Mallorca Tuition & Trails, 2013.
Sally Scott, Far and Ride.
This was my first trip on behalf of Far and Ride and thinking about it, probably my first time flying alone! As I was only visiting Mallorca for a few days, I squashed a couple of pairs of jodhpurs into my hand luggage and after a 4am wake up call, I was in Palma before I knew it! Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly by Pilar who oversees the communications for our ‘Mallorca Tuition and Trails’ destination. She was so welcoming and we hit it off straight away. The equestrian centre is German owned and normally it is Toni (the owner) who collects the guests from the airport. His English is virtually non-existent but his kind nature and cheery outlook ensure that this is not something to be worried about. I later found out that Toni had been to Palma three times the previous day to ensure that none of the guests had to wait for their transfer.
The car journey from Palma only takes around 40-45 minutes however, upon reaching the finca, it feels as though you could have driven for hours down country tracks and still not found a more tranquil setting. As we passed through the imposing iron gates that shield this horsey haven, Steffi (the dressage trainer) elegantly strolled past on one of her young stallions. I’m not sure that this welcome is to be expected by all guests but it could not have been timed more perfectly for my arrival! The small reception is conveniently located just off the car park and the intimate size of the whole operation immediately makes you feel as though you will be well looked after. The finca is impressive yet homely and the rooms are decorated in the traditional Mallorcan style with dark wooden furniture, terra-cotta tiled roofs and sea blue bathroom tiles. French windows are present in all rooms and most even have a small balcony – great for drying clothes later in the week! My room boasted a spectacular view across the menage and before unpacking, I took a while to watch Steffi training the stallions at her leisure. It was mesmerising and I could have sat there for hours.
The facilities in the rooms are just what’s needed for a comfortable stay – you can expect to find a television, air conditioning, a hair dryer, a good sized bath, ample storage and hanging space, a safe and a minibar. Free wifi is provided however, is not easily accessible unless you are sat on top of the router! There is a computer provided for guests to use in the breakfast room and mobile phone signal is not a problem as far as I could make out, although some of the other guests had limited service on different networks.
After a delightfully strong coffee, I joined Pilar for a tour of the stables and grounds. Guests are encouraged to explore the property at their leisure and there is a lot to see. The stable block is literally a stone’s throw from the accommodation and is charmingly rustic and well maintained. The sense of ‘hustle and bustle’ on this working yard is inviting and I cannot remember a time that I was not greeted at the stable block by a stallion on the horse walker or children thundering around on ponies in the round pen. There are approximately ninety horses kept on site and as I explored further I encountered broodmares, foals, youngsters and even some delightful donkeys, all of whom seemed to enjoy the fuss and attention of admiring guests, putting on a show as I wandered past. I made my way back to the finca just in time to join my riding companions for a delicious lunch of seafood paella! Still and sparkling water is provided at meal times and should you require more during the day, the restaurant offer free refills with filtered water upon purchasing a bottle from them. Lunch and dinner were taken on the terrace overlooking the menage and the swimming pool which although cold, is extremely inviting on a sunny day. There is also a spa below the terrace boasting various types of sauna, showers and steam rooms where you can also enjoy a massage upon request. Having said that, the temperature during my stay was ideal for lounging by the pool and the other guests seemed to agree!
It is not compulsory to eat with the group and you can have your own table if you prefer. I was extremely lucky to have been joined by five other guests who were all English speakers, well-travelled and ‘horse mad’, which made for some great laughs! These particular guests had chosen to ride ‘Natural Parks of Levant’ programme, which I would join during my trip, in addition to my dressage lesson on one of the stallions.
In the late afternoon I met our guide Joe as he helped to prepare the group and the horses for the initial trail ride. Each of the other guests had undertaken a short assessment in the menage during the morning but Joe was extremely accommodating and it was not a problem that I had been absent. He talked to me about my riding ability and after telling him that I was ‘happy to ride anything’, he paired me up with Noble, a beautiful, black mare who was 18 but had not been backed long! We were expected to groom and tack up our own horses but they were all well-mannered and help was on hand at all times if needed. The other members of the group were to ride in English saddles however, I was presented with a lightweight, long distance saddle. I was excited at the prospect of riding in something which I had not tried before and it was certainly an experience! All of the tack used for the trails is indeed well used however, it is safe and the other guests maintained that they were comfortable during each ride. I have to say that I felt a little rushed during the preparation of the horses for the first ride. I was asked to arrive at the stable block 15 minutes before the trail is scheduled to leave however, I would recommend arriving half an hour before. This will allow ample time to become accustomed to the tack and horses and of course, to take some snaps!
Once we were all ready, Joe helped everybody get on – ladies first of course – and was on hand to ensure that girths and stirrups were adjusted accordingly. The first trail ride lead us through deserted villages and along stony country tracks. We had plenty of opportunities to trot and canter and it was the perfect ride to allow everyone to become accustomed to their horses. It was clear early on that Noble was quite the character and although I had great fun riding her, Joe and I decided that, for fear of losing my camera (or the rest of the group), she was maybe not the best horse for an amateur photographer such as myself to take pictures on! I can barely get the camera to focus at the best of times! This was not a problem and as soon as we returned to the finca he introduced me to Rojito, a lovely little Criollo, who would be my companion for the rest of the trip. After showering the horses, there was just enough time to shower ourselves before meeting for dinner on the terrace. Red wine, sunset, succulent beef stew and great company… bliss!
The next morning breakfast was eaten indoors as the 8am start meant that we were greeted by cool morning air. The group gathered around a large table and remedied sore heads by enjoying a delicious buffet of cheeses, bread, pastries, cold meats, cereals, fruit, yoghurt, coffee, tea and fresh juice (eggs are also available upon request). At breakfast we were also provided with a dinner menu listing a choice of dishes for that evening. The food in general is flavoursome, fresh and hearty. I definitely came back a few pounds heavier despite being on a horse 90% of the time! Evening meals consisted of homely eats such as soups, meat stews, fish, warm salads and lots of bread. The trail lunches were equally as civilised and enjoyable; breaded chicken breast, spanish tortilla, olives, chorizo and cheeses.
Once we had tacked up our steeds we set off for our first full day trail at around 9.30am. Today we would ride to Consolacio Monastery covering approximately 35km. The pace was primarily at a walk but there were several opportunities for long trots and controlled canters. The trail took us past beautiful fincas and farmland and the views as we climbed towards the monastery looked out over the sparse, endless landscapes. Joe has a vast knowledge of this remote area and is a passionate horseman. It is a pleasure to listen to his stories and of course, bombard him with questions! When I asked which was his favourite horse he answered ‘…they are all my colleagues, they are all my friends’, I could tell that he meant it and his answer was most definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
The final climb to the monastery was challenging but manageable even for the less experienced riders in the group and for me, it added a bit of excitement to the ride, without the need for speed. The views at the top of the hill were breathtaking and perfectly framed by low stone walls and the imposing towers of such a well cared for building. Joe told us that the monastery was maintained by the locals and it was clear that it is a cherished part of the community. The support trailer was waiting for us on arrival and once we had untacked our horses, watered and fed them, we were able to explore the surroundings at our leisure, before sitting down to a delicious lunch and of course, a nice cold beer! The trailer is fantastic and even comes complete with a built-in toilet, a luxury not found on many trail rides.
Our lunch stop was extremely relaxed and at no point did I feel as though I was being hurried. We brushed our horses, tacked up and were helped back on by Joe. The afternoon ride was shorter and more leisurely, as we made our descent back down the hill. For me, the slower pace was welcome as the Mallorcan sun can be fierce during the afternoons. We arrived back at the finca at around 5 pm, which gave me just enough time to untack and bath Rojito before preparing and mounting Pietro, my dressage stallion for the evening!
Steffi is the epitome of what every dressage rider should be – tall, slim and seamlessly in tune with her horses. She is a wonderful instructor, reassuring, forgiving and at all times clear. She only speaks when she has something constructive to say and is in no way intrusive. Her style of teaching made me feel as though I was able to work independently, using her guidance only as a safety net. Pietro, although only 6, knew his job and it was immediately clear to me that this was going to be a riding experience to top all others. I tentatively began to work Pietro in walk and trot and after springing into an indescribably powerful canter, I began to feel myself relax. We moved on to leg yield in walk and in trot – Pietro was responsive but I was encouraged to tap him with my stick if he did not listen. Then we worked on shoulder in, medium trot and an attempt at passage! I think that for guests who book the dressage programme these movements would be built up over the week but it was clear that Steffi wanted me to experience the full range of talents that her magnificent horses have to offer in my one lesson. She walked beside me and within seconds had Pietro doing all the tricks. He was completely obedient under her command and after a little practice I was able to ask for Spanish Walk without any assistance. Wow…what a memory! It has always been a dream of mine to ride higher level dressage movements and I will never forget the sheer admiration that I felt for both horse and trainer during that moment.
Any dressage lovers lucky enough to visit this destination would be mad to pass up the opportunity to ride one of these handsome, kind, well-mannered stallions. My only criticism was that I was not able to do more! I achieved so much in just one hour that I can’t even begin to imagine how rewarding a week spent on this programme would be. I was on a complete high after my lesson and once I had spent some time drooling over Pietro, I joined Pilar to her inform her of my exploits, while the rest of the group enjoyed a meal together.
The next day was to be my final day of riding and it did not disappoint. Joe loaded the horses in the lorry and the group and I were driven to the bay of Alcudia, approximately 50 minutes away from the finca, situated in the north of the island. Upon arrival Joe had already unloaded the horses and after a quick groom, we were on our way. A short ride along some roads and rocky terrain and it was not long before we reached the coast. Joe told me that he had ridden along this beach over 250 times and called it his ‘office’! The water was a clear, piercing blue, and the sand was golden and set against the rugged backdrop of the path we had just ridden. It was simply stunning. Although temperatures had increased from the previous day, the coastal breeze brought welcome relief from the imposing sun and it was idyllic.
During the high season, it is not possible to ride along the surf due to the presence of holiday makers, many of whom donned far less clothing than I would have liked! To me, this was irrelevant as we were metres from the water, riding through sand dunes and along coastal paths. As we trundled along the seemingly endless beach, Joe’s eagle eyes caught sight of a small turtle on the ground beside us. Little touches such as this made riding with Joe such a memorable experience. We spent the rest of the morning exploring the natural park ‘Sa Canova’ on horseback. Here we were able to enjoy some faster, longer canters which left the entire group beaming from cheek to cheek. Sauntering along, Joe swiftly dismounted and nimbly negotiated his way amongst a rather ordinary looking tree. What he presented us with was anything but ordinary, small, round, spikey bulbs of berry-like sweetness…delicious! It was in fact the fruit from a ‘Strawberry Tree’ and he told us a story of some guests becoming a little giggly as a result of a few too many overripe pickings which had become fermented!
Upon returning to the beach we stopped for lunch at a private spot and again the trailer was waiting for us, this time it was not only packed with a delicious meal but also our bikinis! The onboard toilet (no visits to a nearby bush required on this trail) provided a great place to change and once ourselves and the horses were sufficiently refreshed, we ventured down to the beach for a swim. The sea was warm and refreshing and completely still. I would definitely recommend taking the plunge or at least dipping your toes! Once back on board, the afternoon trail led us back to the horse lorry along sandy tracks and small tourist villages. The drive back to the finca is the perfect opportunity for a snooze, very much needed by most of the group, not least me! We aided Joe in unloading the horses before enjoying a delicious barbecue style dinner which bought with it a beautiful sunset accompanied by a bottle of champagne (courtesy of one of my lovely comrades) – the perfect farewell to a great few days.
This destination offers a wide range of services from tuition for beginners, dressage, show jumping, trails and children’s camps, with staff and horses capable of delivering high standards. As well as this, the peaceful setting and relaxed atmosphere make it the ideal place to recharge your batteries whilst surrounding yourself with an endless supply of equine interaction. The horses are happy and well cared for, the finca feels like home, the red wine is a must…I would definitely return!
Read about the finca here: Mallorca Tuition & Trails.