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Oct 2016

Love in a Warm Climate

Posted by / in Africa, Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Love In A Warm Climate

Sue Whitehouse & Lucero with Sara Llewellyn & Llampec

Sue Whitehouse & Lucero with Sara Llewellyn & Llampec

“I’ve fallen in love with a Spanish man”. That’s how it was announced. To say that it changed lives is probably an overstatement; over egging the omelette, Spanish or otherwise, but it certainly had a huge impact.


But to begin at the beginning: Sue and Sara were heading off to Catalonia in the Spanish Pyrenes for a week’s riding holiday. They had done their homework and knew all about the rugged terrain that begins high in the Pyrenes Mountains and follows a tangle of ancient trackways to emerge on a Mediterranean beach one week later. They knew to expect some long days in the saddle of 6 hours, 8 hours and perhaps even longer if the weather didn’t behave or if the trail was impeded. Above all they knew that they would be riding Andalusians, or the Spanish PRE (Pura Raza Española), and that, perhaps, was the strongest draw of all.

If you have never ridden an Andalusian you’re lucky. Because it means you have a treat in store. This is a breed that’s as old as the hills with its DNA in all sorts of stock, all over the world. The Conquistadores took them to the New World for their scrap with the Incas; the cowboys caught on and the Andalusian is the foundation of the American Quarter Horse as well as the various Creole varieties that the Gauchos ride throughout South America. Closer to home you’ll find their DNA in Frankel and throughout the Thoroughbred family tree. Where would we be without the Andalusian? They have ‘presence’; I think they recognise a camera and love the limelight. And they’re smart, they’re able to read their rider and react in the right way. They’re tough too: if you’re looking for a good doer who can survive without a rug wardrobe and special grub, and give an Arab a run for its money in an Endurance event, look no further

The alchemy of a good riding holiday is matching rider to horse, a process that begins with form-filling. If you ask someone “What kind of rider are you?” most riders will under-sell themselves, a few over-sell, not many get it spot on. So we have developed a brief questionnaire which teases out the right information and which we send out to the host stable allowing them to gauge the marriage of rider and horse. Day One in Catalonia is meet your horse and take a trial ride, if all is harmonious, we hit the trail. Sue and Sara knew all was right, very right, by the end of the first day. By the end of the second day, which includes a picnic lunch break on the shore of a pretty large lake, and an opportunity to swim with your horse, the decision had been made though not announced.

This trail is an absolute beauty, one of the loveliest rides we do anywhere in the world partly because the terrain is so varied, partly because the food is always so good, partly because it’s so convenient (the flight’s a couple of hours) and partly because it takes you utterly, completely out of your ‘normal’ into a world of horses, gorgeous scenery and charming hamlets, all wrapped up in just 7 days. As bangs-for-your-buck go, this is a winner.

So at the end of the week, the question was popped, would the stable consider selling these two fantastic horses? And how do you go about wrapping a horse up, sorting out all the bits of paper and bringing it home? Surprisingly easily is the answer. There’s a modest bit of horse-dealing to agree the facts and figures, but quite honestly, buying an Andalusian in the place of their birth is a bit of a bargain. The vet-checks and passports are again, all straight forward, and the shipping is only a couple of phone calls. Meanwhile, you need to prepare the accommodation. These horses aren’t accustomed to stables, they rarely walk on concrete and have never seen grass as lush as a Somerset meadow. Common sense prevails and introducing new horses to a new environment isn’t rocket science. But it is quite handy to keep the husband on board! So the announcement needed qualification: this ‘Spanish lover’ has four legs, can’t fix a stable up and isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. He might be a rival for your time, but at the end of the day, he’s just the ultimate holiday souvenir.

[Footnotes. Budget around £2.5 K to £3.5 K for a good Andalusian bought in Catalonia. £1k more if it’s a registered PRE. Transport should come in at less than a thousand pounds including all the ferry transport, tolls and VAT. The horses are exported from Spain with paperwork completed, microchipped and passport all included.

Sue Whitehouse & Lucero

Sue Whitehouse & Lucero: a quiet moment

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Oct 2016

Ger Etiquette

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Ger Etiquette

Here are a couple of tips about how to behave when you pop in to a ger in remotest Mongolia while on a horse riding adventure.


Family ger in Mongolia

Tip 1: arrival. How should you get in? Visitors don’t knock on the door they simply call out “Nokhoi khor” which translates as “Hold that dog”. A wise precaution; and then step in saying “Sain Bainu” to the occupants, but avoid saying it twice during any one visit to any one person.


Tip 2 crossing the threshold. Step over the threshold, not on it. And don’t lean on the door frame or bang your head on the lintel which is a bad omen. Whilst on the subject, it’s bad form to lean on any of the ger supports (which is common sense anyway!). And don’t forget to leave all weapons outside!


Tip 3 internal navigation: as you walk in you should go clockwise around the ger and head for the back. It’s also important to clock where the family altar is and never turn your back on it. Avoid walking directly in front of an older person and don’t tread on an uurga (a lasso on a pole).


That’s the entry preliminaries dealt with, now for the social etiquette:

Tip 4 is all about your legs: avoid pointing your feet directly at the stove, the altar or another person; that can be challenging! If you inadvertently kick someone’s foot and knock into them, immediately shake hands.


Tip 5 table manners: your wrists should be covered, so keep your sleeves rolled down. Only use your right hand to take food from a communal platter and hold your cup by the base, never the rim. Be careful not to spill milk, which is considered sacred. Never refuse what is offered to you: if you don’t like what you’ve been given, take a small sip or bite (or pretend to) and leave the rest on the table.  An empty plate is seen as a signal that you’re still hungry and your plate will be refilled.


Tip 6: how to handle a knife. Never point a knife at anyone and when slicing your food always cut towards yourself, never away from yourself. If you need to pass a knife always offer it handle first.


Tip 7 the fire: is generally a potbellied stove in the centre of the ger; the fire itself is sacred, so don’t put rubbish on it.


Tip 8 how to relax: it’s not rude to come and go as you please during your visit; even taking a short nap is perfectly acceptable, but sleep with your feet pointing towards the door.


Tip 9: you should never touch another person’s hat.


Tip 10: red ink is the devil’s work, so avoid using a red pen or brandishing any document with red ink (my bank manager should take note).

If you have the presence of mind to remember all this, you’ll love

Cavalry Line - Mongolian style

Cavalry Line – Mongolian style


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Aug 2016

The Rainbow Hummingbird

Posted by / in Blog, Featured Posts, frontpage, Horse Riding Holidays, South America, Tavistock Travel Agents, Traveller's Tales /

Rainbow hummingbird

Long time ago during the origin of the world all the insects on earth decided to meet at the rainbow’s end and stand on it. They were so many that they covered it completely and then the rainbow started to bend.  When Tupa (God) noticed this he asked the birds, that were colorless at this time, to remove the insects from the rainbow. Then all the birds flew to help and after a long and heavy work they were able to remove them by virtue of their beaks.

After such a hard work Tupa gave each bird a prize by providing beautiful colors to their feathers that they still show until now. But the first prize was given to the bravest and smart of the birds on this duty: the Hummingbird. It was so brave and worked so hard that it received the seven colors of the rainbow.

Legend sent to me by a young conservationist in Argentina

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