi-day trek with David and Robyn Foot on the Nyika Plateau in Malawi.

After that I was hooked and started to ride all over the world from India to all over South America, Europe and Africa until I eventually found my way to Turkey and met Ercihan Dilari, the owner of the riding outfit. We became firm friends and as we rode, talked of riding Akhal Teke horses from Turkmenistan to Turkey. It was a crazy dream but I realized that we were both a bit obsessed with long distance horse travel. We stayed friends over the years and I would return to ride and got to know his family and the outfit quite well. It was however in 2009 when we rode the Evliya Celebi Way that we really came together as a couple and I started helping him with the rides. It has been an incredible journey.

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

I have always been involved in photo journalism and photography in general so I also work as a photo editor for a news magazine when I am not guiding. It is  fun being engaged in different activities, specially in the off-season.

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?

I think it is one of the most wonderful jobs, sharing one’s environment on horseback. I love the fact that I can meet people from all over the world  and that many of these contacts turn into friendships. I also love the bonds that are formed with our horses and with our staff as we embark on a journey together with our guests. It is an extraordinary and exhilarating experience and you don’t want to be doing anything else. The only real downside is that I can’t control the weather!

Riders along the Evliya Celebi Route in Turkey

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

My favorite horse is Juno, a small, unassuming Arabian/Anatolian mare who was a gift from Ercihan. We believe that she might have started life as a wild horse, living with a herd at the base of Mt. Erciyes, one of the volcanoes responsible for the Cappadocian landscape. Juno has a huge heart and has generously carried me over this often challenging landscape for several years now. A clever, tough and resourceful mountain horse. She is like that  ‘little engine that could…”.

Despite her daintiness and to the dismay of others, she has competed with me very successfully in endurance competitions and last year, she helped me fulfill my dream of riding 1,000 km from Cappadocia to Istanbul. I think that travelling with your horse over great distances creates the most extraordinary of bonds. You are adventuring together.

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

I can’t unfortunately live without my cell phone anymore. There are so many things to organize and ‘double-check’ as you go. It is annoying but necessary if you want a smooth
operation.

8. What has been your most memorable ride?

There are of course so many stories but one memorable guest was an ‘Iron Woman’ finalist from America. She signed up for a camping trip ride and we had long days in the saddle. Every morning at dawn, before we had even stuck our noses out of our tents she was just returning from a 10km run. We would then ride about 35km and then after untacking our horses after an exhausting day, collapse with a cold beer. This lady would not be seen because she would head back to her tent to get into her exercise gear and proceed to scale the next highest mountain. We were in awe.

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

I like nothing more than going to the Turkish Baths in Ürgüp, one of the villages in the area. I would be happy to go every night and I always take guests with me. After a cleaning and a massage you feel like new. It is a fun way of connecting with guests away from the horses and the dinner table.

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

Make sure that as you train, that you also develop your interests beside the riding, and that you always remain curious and enjoy engaging with people. One of the finest young guides I met once was a young man who could share so much about the history and culture of his country. It was enthralling. Be fascinated yourself and this will make the whole experience so much more meaningful for you and for your guests.  Also don’t be frightened about living in remote places and be content living a disciplined and simple life. It is not for the faint-hearted.

11. Where do you go on holiday?

I am really addicted to travelling on horseback so I always find an interesting new places to ride in, usually very much off the beaten-track. As a guide I also find it really helpful to see how other outfits manage their treks and also see things from a guest’s perspective.  I hope that it has made me more sensitive to the needs and concerns of our guests.

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Thank you Susan for some fantastic images and another interesting article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Susan from Turkey 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, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Meet the Guides” at The Riding Holiday Show – Ingeborg from Namibia

The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December will be full to the brim with talented and experienced riding guides from around the world. Here, we have an article by a talented and popular guide who is well know for her love of Arabian horses – Ingeborg from Okapuka in Namibia.

0821.How long have you been guiding at Okapuka?

I’ve been guiding since 2000 when my ex-partner and I set up the riding safari operation at Okapuka.

2.    Where did you guide before this?

I used to be an HR manager before I decided that Namibia would be my home. I started riding when I was a youngster. My first pony was a white Shetland mare, called Walda who was most probably not bigger 11hh; later I had a chestnut gelding, a New Forest pony called (believe it or not), Quicky! During my riding years in the Netherlands I saw one of my competitors in the dressage ring riding a white purebred Arabian and I was completely in awe. That’s how my fascination and love for the breed started and I promised myself one day that one day, one day I would be the owner of such a magnificent creature. I stopped riding when I turned 18 and only started again just before coming to Namibia on a holiday (not a riding holiday), not knowing riding would become my profession. When we started the horse safaris there was doubt that the Arabian horse would become our partner. In a way I’m still an HR manager, but now it’s Horse Resource Manager.

Almost in tears

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

When my ex-partner and I set up the company there was no question in my mind that I would do the guiding as well. It wasn’t a person, but the country inspired me; wide open spaces, abundance of wildlife, 360 days of sunshine and the smell of the earth after the first rain (if Chanel, Dior, or whoever could put that smell in a bottle I would be the biggest user). I love horses, especially purebred Arabians, horse riding and what better way to do that than in Africa.

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

I would either have stayed an HR Manager or just mucked out stables, I guess. I have never thought about it. I don’t think there ever was a plan B!

Rider & giraffe 03

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?

What is it there not love about the job? Being outside, enjoying beautiful scenery, having gorgeous Arabian horses around me and seeing smiles on the faces of my guests. The downside? Well I could say there is none, but then I would be telling a lie. The most horrible thing is to have to say goodbye to a much-loved horse. That is something I cannot and do not want to get used to.

6.    If your favourite horse was a human, who would he/she be and why?

I have a few favourites, but the one who always makes my heart beat faster is my Monster as I affectionately call him. His official name is ‘Nabilah the Makers Masterpiece’, a straight Egyptian Arabian grey gelding who is turning 20 in December. He has a wicked sense of humour, is a drinker of the wind and I trust him with my life. If he would be human, most probably he would be my husband!

Masterpiece & Ingeborg

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

When guiding I couldn’t do without a good lead horse. In general it’s difficult for me to live without sunshine, white wine, my horses, dog and cats and my family – and not in this particular order.

8.    What has been your most memorable riding holiday week?

My most memorable endurance ride was the competition where my guests and I all came first in our different weight categories and distances, and won some Best Conditioned Horse Awards. My most embarrassing competition was where I fell off my horse in front of my guest rider and ended up in hospital. Thank goodness, the guest rider continued and finished the ride!

Jacoza on Dune 7

Finding my most memorable safari week or ride is very difficult; there have been so many memorable riders and rides, and situations. My most memorable rider is a Belgian lady, saying that even though she loved the place, horses and rides she would not return as there were so many more beautiful riding places that she were on her bucket list. But then she came back every single year, once or twice until the year she passed away. My most memorable ride was earlier this year when taking guest riders on their first ride and meeting 2 male leopards having a springbok breakfast, followed by a rhino sighting, followed by being enclosed by giraffe, followed by ….. I had to explain to them that this was exceptional and to please don’t expect this every single day! My most memorable situation was when we were having a good canter and suddenly 2 rhino came thundering out of the thickets deciding to join us for a short while; our tempo increased slightly and so did our adrenaline level!!

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

I sit on my stoop with a good book, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc being greeted by Doggos, my dog and being surrounded by purring cats.

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

Look, listen and learn, be aware of your surroundings, horses and guests and the interaction between those 3.

11.    Where do you go on holiday?

To Europe to visit family.

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Thank you Ingeborg for some fantastic images and another interesting article. Olwen and the team look forward to seeing you in a few weeks’ time.

You can meet Ingeborg from Okapuka 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, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, riding holidays namibia, Riding safaris, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel advice, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 2 – Motswiri

In December Abbie had a two week trip to Botswana visiting Kujwana, Motswiri and Macatoo camps. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, she knew plenty about the camps but are they going to live up to her high expectations. Read on as she visits Motswiri.

“As our little plane nears Motswiri camp I peek through the window and watch immense grey shapes cluster around waterholes joyfully spurting water from their trunks. A few moments later I see huge herds of buffalo seething across the plains as though one solid mass of muscle. Soon after the plane takes off again there are more elephant right in front of us crossing the airstrip…and I know my stay at Motswiri is going to be special.

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

I’m met at the airstrip by Cliffy who will be my riding guide for the duration of my stay. I am in good hands, as Cliffy has been involved in the guiding industry since 1993. Not only is he an experienced guide and passionate conservationist, but he also trains aspiring new guides and is involved in restructuring the nature guide qualification in Botswana.

As we draw close we are met by the harmonious voices of the staff as they welcome us into camp. After being shown around and hearing about the usual day-to-day route, I am shown to my tent. Wow! It really is fabulous, with a huge high bed giving a great view out over the water, a lovely bathroom with hot/cold running water and a flush loo. In my room I find everything you might need, from shampoo and soap, to insect repellent and mosquito coils. My tent is a short wander from the swimming pool, which is so refreshing after a few hours in the saddle. The central mess tent is superbly located overlooking the spillway, where elephants often come to drink. Sundowners here are often accompanied by the sound of grunting hippo making their way along the water channels.

my really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

My really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

In camp with me are a Swiss couple, who are on safari celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Therys is a non-rider, but tells me what a wonderful stay they have had so far. Each day she has been out with two guides on fabulous game walks and exciting game drives. She tells me it has been the perfect trip, because they have each been able to take part in their favourite activities, but mealtimes, sundowners and afternoons have all been spent together.

I am given Mopani to ride, a stunning liver chestnut gelding who is fit and ready for action. The saddles are comfortable South African trail saddles, although English saddles are available if you prefer. My first afternoon ride takes us along the river. As we round a bend in front of us a disgruntled hippo has been pushed from his watery wallowing place by a large herd of elephant. Our horses graze and we watch enchanted by these amazing creature so close to us. The elephant cross the river as the young ones splash and play. I’ve never seen a hippo out of the water before and it is an amazing sight!

hippo out of water is an amazing sight

Hippo out of water is an amazing sight

We ride back to camp, where the stable staff are waiting to take the horses from us. We dismount to the sounds of popping corks, as the champagne is opened to celebrate our arrival. Sundowners are enjoyed on ‘Motswiri beach’ as we recount our adventures and look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

I am visiting in December, when the days are warm and the bush is green and lush. Cliffy tells me in October the bush is drier but there is more water around. Having said this, there was more water then I was expecting – we still waded through plenty of water and had some fabulous splashy canters.

A real thrill between May and September is the opportunity to ride to fly camp for a night and experience riding in a totally different area.

the very comfortable fly camp

The very comfortable fly camp

Next morning our ride takes us out onto the floodplains, which in the flood season are completely full of water. Right now (in December) there is still a good amount of water left – enough for some refreshing splashy canters which have us grinning from ear to ear. We ride to an ancient baobab tree, a beautiful spot for a snack break. As we make our way along the edge of a forest we hear buffalo not far away and at one point we catch sight of them. Next moment we are crossing over to the other side of the bank and as if from nowhere, we spot a long table laid out for lunch! We dismount and pat our horses, and as if on cue a big herd of elephant cross in front of us.

A spectacular sight at lunch

A spectacular sight at lunch

In the afternoon I try out a new horse called Roman, a Namibian Warmblood. He is cheeky, forward going and great fun. We spot tsessebe, impala and warthog and just catch sight of a beautiful antelope which Cliffy thinks is Oribi.

Next day we ride to King’s Island and have great fun popping over logs and fallen trees. Roman, Sambuca, Mr B and Amigo seem to love the chance for some bush cross country as much as we do! My final morning ride is a long one to Hippo Pools. We have plenty of fast riding along vehicle tracks and over the flood plains, the horses expertly hopping over the fish nest holes. After a few hours we reach our destination and pause to watch about ten hippos in their big pool of water. One female is really curious about the horses and gets closer and closer to us. Finally she plucks up the courage to leave the water and comes within about 10 metres of us, before turning and going back into the water. Not long afterwards, we are riding through a wooded area and come upon a breeding herd of elephant. Some of them are eating and others are digging the ground for minerals. As we begin to skirt around the herd, a big bull elephant begins to charge. But we stand our ground and he pauses, then turns his back to us and retreats. What a way to finish off my time at Motswiri!

Abbie at Motswiri

Abbie at Motswiri

You can read more about the fantastic In The Saddle horse safaris at Motswiri here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is a riding holiday?

It may seem obvious, but there are many different types of equestrian travel and it can be a bit of a minefield for people trying to decide which is the right trip for them! So here we tell you a little bit more about what to expect on a Riding Holiday…

The opportunities are almost endless when looking for a Riding Holiday. Whether you want a quick weekend break to Spain, Italy or France, or to travel further afield to South Africa, California or Mexico – a Riding Holiday guarantees you fun and leisurely riding for a variety of levels along with excellent hosting, good food and wine and a real break from reality.

There are many destinations that give you the chance to do more than just ride which also suits the non-horsey partner or other family member; see the local area on day trips, take a dip in the pool and combine your equine antics with relaxation and rejuvenation! You won’t require months of forward planning or specialist packing and you could easily book last minute depending on availability so if you are looking to wind down and chill out then a Riding Holiday is just what you need.

Book a riding holiday if…
You want a quick and easy break from the norm
You are a novice rider looking for your first equestrian holiday
You love horses and want to see a country from a different view point
You want to relax and unwind, with added extras such as a swimming pool
You like to stay somewhere luxurious, with all the mod-cons
You wish to meet and socialise with like-minded people
You want a leisurely holiday, rather than anything too challenging

Has this inspired you? Check out the riding holidays available at www.inthesaddle.com

Enjoy a break from the norm with a riding holiday

Enjoy a break from the norm with a riding holiday

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moolmanshoek: The ride must go on

In September 2013 Moolmanshoek, which is situated in the shadow of the Witteberg mountains in South Africa, suffered a terrible bush fire across around 2,400ha of the 3,000ha game reserve. No people were harmed and the team managed to get nearly all the horses to safety but rounding up all the other animals was not easy and sadly 50 of their 500 head of game were killed, including most of their hartebeest, 5 eland, 5 gemsbok and also springbok.

Just a few weeks later the World Horse Welfare were set to carry out one of their Challenge Rides, yet despite the devastation the grit and determination of the management at Moolmanshoek meant the ride could go on. We hear from seasoned equestrian traveller Di Stark as she tells us how Wiesman and his team fought adversity and provided the trip of a lifetime…

The World Horse Welfare Challenge group at Moolmanshoek

The World Horse Welfare Challenge group at Moolmanshoek

Moolmanshoek is not just ‘another riding holiday’ destination, it is home to two award-winning studs, the South Africa Boerperd horses and Arabian Endurance horses. There are over 300 horses at Moolmanshoek and in 2007 and 2008, they bred and trained some of the top ranking FEI horses in the world for endurance and it is highly likely when you embark on a holiday here you will be riding a potential, or retired endurance champion. It genuinely is a horse lover’s paradise!

“In early October we were set to embark on one of the World Horse Welfare Challenge rides to Moolmanshoek,” Di tells us. “However not long before we travelled we received the distressing news that a terrible fire had caused significant damage to the reserve. We were given the option of traveling somewhere else but I don’t think any one of us even contemplated this – we were only too pleased that we could go and support Wiesman and his team in what must have been such a difficult time. The fire damage simply added another element to the challenge.”

The fire damage did not spoil an amazing trip

The fire damage did not spoil an amazing trip

“The Charity Challenge is all about riding to raise money for the World Horse Welfare,” Di goes on to explain. “In The Saddle have organised several of these trips, and I have been lucky enough to embark on many of them. On this trip alone, between us we managed to raise £35,000, of which a small amount goes towards accommodation and flights, but a really good chunk of the money goes to the charity – so they are very important for fundraising. We had a fabulous team on this trip, and we all supported each other – without any whining!

Moolmanshoek is a horse lovers paradise

Moolmanshoek is a horse lovers paradise

“There were many highlights of the trip, particularly when we were really pushed out of our comfort zone on some of the steep descents,” Di says. “There were things that we did at the end of the trip that we never would have felt comfortable doing on the first day! On the last day we went for some amazing long canters through the hills, and climbed some really steep and challenging terrain. At one point our horses had to have all four feet on one tiny bit of ground while they paused to consider their descent – I had complete trust in my ride at all times! They were all such personalities, from an enchanting little Welsh C who was smaller than any other of the horses on the ride but made up for it in determination, to the exciting, beautiful stallions that were sensible and sure-footed having been raised on the land. All were fit and calm so the canters were a pleasure, and their rock climbing abilities were unbelievable! The only problem with my main horse was that he wouldn’t fit in my hand baggage on the way home!”

The steep descents pushed riders out of their comfort zone

The steep descents pushed riders out of their comfort zone

“It was hard to see photos of what the area looked like before the fire, when we went it was just a few weeks after and the whole area was covered in black ash where there should have been trees and grassland,” Di goes on to explain. “However, there was already the first shoots of green coming through and we are all hoping to do the trip again one day to see it in all its natural glory. Despite the fire, we still saw plenty of wildlife, including herds of zebra, eland and brown wildebeest – which were so funny to watch as they frolicked and chased each other!”

The scenery was breathtaking despite the fire damage

The scenery was breathtaking despite the fire damage

“One of the things that was evident throughout the trip was the sense of community, with the local town having a population of just 95,” Di states. “The neighbouring farms had all offered grazing for the young horses and although the farm had been badly damaged by the fire, Wiesman and his family managed to provide magnificent riding both on the areas affected by the fire and on their neighbours’ land. They could not have done more to make our stay comfortable and the riding was everything we could have asked for. I can’t wait for my next adventure!”

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An invitation to celebrate two BIG birthdays in Botswana

Two of our In The Saddle team members, Chris Day and Cathy Holloway, have ‘big’ birthdays coming up in 2014 and have decided to invite passionate travellers and horse riders to join them in the celebrations! The pair of them are marking these milestones by taking a little trip to revisit old haunts and hope to create some fabulous new memories that will travel with them into the next decade!

Where better to celebrate an important birthday than in beautiful Botswana? Often described as the ultimate riding safari trip, a horseback adventure in Botswana promises abundant and varied game, extremely experienced and knowledgeable guides and well-schooled horses! It is no wonder that Chris and Cathy have chosen this destination as their ‘party’ venue!

Chris (left) and Cathy (right) together in the UK with their canine friends Paddy (left) and Inca (right)!

Chris (left) and Cathy (right) together in the UK with their canine friends Paddy (left) and Inca (right)!

Having travelled to Botswana previously, the country has well and truly got under both Chris and Cathy’s skin. They have been taken under the spell of the vast open spaces, beautiful climate and privileged feeling of being in close proximity to some of nature’s most spectacular animals! Now, with the excuse of birthday celebrations, they want others to join them in experiencing the thrill and wonders that Botswana has to offer!

25th – 30th March
Starting separately, from 25th – 30th March, Cathy will be going to Makgadikgadi Pans to explore the remnants of a vast lake that dried up around 1,500 years ago from horseback. What is left is a flat landscape with an immense skyline that appears to go on forever and you will have the opportunity to see shy brown hyaena, some of the largest baobab trees in the world, local meerkat and enjoy walks with bushmen to learn about this fascinating part of Africa. As an additional bonus, in February/March the Makgadikgadi experiences its own migration meaning the landscape should be teeming herds of zebra and wildebeest – a spectacle not to be missed!

Cathy at Makgadikgadi Pans with zebra on the horizon

Cathy at Makgadikgadi Pans with zebra on the horizon

Meanwhile Chris will be at Kujwana. Situated on the banks of the Xudum River in the Okavango Delta, this personal safari has luxury accommodation and is run by PJ and Barney Bestelink who have an intimate knowledge of the wildlife and ecosystems of the Delta, acquired over 25 years. Explore a maze of papyrus lined waterways, meadows and woodland rich in birdlife and game, canter alongside herds of wildebeest and zebra and get up close and personal to Africa at its most beautiful.

Chris at Kujwana on a previous trip

Chris at Kujwana on a previous trip

30th March – 3rd April
Next up will see the pair unite at Motswiri from 30th March – 3rd April. Motswiri is a luxury camp set on the edge of the Selinda Spillway and its positioning enables guests to experience both the open flood plains of the Delta, as well as the contrasting riverine forests. Even if camping has never been on your agenda, the luxurious accommodation at Motswiri will take your breath away – as you watch the wildlife and scenery from your own veranda overlooking the Spillway, you will easily forget the damp chilly British winter and enjoy the feeling of freedom and escape in beautiful Botswana. 

The riding at Motswiri is exciting and exhilarating but there is also the opportunity to enjoy non-equestrian activities such as game walks, game drives and canoe trips – perfect if you are looking to take a non-riding partner along for the adventure!

Cathy enjoying the spectacular scenery at Motswiri

Cathy enjoying the spectacular scenery at Motswiri


3rd – 7th April
Last, but definitely not least, the commemorative trip will draw to a close at Macatoo. Situated on the western side of the Okavango Delta, Macatoo is a luxury bush camp, recently renovated, which offers riders the experience of a lifetime. Riding beautiful, fit and well cared for horses you will enjoy a variety of riding; from an early morning gallop on the plains alongside giraffe or zebra to splashing your way through waterways and tracking elephant as you explore the palm studded islands. This area is known for the ‘big five’ and you can expect to see plenty of giraffe, elephant, buffalo, many species of antelope and even lion.

Chris enjoying an adventure at Macatoo

Chris enjoying an adventure at Macatoo

Any competent rider is invited to join this exciting adventure across Botswana, and help the girls celebrate their birthdays in style! Whether you want to come along for just one element, or the whole journey – we can promise a fun, exciting, and exhilarating trip packed full of one-off experiences, with a wonderful crowd of likeminded people – everything you would expect from any In The Saddle holiday!

To find out more give us a call on 01299 272 997 or drop us an email at rides@inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Debbie Gee tells us why she fell in love with Limpopo Lodge Safari

We love to get feedback from our clients and it really made our day to read the following letter sent to us from Debbie Gee after a trip to Limpopo Lodge Safari

Beautiful Sundowners at Limpopo

Beautiful Sundowners at Limpopo

I have just returned from a wonderful week with Limpopo Lodge Safari situated on Mashutu Nature Reserve – it exceeded my expectations in so many different ways. This was my first time in Africa and my first riding holiday and, as a 50 plus year old woman travelling alone, I spent a long time researching which horse safari ride would be the best for me. Along with advice and information from In the Saddle and from reading the website and newsletters, as well as the feedback from previous guests, Limpopo felt like the right one.

I thought I needed a bit of luxury so I decided to book the Lodge ride rather than the Tuli Trail; subsequently I travelled out to Botswana at the end of June for the 7 night Lodge ride. Previous feedback and comments from guests about the fabulous, fit, well schooled, contented horses was all spot on; what a joy to ride good mannered, uncomplicated and willing horses who are as happy going away from the others as they are to be in very close proximity to each other when this was required.

Me on Dennis

Me on Dennis

Good quality, well-maintained tack and a really comfortable English saddle were provided. I rode Dennis, a 15.2 hh thoroughbred cross who was a treat to ride. The other 5 guest on the safari were expertly matched to their horses; by chance they were all bay coloured and we nicknamed ourselves ‘The Bay Team’!

The riding was a mix of walking and slow and fast cantering over a variety of different terrain and often not in a straight line! The horses were very sure footed; the extensive schooling they receive provides them with excellent balance and fitness; all required when travelling at a fast pace around bushes and logs. I don’t jump so I took (bad!) photos of the others when we came across a good jumping log – those who did jump had a great time; their horses really enjoyed this activity.

We had fantastic wildlife sightings

We had fantastic wildlife sightings

We had fantastic wildlife sightings; many elephants, zebra, giraffe, wart hog, impala, wildebeest, Elan, vultures, eagles, birds, Kudu, ostrich, dassie, mongoose, jackal, hyena, lioness and cubs, leopard (3 times) and much more.

The game drives in the evening gave us the opportunity to see the wildlife that we were unable to see on horse back, such as the leopard and lioness with cubs, these cats were all very used to vehicles and didn’t seem to even notice them.

Sundowner gin and tonics along with home cooked crisps and popcorn in wonderful sunset locations will be remembered for a long time, especially the evening when a fellow guest made the drinks and gave us a triple measure. We all got a bit tipsy and giggled our way back to the lodge where the wine with dinner ensured the laughter continued!

The Bay team!

The Bay team!

The days were full but not tiring, West was our guide, our protector, our font of knowledge on wildlife, stars and Botswana history and our host from breakfast to bedtime. He even brought a cup of tea to the room door each morning with a ‘knock, knock – cup of tea, good morning’. My alarm clock is now a poor substitute!

Tsaone was our back up guide and was constantly vigilant – always looking around for game or watching the guests and horses to see they were all right. He did spend a lot of time getting on and off his horse because we had unintentionally left saddle bags open and consequently water bottles and camera cases fell out during the canters – or in my case sunglasses and lead ropes! He is a rising star, I think.

Kate (volunteer) joined the rides for the first few days on the sweet natured Bruce, then went back to the stables to teach at the school – it was sad to say goodbye to her but she did join us for the last few days; we were fortunate to have her back and hear more of her funny stories and be inspired by her passion for the work she does at the Limpopo Valley School (funded in main by the Limpopo Horse Safari).  When we took the horses back to the stables on the last day, we were able to see the school in action and to hear how it has progressed over the years to what it is today.

Behind the scenes - Maiteseo with hot towels after the ride

Behind the scenes – Maiteseo with hot towels after the ride

The accommodation, food and service were all excellent. The work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ is enormous and this is what ensures the riding safari to run so smoothly. Martha and Grace provided lovely meals in some difficult circumstances – we had a surprise lunch waiting for us in the bush under a huge Mashatu tree on the first riding day, when Martha cooked delicious pizza on the open fire. Maiteseo made up the rooms, cleaned and was waiting with warm wet flannels when we returned from the ride each day. She even put a hot water bottle in our beds every evening!

The grooms were waiting for us when we finished riding for the day – they took such good care of the horses, they cleaned the tack and gave the horses a good groom every evening and took turns (as did all the staff including the bush cooks) to patrol the horses every night ensuring their safety and well being.

The grooms and Kate duly cleaning tack

The grooms and Kate duly cleaning tack

Masebe seamlessly managed the safari, loading the enormous amount of everything we required into the massive horsebox which preceded us to the next lodge. Cor and Louise were excellent hosts and made us all feel very welcome at their lovely stables. Nothing was too much bother and it was obvious that they wanted us all to have the best safari experience possible. 

If you want a horse riding safari that is run to a very high standard with excellent horses, where safety is a priority, where the staff are very competent and professional, where the wildlife is abundant and where you are made to feel very welcomed, I would not hesitate in recommending Limpopo to you. Thank you everyone at Limpopo for a fantastic week – I have fallen in love with Botswana!

Beautiful views at Limpopo

Beautiful views at Limpopo

 

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

October 2013: Heard on the grapevine

The best way to find out exactly what a holiday is like is to hear directly from someone who has experienced it! We hope that reading the feedback from some of our recent In The Saddle clients will give you that ‘inside’ information and inspire you to book your next trip…

Spain
Week after week, month after month, we never tire of hearing the wonderful stories from Los Alamos in Spain. It is no wonder it is one of our most popular trips! Keren Brocklebank-Smith visited the beautiful destination for the first time this year and highly recommends it. “The most important thing for me was the people really cared for the horses, treating them with kindness, respect and love,” she says. This is always wonderful to hear as we take a lot or pride in ensuring all our rides meet our high welfare standards.

Los Alamos offers some of the best beach riding in the world!

Los Alamos offers some of the best beach riding in the world!

For Andrea Skaggs, who also travelled to Los Alamos for a short break, she has returned home addicted! “The land through which we rode was STUNNING. The variety of terrain, the great trail conditions and the climate far exceeded my expectations. The food and Tinto de Verano will be the stuff of my dreams for months to come; my poor horses are suffering the consequences of my overindulgence! In The Saddle will now be my resource for planning the best times of my life.”

Meanwhile, in Catalonia, Linda Heinrichs was embarking on the Mediterranean Trail and was bowled over by the trip. “We were a separate group of eight girls and when we galloped we smiled from ear to ear! Obviously Simon, our guide, saw that and we galloped as much as possible throughout the week! It was truly one of the best things I have experienced.”

Smiles come as part of the package in Catalonia!

Smiles come as part of the package in Catalonia!

Africa
In a different part of the world many of our clients were falling in love with Africa and all that the wonderful continent has to offer. Sometimes you don’t need many words to some up a trip and Elizabeth Squire came back from her trip to Horizon in South Africa and simply said “Booking this trip was one on the best decisions I’ve made in my 36 years on this planet so far!” We don’t think you can better that comment!

It is easy to fall in love with South Africa at Horizon!

It is easy to fall in love with South Africa at Horizon!

Penny Robinson enjoyed her ‘glamping’ experience at Motswiri Camp in the north east of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. “The horses were perfect for their job. Our guides were fantastic and very knowledgeable and the ‘glamping’ standards were maintained even when we spent the night at the flycamp. We always had hot water for showers, and starched napkins at dinner! We were riding in a pristine wilderness with sightings of all sorts of animals and birds and felt safe at all times.”

Combine luxury accommodation and exciting riding at Motswiri

Combine luxury accommodation and exciting riding at Motswiri

In the remote eastern corner of Botswana lies an area known historically as the Tuli enclave and Sarah Shewring thoroughly enjoyed her trip here at the Limpopo Lodge Safari. “I think this was the best riding holiday I have ever done! The horses were fantastic and so were the guides. The holiday was exhilarating, challenging and fun but at the same time I felt safe and confident! I haven’t stopped smiling!”

The riding at Limpopo is exhilarating

The riding at Limpopo is exhilarating

United States
Described as ‘the last best place’ Montana certainly lived up to expectations for Lauren Crawley-Moore when she visited Sweet Grass. “Angels on horseback sums up this holiday,” she says. “Brilliant horses, hugely helpful and knowledgeable wranglers, excellent food and a bedroom cabin that was straight out of little house on the prairie! For someone who has owned and ridden horses all her life this is the ultimate experience in ‘big country’ riding. Bring your boots and your hat and Montana does the rest. It is an experience to treasure and to share – I am now a showjumper turned cowgirl!”

Spectacular vistas at Sweet Grass

Spectacular vistas at Sweet Grass

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado provide a superb backdrop for a horseback vacation and Claire Towler is in agreement after visiting the Colorado Cattle Company! “This is something special,” she says. “You have the chance to be a cowgirl/boy for a week and experience ranch life. I even managed to rope a cow by the end of the week – with help from an obliging cow mind you! If you want a real ranch experience with fantastic surroundings, great food and great people then you can’t go far wrong here.”

Embrace your inner cowboy/girl in Colorado

Embrace your inner cowboy/girl in Colorado

Mongolia
Our very own Olwen Law believes that Mongolia is a country everyone should see and it is said to be where nomads invented riding! Although not your typical equestrian break, a riding expedition in Mongolia is a life-changing experience and several of our clients have written to us in agreement. Annie Dumas set off on the Gobi Steppe Ride, which takes you south of the capital Ulaanbaatar, beyond the Bogdkhan mountains, through grassland steppes, sand dune areas and the giant rock formations of Zorgul Hairhan Uul. “There was a lot of galloping every day which meant very exciting rides,” she says. “The campsites were fantastic, the ger for meals was comfortable and the tourist camp at the end of the riding was a blessing. The Mongolian tourist guide was good and very kind. Everything was well organized and I miss the cook and my horse already!”

A trip to Mongolia is life-altering!

A trip to Mongolia is life-altering!

For Claudine Douville the Gobi Steppe Ride delivered everything and more. “After building an understanding with my horse in the first few hours it was like we had been together all the time,” she says. “They are very strong horses and can gallop for a long time, even on the eighth day of the ride. My horse was the best of all! The cook did a wonderful job with the food, I am coeliac, one person was vegetarian and another allergic to mushrooms and lactose – but she handled that very professionally and made very tasty meals. Haanda, our guide and interpreter, was very helpful and always ready to give us information about the country and the way of life. The horse guide, Bayaraa, was very professional and despite not speaking English we could understand him very well. We left Mongolia with a very good opinion of the people.”

The Big Skies Horse Trail in Mongolia takes place in the Khan Khentii Special Protected Area, north-east of Ulaanbaatar and for Ann Barnett it gave her the perfect antidote to the stresses of daily life in the west and she found the horses to be perfectly behaved. “Mongolian horses are very easy to ride. They are sometimes described as ‘half wild’, but this should not put anybody off – it means they are not ‘schooled’ like our horses, and in fact they have none of the nervousness of our horses. My horse was docile but very eager and willing and never seemed to tire!”

You can see why they call this trip Big Skies!

You can see why they call this trip Big Skies!

Our other Mongolian trip, the Mongol Horse Trail, gives you the chance to experience two strikingly different areas, from the treeless steppes to the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Our client Uzal De Montserrat found that expectations were exceeded when joining this equestrian adventure. “The blessings of this journey will last throughout my life time! The riding was superb and varied, the horse guide Tumaroo, along with Kenzo the main guide are an awesome team! We were always engaged and each day was more spectacular than the day before. The horses got along with each other better than any horse trail that I’ve been on – they are quite special and have enormous amounts of energy for such small frames. I am indebted to the horse I rode for his gentle strength and radiant
spirit.”

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ranch holidays, Ride reviews, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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