Holiday Reports | Far and Ride

Far and Ride

Holiday Report: Darwin’s Rainforest, Brazil

December 11th, 2018

Darwin’s Rainforest, Brazil

Natalie Garner, 2018.

When we are asked to consider what springs to mind upon the mention of Brazil I would hazard that the vast majority of us will instantly conjure images of white sand beaches, rainforests, year round sunshine, samba music, carnival and perhaps the towering form of “Christo” – Christ the Redeemer – sitting loftily above the sprawling metropolis of Rio de Janeiro. Certainly its with these images in mind that I begin my own journey to this vibrant and often misinterpreted country that has divided views and attention for many years. My aim for this trip is to find more than just sandy beaches and fierce Amazons – a true venture of discovery into the world that inspired Charles Darwin himself. And what better way to do this than from the back of a horse?

It is with pity that the popularisation of this “white-sand-beach-and-carnival-atmosphere” often leads outsiders to forget that Brazil is in fact a huge country bursting with diverse nature, cultures and lifestyles. Being the largest single country in Latin speaking America it has, over the years, benefitted from a beautiful mix of ethnic influences; a strong impact from European, Afro-Carribean and indigenous Indian values, society and way of life. Its this enormous contradiction of lifestyles that first strikes me upon landing at Rio de Janeiro’s international airport – even with its predominant core of Portuguese language, the proverbial “melting pot” truly feels as if its about to boil over. Amongst the throng in the arrivals hall, I locate my co-riders and translator, Massae, before we hit road, winding our way out into the countryside to the north of the city. Our destination is the equestrian centre where our journey will commence. Passing by alien landscapes and curious towns, the overriding feeling I experience is at once excellently strange and yet wonderfully familiar – the tension and anticipation of the journey is exciting!
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Holiday Report: Andalucia Trails, Spain

June 29th, 2018

Journal of trip to the Alpujarra, June /July 2017 – Anne Gwynn

EasyJet left Bristol promptly at 06.05 on June 27th and we landed at Malaga on time, only to have to wait 45 mins for the baggage to arrive. This time I had invested in a medium sized trolley case so jodhpur boots and hat could be packed with room to spare.

The Alsa kiosk was easy to find and the señorita suggested buying both the ticket to Granada and the one up to Lanjarón and as luck had it, the bus arrived 15 mins early at Granada and I got the connection straight away and Phil was waiting to pick me up from the bus shelter at 3!

It was great to be back at the farmhouse, the pool was as inviting as ever and in it I went, joining Ann there for a chat. It was quite windy but we had dinner outside under the canopy of green grapes. It was lovely also to be staying in Casa La Rosa again, with its ancient chestnut beamed ceiling and Moorish windows. Almonds were being blown off the trees and landed

JUNE 28th
In the morning I was picked up by Laura and her small daughter who were also going up to the stables. It turned out that I was the only full day rider on Pieper (hooray, she is such a super mare) with Amy accompanying me on Spicer, a ginger chestnut Arab mare. On the way up a mother partridge scuttled away, taking her tiny chicks to the edge of the track. We rode up, through the Parque Nacional to the lovely clearing in the pine trees where the Forest Patrol have a base at Puente Palo. There the cool clear water of an ‘acequia’ runs through, providing a welcome drink for the horses. The place is popular with walkers too, who can reach it from the village of Soportùjar but today we had it to ourselves.

After our picnic we watered the horses and then took a different route (Amy’s special path) down through bushes of rosemary, and tarragon – covered in blobs of yellow tansy like flowers, and oregano. Fragrant and relaxing – aroma therapy at its best. The wind got up and blew really fiercely and my black silk was whipped off without warning. Gone with the wind, totally.

That evening the wind was still very strong, so after a welcome dinner of meatballs, rice and salad and stewed white peaches, everyone retired early.
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Holiday Report: Extremadura Trails, Spain

March 28th, 2018

Extremadura Trails, Spain, March 2018. 

Natalie Garner, Far and Ride. 

In March of this year, I find myself on a plane bound for Madrid, on a mission to discover the delights of the Extremadura region of western Spain, by taking part in the Conquistadors Ride.

At the airport meeting point, our jovial host Mamen arrives to greet us with a smile – we quickly discover she is a woman enthused with the energy and motivation to settle even the most nervous traveller. She explains that we must quickly drive to terminal 4 of Madrid airport in order to collect a few guests who have landed here. The terminal is a little distance away and manageable by shuttle transfer for those in the know, but our hosts feel it’s easier and more convenient for their guests to organise separate collections from the two terminals when required.

With all guests safely collected, we begin the 2,5 hour drive to our first night’s stop in the medieval town of Trujillo – the heart of Extremadura country. The weather in Madrid is a little overcast and the air saturated as we depart – something which Mamen explains is rare for March, but also very welcome as they have not had a proper rainfall in this region for nearly 8 months now. The drive passes quickly and finally we turn off the main road, heading along a short stony drive towards the old, beautifully restored, rural olive oil mill which we will be calling home for tonight. The white washed walls of the mill enclose numerous cosy nooks, bright spaces for sitting as well as open areas of garden or meadow; a superb interplay of man-made structures and natural landscape. The rooms are a welcome sight for these weary travellers and we quickly settle in amongst much excitement over the quaint country-style decor and exquisite touches – an ode to the environment of sleepy vines and vibrant olive groves we find ourselves now nestled in.

After breakfast the following morning we are met by Mamen before being driven the short distance to the stables to meet our horses for the week. Our guide Emilio’s family have been cattle herders in this region for many generations, but Emilio always had a preference for the horses eventually finding a way of incorporating them into his life. The horses are born and bred in these hills and the vast majority are Andalucian (or crosses thereof) – this week we have the pleasure of a palette of grey and white shades accompanying us. I am led to a snowy-white Andalucian horse with a noble curved face, named Cholo (I later discover that this is a Latino slang term of “gangster” – something this sweet tempered and kindly animal is anything but!). Having already saddled the horses for us, Emilio is busying himself applying boots, checking girths and stretching the horses’ front legs to ensure everything is sitting comfortably for them. Emilio has such a natural and authoritative way with his horses, that you truly believe there could be nothing about his herd of 30+ that he does not already know. Once we are all coupled up with our mounts it’s time to head out for a slow morning of riding, up into the mountains, in order to get to know our new steeds a little better.
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Holiday Report: Sicily Explorer, Sicily

March 23rd, 2018

Sicily Explorer, Sarah and Pablo Rosenthal-Almirall, London, October 28 2017

‘The best way to discover Etna and Sicily off the beaten track.’

Riding by the Alcantara River

My husband and I have long wanted to discover Sicily but we are not fans of being with hordes of other tourists and like to get off the beaten track. Having both owned horses and ridden extensively in our youth, we took the plunge (this felt quite ambitious being about 30 years older and rusty in more ways than one!) and booked a trail riding holiday with Ride Sicily, a partnership between two Sicilians, Alexandre Morello and Francesco Savoca. We spent a considerable time researching riding holidays before making our choice but were really reassured by the communication with Holly Anthony from Far and Ride who set up the tour for us and who was always extremely responsive and sensitive to our questions.

Once in Sicily at the farm San Marco near Rovitello we were blown away by the warmth of the welcome we received and the quality of the service. Francesco, the owner, is passionate about Sicilian produce and this passion carried us along our entire journey on horseback. Francesco would meet us every lunchtime somewhere along our route and prepare either a great picnic in the fields or when we were high up on Etna and it was snowing (!) he arrived at the refuge ahead of us and had a log fire burning to warm us as soon as we arrived – together with sausages cooked on the fire, wine and grappa, home-made regional dishes, Sicilian hams, salamis and cheeses, coffee and biscuits or cakes. Every day he offered us something different, always of high quality, often produce from his own farm and home cooking by his mother, and showing us a side of Sicily we would never have discovered on our own. It was quite simply amazing!

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Holiday Report: Carpathian Mountain Trails, Romania

February 24th, 2018

Carpathian Mountain Trails, Romania, 2017.

Written by Jack Moon

Jack's horse, 'Lazy Stefan'

It all began with an e-mail. Something like: “Dear Holly, I’m looking for a trip that will give my mother sitting at home a bit of worry, something a bit adventurous but that suits an early intermediate with more bravery than talent.”

Luckily Holly did not disappoint, and we had three options, Albania, Romania, and Idaho. Having driven across the US in 2016 I decided to give Albania and Romania some serious consideration, and then I heard about the wild camping and potential to see a bear (see note about worrying mother above) so it had to be Romania, and the Salt Route Mountain Trail sounded adventurous enough if a little above my actual ability, I gave them advance notice of my limited riding skill and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t hold anyone up.
Flights were very easy to find to Cluj-Napoca from Luton, and I was met at the airport by a friendly driver in a Land Rover and three of the group. A few hours later we arrived at the bottom of the mountain where the ranch is built, and I realised why we had a Land Rover (though the locals seemed to think nothing of taking their tiny Dacias up the same steep track!) and the free jeep safari was a bonus to get us into the right mindset for our week of adventure.

I won’t bore you with a re-run of the itinerary available on the website, but a few pictures and my experiences will hopefully help others planning a similar trip.
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Holiday Report: Portugal Showjumping and Dressage

December 3rd, 2015

Portugal Showjumping and Dressage, 2015.

Natalie Garner, Far and Ride.

In September this year I travelled back to Portugal for a long weekend in order to visit our wonderful partners at our new Portuguese Showjumping and Dressage destination. Located just ten minutes from the town of Abrantés, right on the banks of the river Tagus in the very heart of Portugal, the riding centre is a very professional outfit owned and run by Vitor and his wonderful daughter Filipa. Along with their hard working and dedicated staff and instructors, the centre is a great location to practice your riding skills and learn some new techniques, as well as regularly playing host to National and International competitions.

Instructors Jorge and Paulo are both professionals in their respective fields and are happy to share their vast knowledge and experience with their pupils. By the end of the first session, their kindness and gentle encouragement really help me to feel at ease, relax and enjoy my time in the saddle. By the end of my stay, I am confidently jumping small courses of showjumps, as well as performing advanced dressage movements such as half-pass and piaffe with great familiarity. But of course, the horses are of the utmost importance and those whom I have the privilege to ride are all comfortable and pleasurable to deal with. For my dressage lessons I enjoy the company of two beautiful Lusitano horses and in the jumping no less than three fantastic and dynamic warmbloods.
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Holiday Report: Dordogne Farmhouse

November 4th, 2014

Dordogne Farmhouse, France, July 2014. 

Natalie Garner, Far and Ride. 

In July 2014, I went to visit our new partner ride – the Dordogne Farmhouse – in the beautiful Dordogne region of Southern France.

Arrival Day

Arriving into Limoges on Monday, the weather was clear and cool. As my RyanAir flight touches down on the tarmac, the small, modern, glass fronted airport comes into view; a sense of quiet peace hangs over this whole area. Passing through the double doors which separate “luggage collection” with “arrivals”, I scan the room beyond. My first impressions of Gill, are of a lady who is down to earth and resilient and, as a nervous single traveller, I am relieved to find that she is very amiable and quite happy to talk to me about her business, and life in France – I feel I can begin to relax! Gill has collected me in her own car, so with the sun shining we begin the 55 minute drive to her farmhouse in the Perigord-Limousin Regional Natural Park. The countryside I witness, as we drive down the sleepy “main” roads of this region, is green, undulating and fertile. Arriving to the farmhouse, I am greeted by the boisterous characters – Lily and Rosie. The house itself is built of a yellow granite stone – most probably quarried from small mines somewhere on the property – off-set by beautiful mint-green shutters and doors as well as elegantly draped grape-vines and honeysuckle flowers. Inside, the house has a warm and homely feel, with tasteful decoration and a cosy kitchen-lounge. My room, “Aubére”, is clean and comfortable and features some glorious modern innovations; an electric power shower and large flat screen television, as well as some more character features such as wooden beams and bare stone wall behind the head board. Overall, my first impression is of an inviting and contemporary country cottage.
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Holiday Report: Dahab Adventures

March 26th, 2014

Holly and Ronaldo in front of the Blue Lagoon

Dahab Adventures, Egypt, 2014.

Holly Anthony, Far and Ride.

“Want to go for a bit?” – Sam

In February 2014 I went out to visit our new partner stables in Dahab, Egypt, to learn more about the setup and sample the riding. Having already met one of the owners, Emma, back in December, I felt that I had a good grasp of the services they were offering and the sort of experience our clients should expect, but nothing is better than sampling it for one’s self! I flew into Sharm-el-Sheikh which is around an hour’s drive from Dahab Paradise, the hotel where I would be staying for the three nights of my trip. As well as based stays with hotels they also organise safaris/trails into Naqb National Park or to St Catherine’s Monastery, which include nights spent at Bedouin camps for an authentic experience. These are wonderful choices for experienced riders who also want to sample the wildlife and history of the Sinai Peninsula.

I had heard about the delights of Dahab from friends, who assured me it is a relaxed and welcoming town, famed for its peaceful atmosphere and incredible diving opportunities. Travelling in the midst of Egypt’s political troubles, I wasn’t too sure what impact this would have had on the area but I needn’t have worried – I felt perfectly safe from the moment our plane touched down in Sharm. I was picked up from the airport and we stopped off at the stables so that I could meet the other owners, Sam and Ali. They live on site, tending to the horses day and night, and I would soon learn that they are experienced horsemen and knowledgeable guides to boot. I would be riding with Sam during my stay but enjoyed many a conversation with Ali and it was evident that the care of both the horses and the guests is very important to him. I found the stables to be in excellent order, clean and tidy, with all of the horses happily munching away on their dinner. I couldn’t wait to see them all again in the daylight and to saddle up for some horseback exploring!
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Holiday Report: El Bronco Ranch

November 20th, 2013

El Bronco Ranch, Hungary

Holly Anthony, Far and Ride

Holly riding Panna


I visited El Bronco Ranch in May 2013 as part of a group of women who stayed at the ranch for a week. We went primarily for horse riding (of course!) but also to enjoy some of the ranch’s other activities such as a visit to the local cheese factory, a palinka tasting and even some line dancing! It is a wonderful destination for groups as the ranch has an open, sociable feel to it but it also welcomes single travellers, couples and families with open doors and warm hospitality. It is an affordable riding holiday destination and easily accessible from Budapest airport (transfer service available) which can be reached by many low cost airlines. Another benefit is that the ranch is open all year round and can offer great riding activities regardless of the weather – with an enormous indoor arena and sandy riding tracks, which provide excellent footing regardless of the temperature, riding in winter is no problem. They have also recently opened their wellness centre complete with jacuzzi and three types of sauna – the perfect way to warm up after a ride on a chilly day! Equally if you travel during peak summer then their outdoor pool is ready and waiting to cool you down after a ride in the warm sun.
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Holiday Report: Catalonia Trails

November 13th, 2013

Holly and Al-HattalCatalonia Trails, Spain, 2013. 

Holly Anthony, Far and Ride. 

From 15 – 22 September 2013 I joined the Mountain to Sea Trail at our Catalonia Trails destination in Spain. I accompanied two clients, both single female travellers, and we were joined by a variety of others from Austria, Sweden, Germany and Holland. A Dutch lady on this trail was visiting this riding set up for the 14th time and goes twice a year! The trail starts and ends at the farmhouse of Can Muni in the small village of Pins and takes you on a wonderful adventure to the beach, fascinating medieval towns, up into the mountains and back again. It is a great ride for the practiced rider, capable of riding at all paces and over difficult terrain, and I would like to share my thoughts on it with you. Forgive me for the length but I didn’t want to miss anything out!

On the departure Sunday I started reasonably early and took a lift to London Luton airport for my flight to Barcelona. These riding holidays have set time group transfers and so I was to be collected at 6pm from Barcelona airport, along with many of the other riders. The meeting point at the airport was easy to find and the driver held a sign for us, ticking off our names from his list to ensure everyone was there. From here we made our way to Can Muni travelling via Girona airport to collect some other riders. After a little over two hours we were safely delivered to Can Muni and shown to our rooms. The farmhouse is owned and run by Juan and Isabel who speak very limited English but were always willing to help us, dashing around to carry bags and make sure everyone was OK. The real part of hostess is played by Birgit who is an experienced horsewoman and former guide (she still guides occasionally but has mostly retired due to injury) – she made sure that everyone knew what time to meet for drinks and dinner and that we all found our rooms. The rooms here are rustic and simple but clean and comfortable, each with their own bathroom. The buildings are in the traditional stone style of the area and there are some communal areas such as the dining room, sitting area and the covered terrace where we sometimes ate. There is also a magnificent pool and the stable yard is just a few metres from the farmhouse buildings, perfect for those who just can’t keep away from the horses!
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