Weekly programme, Tarn Valley Ride, Summer 2008
What do you want in an equestrian holiday? For us it is excellent riding obviously, professional tuition, beautiful scenery, comfortable accommodation, delicious food, and good company, this holiday was all this and more.
Along with my long-suffering husband, we have been riding reasonably regularly for just over two years and were really looking for a holiday that would build our confidence at walk, trot and, particularly, canter. During our week at Tarn Valley, we rode for a total of 18 hours and by the end we both felt much more confident and had learned new skills, like cantering without stirrups and cantering over small jumps. But the holiday was much more than just improving our riding…
Getting to Tarn Valley is relatively easy. We flew to Toulouse and hired a car for the rest of the journey, about 1.5 hours drive. Some of the other guests took the train from Toulouse to Albi where our host Nick collected them from the railway station. Tarn Valley itself is situated on its own, deep in the countryside of the valley. This region is a beautiful area of rolling countryside, with a good mix of cultivated farmland, and wild forests, interspersed with deep valleys and shallow rivers. At night there is almost no light pollution – we all sat out one night after dinner and admired the milky way.
The accommodation is a restored 17th Century farmhouse with comfortable, spacious bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms. Nick and his French wife Marie Christine are exactly the sort of hosts you want. They immediately put us at our ease and showed us round the house, then introduced us to the other six guests and before long, after a refreshing drink, we were all lazing around the pool. In the evening we had the first of our nightly meals around the single long table outside on the terrace. Everyone eats together including Nick and family. The food is really excellent and is all home cooked by Marie-Christine.
In the morning, after a hearty breakfast, it was down to the stables to meet our instructors Fabrice and Gabrielle. We discussed (in English) our skill level, objectives etc, then went to meet the horses. Everyone has to groom and tack their own horse and after being shown how to do this we had our first lesson indoors to allow Fabrice to gauge our skill level. Lessons are group lessons and we were usually 4 – 6 riders of similar skill level. The horses are all beautifully schooled and very well behaved. So much so that Fabrice had the novice riders amongst us confidently cantering without stirrups by the end of the first lesson. Fabrice and Gabrielle are both very experienced teachers and they explained the various learning points clearly and concisely.
Thereafter our days followed a general pattern of breakfast, riding lesson, swim in pool, lunch, 2 hour hack through the forest, back to the pool, then evening meal on the terrace. Nick and the instructors are very flexible when it comes to accommodating riders with different abilities, or who want different or extra combinations of lessons/hacks. It is all incredibly relaxing. You could go and visit the famous bridge at Millau or the beautiful medieval city of Albi, but in fact most of the guests are very happy just to relax in the grounds of the centre. On the Friday afternoon we went on the famous ‘picnic’ ride. Two hours hack into the countryside, to be met by Marie-Christine who laid on a fantastic picnic, then another two hours back home via a different route. A truly wonderful way to see the French countryside.
Overall the holiday was really enjoyable. It ticked all the boxes and we wouldn’t have changed anything. We loved the riding, the food, the people, and came back better riders as well as feeling really relaxed and planning our next visit. We have kept in touch with the other guests we met and all are planning to go back as soon as we can.
Read more about this ride here: Tarn Valley Ride