Jo Chipchase saddled up for a horse riding holiday set in the stunning Sierra Nevada scenery.
I was on the look out for an active holiday that could be taken on four hooves rather than two feet and so I opted for a trail ride with Caballo Blanco Trekking Centre.
It is located above the spa town of Lanjaron in La Alpujarra, southern Spain, a mountainous region that extends south from the Sierra Nevada range, near the city of Granada – the perfect landscape for a horse riding holiday.
On a morning that was surprisingly warm for February, with 18°C temperatures and the sun shining, I arrived at the Caballo Blanco ranch to meet my mount for the trail ride.
I was introduced to Ciel: a 16h grey gelding who is reasonably lively while remaining easy to control, give or take the odd friendly head-butt. I was informed that my mount would stand still while I took photos but was also capable of a turn of speed on the “campo” (land).
The trail started off on a mountain track. It was a clear day and we could see a landscape that extended towards Salobrena, the Mediterranean Sea and on the distant horizon, Morocco.
We then headed on to a goat trail that wound its way up the Rio Lanjaron. This route had impressive views of the glacial scenery of the “rio” (gorge).
The snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada provided the backdrop while we passed the silvery-black structures of oak trees that had burnt down in a 1996 forest fire that engulfed the Rio Lanjaron. We also saw distant waterfalls cascading with snow-melt from the high Sierra.
Our guide, Sarah Vesey, proved impressive in her knowledge of the mountain terrain, the goat trails, the local weather systems and the history of the area. At one point, our way forward on the track was blocked first by fallen trees and secondly by a bull with vicious-looking horns. However, nothing fazed Sarah: as well as passing any obstructions, she whistled at her farm dogs to herd the bull out of our way so we could pass without being gored!
After accessing a wider track that allowed an uphill canter, we slowed the pace and stopped on a grassy patch with an inspiring view of snowy peaks. Here, we dismounted for our picnic lunch, taken in the fresh air.
It was time to return back to base for an overnight stop in the Casa de Viento, which is known for its cuisine and hospitality, before resuming the next day.
There’s something calming about venturing off the beaten track into the majesty of the scenery. Faced with nature in all its glory, enjoyed from the vantage point of a four-hooved beast, we could go back in time… and make the stresses of modern-day living fade away. As Sarah said, riding in the Sierra Nevada natural park is “like a meditation”.
Caballo Blanco provides a range of riding holidays – whether riders prefer a trail ride or to head out each day from base. Established in 1993 and set on a plateau with a panoramic view, Caballo Blanco caters for riders of all experiences and ages over five.
Finding the right riding centre for you in Spain
In the UK, the British Horse Society regulates equestrian establishments and no respectable riding establishment would be without its BHS credentials, in Spain – and across Europe in general – accreditation is much thinner on the ground.