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Blog: Love in a Warm Climate


Oct 2016

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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