Interview with June of Cortijo Los Lobos
How did the company begin?
My husband Clive and I started the business five years ago, after moving to Spain with our three children in 1999. We had started to dream about a simple life in rural Spain, living off the land, free of the stresses and strains of modern living and with a healthier environment for our children to grow up in. Clive’s mum had been living in Spain for about 18 years, so we were very familiar with this area, and when my parents decided to retire here too, it seemed the obvious thing for us to join them .
Clive had run his own engineering business in England, and soon turned his hand to building work, while I concentrated on improving the home and land, and caring for the horses and other animals.
Is it a family affair?
Very much so. Our daughter Elizabeth is a vital part of the team. We are big fans of Monty Roberts and Elizabeth has taken courses on natural horsemanship. She is great with our guests who show an interest, and will demonstrate her skills in our round pen and let the guests have a go themselves.
|Elizabeth practises Natural Horsemanship in the round pen. |
What's the property like?
We fell in love with our beautiful old farm house and the incredible mountain scenery surrounding it, when we first arrived in Spain, and never looked at another house. One of the things that sold it to us was the flat land it had, and our immediate thought was that we could have horses. In England I had worked with horses and ridden all my life, and Clive and the children all rode too, so it was an exciting opportunity for us to own horses of our own. In the beginning the horses were intended for our own use only but by 2003 our herd had grown considerably and as by then we had started a self catering holiday business, we decided that it made sense to provide riding too.
At that time we had no idea how things would grow. Today we have a herd of 16 horses, two beautiful rustic guest cottages and also provide b&b or full board accommodation in our own farm house. There is a heated pool and we also provide mountain bikes and guided walks, so that non-horsey guests can also enjoy a holiday here.
|Holidays can be fully catered. |
Do you still have your first horse?
Yes that's Polly, a beautiful flea-bitten grey and she's very popular. There was great excitement preparing for her arrival but unfortunately the Spanish man we had hired to transport her got his whip out and started whipping her to get her into the trailer which got her into such a state that there was no way she was going in! We were devastated. We decided that the only way to get her home was to ride her, approx 50km from her old home, through little mountain villages and country roads, and finally over the top off our own mountain and home what an adventure! John our eldest son was 13 at the time and he and I took turns to ride while the others followed in the car with food and water. It took us 10 hours, but it was an unforgettable experience. Polly was none the worst for her long walk and soon settled into her new life. She is quite a character and over the years, with our ever growing herd, has maintained her position as ‘boss’. Once we had Polly we soon realised that we needed at least two more horses so that the three children had one each, and so the herd started to grow.
Do you have any other animals? Here in Spain it is very difficult to turn a blind eye to the cruelty that you see with animals so over the years we have rescued various cats, goats, a dog and a lamb. And of course we seem to collect rescue horses too. We now have a very happy herd, with 5 foals born over the years, all living with their mums, dad, grandma and aunties. It is so lovely to watch them all interacting. The animals are a big draw for our guests, especially those with children, and the dogs even get the occasional e-mail from guests that are missing them!
Is there anything special about the care of your horses?
Our interest in Natural horsemanship helped here, as we now ride them all in bitless bridles (no worries about people pulling on their mouths) and their behaviour is impeccable. We have also got very interested in ‘bare hoof’ riding, and having attended foot trimming clinics, we have now very successfully converted all our horses to bare hoof. This is such a bonus for some of the rescued horses that have had traumatic pasts, who tend to be very nervous of farriers, and we now have complete control over when and how their feet are trimmed.
The weather in this part of Spain is pretty reliable for most of the year, but it can be quite dramatic when it is bad. Looking after the horses in torrential rain and storms is a definite down side, but we really have an all year round holiday destination, as rain is quite rare, non existent in July and August and you never know when you are going to get it or the rest of the year.
Of course, it is also very hot in the summer, but we cope with that by riding early morning or late evening and our evening rides to a local restaurant, returning home in the dark are an experience to remember.
A downside of keeping horses in southern Spain, and something that often surprises our guests is the lack of grazing. I yearn to be able to put my horses out to graze on lush grass, but here the fields are dust for most of the year, so it is just not an option. This means that all their food has to be put out, three times a day, so it is very labour intensive. It is also very hard to keep the horses fat and we have to keep a very close eye on their weight.
|The surrounding mountain scenery makes fantastic horse riding country. |
I suppose it's a whole way of life? Running our business is not all plain sailing, it is hard work and there is never a day off. When you are dealing with guests the pressure is always on to provide their dream holiday. Our two teenage children still at home, Harry and Elizabeth also have to share the work load, and tolerate the constant flow of new guests, some of whom stay in our home. They are very sociable though, and Harry always enjoys the fact that guests in the house mean better food in the cupboards! We always enjoy our guests company, and have made many new friends along the way.