While on the topic of Spain (see my previous post about Doñana Horse Adventure), I want to tell you guys about a place I recently discovered near Madrid.
Before I get into that, I would like to say how absolutely BUMMED I am that I discovered this place literally the same week that I was moving to Canada, after living a few years in Spain. The fact that this place makes it to my “All Time Favorites” list is a testament to this incredibly well run family business and the gorgeous mountain scenery.
Gredos a Caballo is about a 2h drive from Madrid, up the mountain range “Sierra de los Gredos”, and the ranch is located in a tiny little town, Hoyos del Espino. As I got there by myself, I could tell the village dwellers were intrigued: a French girl walking alone here, in the middle of the Spanish countryside? That’s unusual! Nevertheless, the locals are so nice and always willing to lend a hand, often going out of their way to welcome you and show their hospitality. I quickly found my way to my Bed&Breakfast, which in fact is owned by the same family who manages the riding center.
I guess I must’ve arrived during the low season, as I had the whole place to myself! In the evening, Rafa, the owner, came to pick me up and offered to introduce me to the horses. They were peacefully grazing in a nearby field… When we arrived, the whole herd came towards us running, and each and every one of them had their ears oriented right at us- such a cute view!
My horse, named “belle chose” (“pretty thing” in French), but pronounced with a Spanish accent, was a little Arabian fireball -see far right on the picture above. I hesitated between picking this one and another Spanish horse, but I couldn’t remember the last time I rode an Arabian and I was looking forward to that feeling again– is there a better feeling than that, though?
The next morning, we were off to the Sierra! With a relatively early 10am start – that is, according to Spanish standards, because obviously you gotta enjoy life and take your time – off we went up the mountains. We crossed the small town of Hoyos del Espino on horseback before arriving in a small forest. The backdrop of the mountain was spectacular.
I loved that they trusted me with the horse and weren’t trying to control my movements -as I have seen oh so many times when going on trail rides before. Canters were not necessarily in a straight line, as each person is free to roam around… still need to follow the guide though, wouldn’t want to get lost!
As we kept climbing, and the vegetation became scarcer, we actually ran into Spanish mountain goats, the Iberian ibex! We stopped to eat at a local restaurant in a nearby “pueblo” while our horses waited patiently outside in the shade.
The hours following our lunch was a bit more relaxed as we were going downhill for the most part and were trying to digest our big lunch (and that glass of wine)! We crossed a beautiful river, a few bridges, and enjoyed the landscape while making our way back to Hoyos del Espino – of course, not without a few delightful gallops!
I wish I could have stayed longer (as I always do on my riding trips!), these two days felt a bit short, and I knew there was so much more to see, but I had to go back to Madrid to grab my suitcases and head to the Great White North! This incredible experience really felt like the perfect ending to a wonderful chapter of my life in Spain. While I sometimes think about it with a bit of nostalgia, I very much look forward to visiting Gredos a Caballo again on my next trip to Spain!
Check out my Gredos a Caballo YouTube video edit below!
Tip: In the Spring and Summer, you can take a bus directly from Madrid Bus Station “Estación del Sur” to Hoyos del Espino, however in the low season you should either take a bus or train to Avila, and then another local bus to Hoyos del Espino.
*All pictures are my own (@worldonhorseback)