A short flight from Gatwick to Malaga was all it took to land me in bright sunshine ready for my four-day riding adventure on the Cortijo Las Minas Health with Horses programme.
I was met off the plane by Scottish expat, and owner and instructor, Dorcas, who whisked me off on an evening hack through miles of dusty olive groves in 30°C sunshine. Up bright and early, and after a delicious traditional Andalucían breakfast of toasted bread and conserves with fresh fruit, I headed back to the yard. With the heat already building, I was assigned my horse for the first schooling session of the trip, a gorgeous 13-year-old PRE X Arab mare called Chenoa and, under Dorcas’ watchful eye, I worked on my posture, with tailored exercises to correct issues.
After lunch, I headed into the local town for a yoga session. As I’m not particularly flexible, I was unsure how I’d get on, but an hour later, feeling completely relaxed and stretched, I headed back to the yard for an evening hack before dinner. This time I rode gorgeous five-year-old homebred PRE mare called Milana.
The next morning, my lesson began with Dorcas guiding me through a series of simple stretching and flexion exercises to help me understand the concept of balance on the horse’s back. After wobbling and nearly falling off a fair few times, I got the hang of things. With the temperature soaring way above 30°C, after a short break Dorcas focused her attention on my position with a lunge lesson to develop the balance work we’d already begun. Taking away my stirrups and reins (much to my horror!), I attempted to complete the same stretching exercises in walk, trot and canter. I had a feeling that Dorcas would pick up on my fear of letting go and was worried about working in canter without anything to hold on to, but my mount was a saint and, after the initial stomach-churning ‘I’m out of control’ sensation, I was absolutely fine!
Time for some R&R
Embracing the health aspect of the trip, I spent the afternoon at an idyllic and breathtaking spa, reflecting on how much my riding had improved already and the time I’d spent at Cortijo Las Minas so far, while relaxing in a sun-drenched hot tub.
But as all horsey girls will know, there’s only so much chilling out you can do before the appeal of a yard full of gorgeous horses and stunning scenery to explore becomes just too much. So, as the day began to cool a little it was back into the saddle for the now-traditional evening ride. We headed out down the lane towards what sounded like some sort of music festival. Turning the corner, we realised it was, in fact, the local goat herder with a herd of more than 100 goats, all following him down the lane.
The final day began with another gorgeous Spanish breakfast, and I had the pleasure of having a play in the school on Milana. I decided I was happy to leave all my belongings behind if I could squeeze her into my suitcase instead! It was great to put the new adjustments to my position into practise and play around with lateral work under Dorcas’ watchful eye. She was full of praise for my improved posture.
That evening, after another relaxing afternoon spent by the pool, we tacked up and headed out on a trail ride. Dorcas led me through gorgeous countryside paths and olive groves, with plenty of opportunities for long, open canters and to really let the horses enjoy themselves. The scenery around every corner seemed to be more breathtaking than the last and I could have stayed out for hours. Three hours’ later, with slightly numb bums, we headed back towards home. Putting the horses away for the final time was more emotional than I had expected – I simply didn’t want to leave. The gorgeous Spanish countryside and the horses had certainly placed themselves firmly in my heart. Not to mention Dorcas, who was the ultimate caring, attentive and inspirational host and instructor throughout my stay.
Riding holiday at: Cortijo Las Minas, Archidona www.centroecuestrelasminas.com/en
We travelled with: Easyjet
We stayed at: Almohalla 51, in Archidona www.almohalla51.com and Finca Las Encinas, in Andaluciá www.finca-las-encinas.com
Relaxation provided by: Bodyzone Massage and Day Spa, www.ppascoe.com and Salud Atenea www.saludatenea.com