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This article has appeared previously with Equestrian Life. To see what's in the current issue, please click here.

Naranjero the beautiful grey Andalusian © Stephanie Abbott

Naranjero the beautiful grey Andalusian.

© Stephanie Abbott

 

By Stephanie Abbott

I have always dreamed of riding Spanish horses and travelling to Spain since I was a young girl, so I was excited when I finally put plans into action for a Spanish horsey holiday!

After some intensive research I chose to go to Epona in Spain as it was the only facility approved by the British Horse Society and had a fabulous “train and trail” program offering trail-riding through the countryside in the morning and a classical dressage lesson in the afternoon.

 

Riding through on of Spain and Europe's biggest wildlife reserves © Stephanie Abbott

Riding through on of Spain and Europe's biggest wildlife reserves.

© Stephanie Abbott

 

We left Barcelona and travelled to Seville and then onto the medieval hillside town of Carmona.  After some tricky navigation through the narrow cobbled streets we arrived at our 4-star hotel, Alcázar de la Raina, which was originally built as a 14th century palace.  That evening we met our host, Fernando, and the other guests to enjoy a welcome dinner and discuss the week’s program. There were guests from the United Kingdom, France, Australia and the Netherlands. Some guests were doing the train and trail and others the intensive dressage training, which included a lesson with Olympic silver medallist, Rafael Soto.

Each day Fernando would collect us from the hotel and we’d travel to Epona to begin the day’s activities. All the horses at Epona are well trained and a pleasure to ride.  On our first day’s trail-riding I was given Naranjero, a beautiful grey Andalusian gelding with a long plaited mane who the staff called “El Sofá” because he was so broad and comfortable to ride!

As the farmlands have no fences, it is easy to ride for two hours through the surrounding properties, passing through olive groves, eucalypt forests, alongside 16th century haciendas and over a beautiful Roman bridge.  The horses are given rest stops to graze a few times throughout the ride and are surprisingly willing and responsive and not at all sour as some trail-riding horses can be.
We enjoyed traditional Spanish food and had a short break before the afternoon lessons. I enjoyed watching other guests’ lessons and learnt a lot from this as well as my own lessons, and particularly enjoyed riding a 17hh Andalusian stallion called Galante, who had amazing balance and natural power. 

 

Trekking through picturesque paddocks © Stephanie Abbott

Trekking through picturesque paddocks.

© Stephanie Abbott

 

The lesson horses were all trained to a high level and I enjoyed the lessons with Fernando’s daughters, Katy and Vivi.  By the end of the week we were all developing our knowledge of the fundamentals of dressage, such as shoulder-in and leg-yield and riding forward into the outside rein to maintaining good rhythm and relaxation.  We also enjoyed feeling high movements such as piaffe, passage, flying changes, half-pass, canter pirouettes and even the Spanish walk. Those doing the intensive dressage training also found the in-hand and lunge line lessons very valuable.  Those having lessons with Rafael Soto were quite nervous about being taught by this master horseman but he was very encouraging and explained what he wanted eloquently, focusing on achieving good balance for both horse and rider.  It was great to see the improvements in all riders over the week.

 

The stables were simply beautiful © Stephanie Abbott

The stables were simply beautiful.

© Stephanie Abbott

 

We also visited the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art at Jerez de la Frontera.  It was such a pleasure to watch the students and masters training as well as watching the performance.  We also enjoyed riding over sand dunes and along the beach in Doñana National Park, one of Spain's and Europe's biggest wildlife reserves.  Another highlight was dinner in Seville and watching a spectacular flamenco show.

By the end of the week we had all formed new friendships and there was some sadness saying goodbye to our fellow horse enthusiasts and Fernando and his family.

 

The Roman Bridge © Stephanie Abbott

The Roman Bridge.

© Stephanie Abbott

 

For more information see www.eponaspain.com or visit http://www.snaffletravel.com.au/spain/

 

 

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