Wanted: Adventurous, experienced horse riders to enjoy stunning beach and national park trails by day, immaculate beaches every afternoon and relaxed Spanish hospitality every night.
Horse-riding holidays are a dream come true for the horse mad, and adventure company Zara’s Planet has sent us on a gorgeous horse and beach holiday, conveniently located in southern Spain.
We’ve just spent two sun-soaked days in Barbate, an incredibly gorgeous sea-side town on the Costa de la Luz with our hosts Steve and Caroline, owners of Fantasia horse riding holiday company. This kind of holiday is unique and is really two holidays in one.
Experienced riders get the chance to canter through incredible landscapes, but there’s also ample time and space to enjoy the best holiday atmosphere that Spain has to offer. It’s also full-board package, so you can experience the best of Spanish food and drink, in a relaxing and hassle free week.
Groups are limited to about 7 riders, all with good experience, so you know the pace will be fun and exciting. The horses are Hispano or Anglo Arabs, reschooled by Steve and Caroline to suit a more English style of riding, and are all of a calm temperament.
The group stays together at a hotel just one minute stroll away from the beach. It’s only a few years old, and I was impressed with the standard of the rooms for a 3 star. Spacious, very clean and new, well appointed with modern flat-screens and all with terraces.
Breakfast in the hotel is simple; toast, tea and coffee etc. I asked for a fruit plate, which was quite generous; a large nectarine, pear, orange and banana. A mini-bus pick up every morning takes the group straight into the stables, where horses are groomed and ready to go.
Some people like to get involved in the grooming and mucking out of the horses, but if you’ve got a horse at home, you’ll really appreciate the extra time to feel like you’re on a real holiday.
Every day the ride will offer something new. Cantering through the national parks, two beach rides along the gorgeous white sands, galloping along fire-breaks in the forest and plenty of opportunity to try out different horses to find the right temperament for you. Watching the horses gallop along the beach, and wade in the shallow water along the shore is not a sight easily forgotten. The whole group was laughing and splashing, as the horses pawed the ground, soaking each other with the sparkling water. This being Spain, it’s common for some nudity on the beaches, so we did our best not to get any rude bits on camera!
After lunch in a local tapas bar for traditional food, everyone is free to enjoy their afternoon. Some people spend it at the beach, shopping or sightseeing. The town is quite busy, but easy to walk around. The beach is absolutely gorgeous, and there’s a busy promenade with lots of Spanish families (it’s not full of English tourists) and activities every night, like a hilarious aerobics display, break dancing competition and musicians.
The group meets up for drinks and dinner together every night on the promenade for paella, chats about the day and to make new friends. Dinner is organised and paid for by the company, so it’s really stress free. After dinner, we wandered around in the balmy night for some more drinks (less than €2 for a bottle of beer), ice-cream or to check out the beach side shopping stalls.