It wasn’t all yoga at my Kaliyoga retreat in Spain. We walked, beautiful trails down into hidden valleys, the only sound the breeze in the trees and the occasional flute of birdsong. And one day, three of us went riding out into the mountains.
I love horses. I was the archetypal pony-mad child, with a stable of about twenty assorted equines – from Brandy and Whiskey (the stolid Exmoor ponies) to Atlendor and Fenodyree (one pure bred Arab, one Arab cross). So what if they were in my head? In my imagination I talked to them, cared for them, rode them for miles upon miles. They were my dearest friends.
I would save up all my pocket money so that, once a month, I could ride a real pony. I’d walk to the stables and back without complaint (a round trip of about three hours) just for the joy of sitting on a horse for an hour.
Anyhow. There is (to my mind) no better way to see countryside than atop a horse. So Susie, Niki and I opted for a couple of hours trekking in the Alpujarras. At Caballo Blanco (white horse) near Lanjaron.
Sarah, the owner, welcomed us and stuck helmets on our heads. Yup, the horrible motorbike skullcap type riding centres always seem to doll out (I swear it’s to make you look as hideous as possible). And then we went to meet our horses.
Sarah eyed us up, look one look at my hair and said, ‘You’ve got to ride Pasha – you’re the perfect match.’ Possibly the first time anyone has ever colour-coordinated me with a horse but I wasn’t complaining – she was beautiful. And Sarah explained she had been a rescue case – when she arrived at the centre she was pitifully thin and nigh-on bald. ‘She’s still not quite up to weight,’ Sarah said. 'So we are careful with her.'
Sarah rescues a lot of horses. They are lovingly brought back to fitness and health – sometimes it can take longer for the mental scars to heal than the physical (some of the horses had to learn to trust again, she explained). But the happy news is that when people come for longer stays (the centre offer all kinds of trail-riding) they often bond with their horse and many end up taking them home (leaving Sarah free to rescue more needy cases). With the economic situation in Spain still perilous, sadly there is an endless queue of horses in need.
Anyhow. We clip-clopped down the windy road and then turned off and went cross-country, charging up a narrow track beside a gurgling stream, ambling past remote homesteads, splashing through a mountain stream. It was gorgeous.
So, if you happen to find yourself in Andalucia, do go check out the white horses…and their friends. Just be warned, you might end up adopting one of them.
All pics by Susie Turner.