I cannot recall another week in my life when I have laughed so much, for such a variety of reasons, with people who I have never met before.
First laugh of the week was observing fellow flyers in Birmingham airport at 05:30 on a Sunday morning – always looks a little chaotic. The second was realising I could set my brain to “stand-by mode” for the next seven whole days after arriving in Spain and finding Andrew in the airport (my host/transfer driver). Everything from now on had been taken care of for me. I needn’t even spend another penny/cent if I didn’t want to.
A very happy me (and trusted steed Hercules).
I met the first two ladies who I would be sharing my trip with, and then we all loaded into the comfy air-conditioned car to start our journey. The transfer from Malaga airport to Los Alamos took two and a half hours with a toilet stop en-route.
Poppy the dog greeted us upon arrival along with Rhiannon who is Andrew’s wife and our fellow host for the week.
Poppy the dog.
Arriving at Los Alamos. Straight in front is Andrew and Rhiannon’s home, and to the right you can see the steps leading to one of the rooms.
My room was comfy, clean and well decorated. I had plenty of space to spread my clothes out (as I inevitably wanted to get to something which was at the very bottom of my suitcase). There was also a clothes rail with plenty of hangers, should I decide to actually organise my clothes at some point.
A typical room at Los Alamos.
The new bathrooms are very stylish with a wet room design, and every shower had good water pressure and temperature.
The new showers.
The food throughout the week was always fresh, tasty and in good supply. There was such a variety of dishes; lunch was tapas style and each night there was a completely different three course meal – I actually left having found some new favourite foods. Drinks wise, there was anything you could wish for (both alcoholic and soft) and they are all included in the price.
Fresh salad is served with every lunch and dinner.
On the beach days we were on the horses for 06:50, just before dawn, stopping at around 09:00. [I was at Los Alamos in July; at other times of the year the start is later in the morning] We’d tie the horses to nearby trees (strings were already attached to the trees) and go for breakfast in a nearby café. A slice of toast and some coffee was all I could manage on these mornings after the excitement of the beach canters. I must add that I actually had to hold back tears of joy after our very first one… I had finally fulfilled my own life-long-pony-mad-girls dream!
The beach riding was bucket-list stuff. Still teary eyed just thinking about it.
On the other days, we were allowed a lie in until about 07:30 and then it was up for breakfast before walking to the stables at 08:30 (the walk takes about 10 minutes). We were on the horses by 09:00, heading out into what seemed like a never ending forest. Our guide, Jose, pointed out many areas of interest and also told us lots about the wildlife in the area. He managed to catch a Chameleon for us to have a look at, making sure to place him carefully back into the bush afterwards.
Lead guide, Jose, returning a Chameleon to its home after showing it to us.
Instead of breakfast on these days, we had a break at a local bar around 10:30 for some coffee and crisps, and were back on the horses around 11:15 (after making sure they’d each received their mini breadsticks from lunch the day before).
A local bar.
Cantering through the forest was interesting – we didn’t always follow a path, so our guide would stop before setting off to explain about the terrain we would likely encounter. The firebreak gallop was great fun and is what Los Alamos is well known for. There are not many chances in the UK for friends to gallop upsides each other without either being tanked off with, or their own horse not having the stamina for it. It was very good hearing the giggles and “woohoo’s!” of my fellow riders.
Even in the dry season the forest still looked gorgeous.
We had seven other ladies join us on Wednesday afternoon, who had booked onto the short break. It was exciting to introduce them to the easy, social atmosphere at Los Alamos. It didn’t take long for us to all be laughing together as if we’d known one another for years.
The lounge/dining room/bar area.
On Thursday, myself and the two other ladies on the week long Villa Based Ride, were driven to Jerez to visit the city and to watch a performance at the Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art. We left the villa at 08:30 and arrived to Jerez at 09:30. We had breakfast al fresco at a local café before exploring the city streets with Andrew as our guide. At 11:30 we made our way to the Royal School where Andrew handed us our tickets, explained the layout of the grounds of the school, and let us go on in to discover it. We took our seats in the main indoor arena for the show, and afterwards looked around the warm up arenas, the stately home and the on site traditional Spanish saddlers.
The main indoor arena and one of the outdoor warm up arenas
The on-site traditional saddlers.
After lunch each day, we had a few hours to completely relax. As the weather was perfect, most of us spent the afternoons relaxing around the pool. Others went to the beach for a couple of the afternoons, on one day a masseuse came in to give massages, and on another some of us walked to a local hotel and bar which had an original Dovecote to look around.
Getting lost in what appeared to be a maze of Dovecotes.
The pool at the villa.
The horses – I honestly don’t know how to explain to you just how wonderful they are. Andalucian, Andalucian crosses and Arabs, what a beautiful bunch. They are happy, healthy, friendly, fit, polite, sure-footed and (most importantly) so, incredibly loved. Rachel, the horse manager, is very experienced. Firstly, she choses the perfect horses to have at the stables to begin with, and secondly, she can work out exactly who will suit each horse just from having a chat.
Hercules, a PRE Andalucian, patiently waiting as we go and have breakfast at a local café.
I’d never ridden an Andalucian before, my goodness are they comfy, and so straightforward to ride. I could ride along with no reins, snapping photos, having a drink, adjusting my shirt, without having to worry that they would stop to eat, try to get too close to the horse in front or randomly start jogging. On the other hand, I could also ride them ‘properly’ with reins in hand, ask them to walk out, and they’d each ride at any point in the string (up front, in the middle or out the back) with no hesitation or problem.
Me on Sancho, another PRE Andalucian.
I rode four horses throughout the week – Hercules, Camboria, Sancho and Shukaran.
Camboria was a very pretty PRE mare.
The guiding was also fantastic. Jose and Roberto are clearly good friends and just lovely personalities all round. Always making sure we were happy, aware of our surroundings, not missing anything that might be hidden in the bush, but also letting us all just talk amongst ourselves and enjoy our holiday.
Roberto our back-up guide.
The evenings at Los Alamos were like being out with old friends; happy, relaxed, engaging conversation over a freshly prepared three course dinner. With music in the background and whatever we wanted to drink, it really was lovely. People return year upon year for a reason, and this is why. People with a common interest, coming together for a good time and to forget about the hectic lives they have left behind for one week.
My first riding holiday was a complete success, and I must give a special mention to the nine inspiring women who helped shape this week for me. I would not usually have the chance to meet with such lovely people.
Although I visited in July, Los Alamos would make a perfect winter sun get away, diminishing any post-Christmas/New Year blues.