With sandy going for as far as the horses can take us and wide fire breaks for exhilarating canters and gallops the forests of Andalusia offer riding that's hard to find elsewhere. Couple this with trips to the beach, the Royal School of Equestrian Art at Jerez, year-round sunshine and wonderful food and you have a holiday that is hard to beat. And with cheap flights to Spain from many European destinations, it's a good deal financially too.
|Cantering through surf one day and pretty pine forest the next can life get better than this? |
Los Alamos has been running equestrian holidays since 2001 and has quickly become well respected. It is run by a British family and offers the perfect combination of action and relaxation. Sisters Rhiannon and Rachel are gifted horsewomen, evident from the well-trained and well looked after horses and their choice of talented staff Kathy and José. The mornings are filled with fun rides in the umbrella pine forests surrounding the hacienda or cantering along the surf of nearby beaches. The afternoons are free for relaxation around the hacienda - if you have a hire car, there's plenty to see in the area. If not, you can take a stroll in the forest or down to the beach. Our group? We just had a constant house party, wine and chat, video sessions, fun in the pool, pleasantly wiling away the afternoons until Rhiannon served a scrumptious dinner around 8.30pm.
For lunch each day we'd either stop at a taverna with the horses tied up outside or we'd head back to Los Alamos and all sit round a big stone table in the shade for cold meats, tortilla and salads. In the evening we were served a three course meal with lovely home made dishes such as shepherds pie and sausage and lentil casserole. It's a good job we were riding every day or we'd all have come home a tad heavier.
I met Sharon and Steph, two riders who were on their fourth trip to Los Alamos at the airport. When they raved about the canters and gallops down hill with names such as the rollercoaster and the corkscrew I have to admit, I was a little worried about hectic scenes. I flashbacked to the out-of-control romps of my youth and wondered if I was up to it. I needn't have worried. This was pure unadulterated fun. It was fun because it was organised, because the fear factor was zero. While spirited and forward going, the horses are beautifully behaved, light mouthed so that it's easy to keep a distance from the horse in front and they seem know when the hand of the lead rider goes up it's time to slow down. Just as they go from walk to gallop in a few seconds, they come back just as quickly. Forget sports cars give me an Andalusian horse!
Each day's ride was different, sometimes we were mainly in the dappled shade of sweet-smelling forests, other days we were riding along old drover's roads past scenes of rural Andalusia or along the coastal Roman road with views across to Africa. On our last riding day, Saturday, we rode up to the dove cote which in the 17th century was home to 7,000 doves kept to stock ships with meat and saltpeter for gun powder. On Wednesday we cantered along the surf of Cape Trafalgar beach and on Thursday Kathy took us to Jerez De La Frontera where we watched an inspirational dressage performance by Andalusian Stallions at the Royal School of Equestrian Art, visited a tack shop, and of course, indulged in more food!
All of the horses were all impeccably behaved
and forward going and it's obvious they really enjoy their work.
There's a fare smattering of handsome grey Andalusians, some
bays and a couple of cobs for heavier riders. My horse was Topaz,
a 15.2hh 16-y-o chestnut anglo-hispanic mare, a real doer. She required
no leg at all and always had her ears pricked forward. However with
Steph and Sharon riding up front on their favourite grey Andalusians
- Treuno and Pecasa, I had to try a purebred too. So, on beach day,
I was handed Torbejeno a handsome bay 15hh gelding. It was wonderful
to be riding an Andalusian in Andalusia and to feel the different
action. But, as is often the case, you bond with the horse you first
ride, so I claimed my lovely Topaz back for the rest of the holiday.
For those riders who are looking for some winter sun, Andalusia is perfect. The weather was just right, warm enough for t-shirts and for a refreshing dip in the pool but with a light breeze making three hours in the saddle a total joy. With the focus on fun and just the right balance of riding with relaxation and food glorious food, it's a perfect way to re-charge your batteries mid-winter.