Save 20% on any holiday, self catering or full board, with or without riding for any remaining dates in 2019 (up to 21st December )  10% discount also available for Christmas and new year

We have really been enjoying riding the new river routes this summer.  It has added a lot of interest to the rides, with slightly more challenging terrain to navigate, narrow paths, low trees, it is a really fun ride for the more experienced riding guests. The horses seem to love exploring the new trails and nothing phases them.

People always talk about ‘their journey’,it is an overused phrase these days but like a lot of horse owners, I have been on a lifelong journey of discovery.

My love of horses started as a child, where, like most of us, I was taught to ‘kick’ and use my little crop, ‘shorten those reins’ and ‘give them a big pat’ to say thank you.  The ‘show the horse who’s boss’ attitude dominated the riding school circuit and I didn’t think to question it. As I got older, although still riding at riding schools in the traditional way, at least it started to get kinder, but I still just did as I was told without questioning it.

When I moved to Spain and became a horse owner for the first time, and being lucky enough to have the horses at the bottom of my garden, I soon started to question those traditional methods.  I had accepted that horses were often kept in individual stables, without contact with other horses while churning out lessons by the hour. Tacking up tended to be rushed, with the horses tied to a stable wall with no hay to pass the time or settle their stomach before the ride. Thinking back, horses were often treated as no better than machines to be used for our enjoyment.

Once I was able to observe horse behaviour on a daily basis, I soon realised what sensitive, complex animals they are, and how living together in a herd kept them happy and healthy. Taking on the many rescues over the years opened my eyes to the effects of harsh horse management , even bullying and it has been a joy to watch shut down horses blossom with love and kindness and also to observe the difference between how they behave compared to my horses who were born here and have never known anything but kindness, never had a bit in their mouth, a whip used on them or shoes on their feet.  

To some people, our horses may look scruffy, in the winter they are left unrugged and develop thick coats to keep them warm, meaning they are not the shiny examples you often see with stable kept horses. They are also allowed to interact with each other as horses should do, which does result in the occasional small cuts and loss of hair through play.  Their feet are as hard as nails and cope amazingly with the stony terrain on our riding trails but again, they won’t always look glamorous. We are occasionally judged in a negative way, with the way our horses are kept being compared to living conditions in other countries . In the majority of Southern Spain, grass hardly grows, so traditionally horses are kept, if they are lucky, in tiny paddocks, usually on their own, but most commonly around our area, horses are tied up on long ropes in fields in the summer, without being able to touch another horse, with no shelter from the sun or water and in the winter, you are left wondering where they are, as you just don’t see them – they are mostly shut away in tiny stables, barely seeing the light of day.  

My horses have enough turn out to be able to run around, play, graze on their hay, roll and do everything a horse needs to do, with shelter if they want to use it. It is not the acres of grass that is considered necessary in other parts of Europe, but then again, our horses do not have the problem with laminitis that is becoming so common in the Uk.

Along with the journey to being bitless and barefoot which is described in the horses stories, I have also discovered new training methods over the years, which has evolved into positive reinforcement, using a clicker to train with kindness. This has been such a bonus with the scared, shut down rescue horses and I have had complete success . On this journey though, I have also come to worry about what we have to do in order to be able to afford to feed and care for the horses – namely, take people out on riding trails.  Most horse owners have the luxury of being the only people to ride their horses, and anything they do to train them is reinforced every time they ride them. I have to accept that I need to put different riders on my horses on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, and over the years it has made me realise how absolutely accepting and giving a horse is, to put up with all the different riding styles. Why should they even allow us on their back, we should take it as a privilege and treat the horse with the respect it deserves. If I witness a riding client being less than kind to my horse, kicking, pulling, slapping on the neck, (I accept that this is a common way of saying thank you and I don’t hold it against people when it is what they have been taught) I of course explain why we choose not to do this and they usually accept my explanation and have their eyes opened to the fact that there are other ways of riding, but sometimes a rider can’t be changed, and I was starting to get upset on a regular basis, watching my kind horses, some of them having recovered from sad past lives,  having to tolerate things they didn’t understand. I realised that if I could choose, I wouldn’t allow anyone else to ride my horses, but needs must and at the end of the day we have a business to run. One of the biggest problems I faced on rides was the constant call of ‘when can we have another trot’, or ‘when can we canter’ even when the horses were already sweating on a hot summer morning. It really upset me that people couldn’t see that the horses were living creatures and that they weren’t happy to just enjoy the stunning scenery and the bond with their horse, it was all about speed and rider satisfaction. I had to have eyes in the back of my head to prevent over enthusiastic children sneakily kicking their horses to try to make them trot all the time, unaware that it could be at a place where they would often canter and could lead to a dangerous situation, with all the horses taking off. (not to mention the fact that the poor horse had to put up with being kicked in the ribs at every stride). I started to think of how I could make things better for the horses, especially as they are all starting to get older, and realised that if I removed the cantering from the rides, and people knew there would not be any cantering, then it would totally change the type of client we had and mean that we only have clients who really care about the horse. I am not saying that cantering a horse means you don’t care, I love cantering as much as the next person,  but when it is all you want to do, when you treat the horse like a machine, you are not the type of client we want.

I have also realised over the years that  a lot of people who think they can ride , and say they can ride, are not actually balanced riders and it started to occur to me that an unbalanced rider bouncing around on my horses back in trot and canter was not kind to my horse or it’s back!  In short, I was allowing things to happen that I wouldn’t allow if I was a one horse owner, with the luxury of being that horse’s only rider.

There has to be a bit of a compromise, with 14 horses to care for, some of them do have to earn their keep, especially as half of them are retired or semi retired and will all live out their days with us.

By changing the riding business to offer ethical riding, at walking pace, enjoying the scenery and the bond with your horse, we not only make life better for our horses but we offer something a bit different for our guests too – there are a lot of people who are maybe nervous, or older and lacking the confidence they used to have, or are complete beginners, or just horse owners who enjoy happy hacking, who really welcome the type of holiday we offer and it is a great compromise all round, with happy horses and riders.  

We are now meeting so many lovely, genuine horse lovers, and with the addition of our varied riding courses, some non ridden, and often beneficial for the horses, for example equine massage or other therapies, we are finding a way forward , as our horses (and we!) get older.

 

We are really pleased to offer you our lovely new accommodation option – a very cute little cabin, close to the horses (you can even watch them in their paddocks while you are doing the washing up :) ) . With it’s own private front and rear garden with rock pool for a refreshing dip in private, hammock and sun beds plus  stunning mountain views , this cabin offers a retreat from the stress of every day life – no wifi signal means you can really relax (though if you need to log on, you can find a signal on the main pool patio or outer courtyard areas near the Farmhouse) . A perfect romantic hideaway or horse lovers retreat, this one bedroom cabin is perfect for two people but can accommodate 4 if you don’t mind being cosy.   Special introductory price, just 600 euros per week for late spring/summer 2019

Last week Clive and I paid a visit to Ceramica El Jaral, just a 15 minute drive in the village of Villanueva del Rosario. What a lovely morning we had, messing around with clay, with coffee , beer and tapas. Juan is a great teacher and it is a really recommended, fun morning for all the family. If you are staying with us for at least a few days, you could easily fit in two sessions so that you can go back and glaze your finished pieces and take them home with you.

https://www.facebook.com/artejaral/

 


Did you know that if you are on holiday with us between the end of November and the end of April you could have a day on the slopes? Just an easy 1 1/2 hour drive away, the Sierra Nevada ski resort is a fantastic day out. With runs suitable for beginners to experienced and great facilities for snow boarders , it is a fun day out for all the family.

The resort is over 3000 metres high, meaning that the snow is great even late in the season. Our snow record has been one of the best in Europe over the last few years, with the addition of snow canons to keep the pistes topped up to perfection.
You can even see the Mediterranean and the mountains of Morocco from the amazing Laguna side of the mountain, such a stunning view.
If you ski in the spring it can be beautifully warm, you could ski in a t shirt, in fact on the last weekend of the season they have a day where you get a free lift pass if you ski in a swimsuit :)

The prices are great too, with a lift pass averaging at around 40 euros, depending on the season and equipment hire is great value too. Another bonus is that the prices for food and drink are hardly more than the usual Spanish prices and best of all, if you avoid weekends and peak holiday weeks, you can almost have the pistes to yourself.

You could be riding or walking in the mountains in hot sunshine or enjoy a day at the beach one day and be skiing the next , and what better end to a tiring day skiing than to come back here for a lovely hot Jacuzzi- how great is that?

When we first moved here in March 2000 our garden and pool area was just a field. The only trees we had were our big pine tree by the car park and the Ash tree in the communal courtyard area.  Over the years we planted trees and shrubs and flowers , our only aim was to landscape and sculpture the area to make it look pretty.  A few years ago we realised that our 11 olive trees were producing a lot of olives and, as a small family run oil pressing business had just opened in a nearby village, we decided to have a go at producing our own oil.  We were surprised at how much oil we got and the flavour was amazing, so fresh and healthy tasting. That first year we picked around 200 kilos and got 50 litres of oil. The people at the factory told us that our oil yield was very high, probably due to the fact that we have to hand pick the trees. Because of all the plants and flowers underneath, we can’t put nets down as the locals do.

The garden when we first moved in 

Over the years our yield has varied slightly , either due to the weather or how many people are picking – sometimes it is just Clive and I , so it is a struggle to pick all the trees within the 3 days we have to get them to the factory while they are still fresh. It does tend to average around 250 to 300 kilos with a yield of between 45 and 50 litres of oil, which is more than enough for us to use ourselves and sell to guests.