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Posted on October 3, 2019
In The Saddle agent Melina Woo from Denmark visited the Wolves and Wild Horses ride in Portugal in June 2019 and was charmed by her experiences there. Read all about her trip below.
Here’s my top 4 reasons why this beautiful riding holiday – hidden away, two and a half hours from Porto – should be next on your bucket-list.
This is a special place. Each room is individually decorated, the woodwork is designed and made by Anabela (the wife of Pedro, the owner) and the walls are adorned with paintings of horses done by Pedro (the owner). It is a unique and beautiful house which is an adventure to explore by itself.
You can relax in the garden during your downtime or if you wish to explore the area further, a 10 minutes walk takes you to the local river. It is possible to swim in the river, although the water was too cold when I was there.
Lunch was either a picnic (home made by Anabela) on full day rides or a traditional Portuguese lunch in local restaurants before or after our non-riding visits. These non-riding visits included the park’s visitor centre, wine tasting of the Alvarinho white wines, a climb up to the castle of Castro Laboreiro with breathtaking views, and a visit to an impressive historical monastery in a pretty green valley. The late afternoons/evenings were spent relaxing at the guesthouse, enjoying the beautiful views, a meditation class or studying all the art and crafts in the house.
Each night, you are served a three course dinner at the guesthouse which is hosted by Pedro and Anabela. It was fascinating to hear about the local area, the horses and riding, their dogs and their life.
The food was really tasty and plentiful, homemade from scratch by Anabela, who where possible uses locally sourced and organic ingredients. Anabela even makes her own coconut milk.
There are 18 well loved horses. When we met them, it was as if we were being introduced to a member of the family.
I was matched with Àtomo, an 11 year old grey Lusitano/Arab cross who had the typical “Roman” Lusitano nose. His mane stood up in a mohawk so I promptly renamed him “Punk”. He was a big softie though who loved to be brushed and stood with his eyes almost half closed with a droopy lower lip.
I have to admit that on one day I was unfaithful to my dear Àtomo, the punk. I had dreamt of trying a Garrano horse. Luckily I am small, so Pedro suggested I try his little Garrano gelding named Celta. Celta was so kind, so gentle and calm, but despite his small size, he was amazingly strong. He carried me easily uphill and downhill without breaking a sweat.
During the week we had a mixture of half and full day rides guided by either Pedro or Anabela. We rode through ancient forests, crossed desert-like plateaus on top of mountains, passed rivers, waterfalls, lakes and huge granite boulders in amazing formations. There were plenty of uphill climbs leading to wonderful views. Occasionally we had to get off and lead our horses.
We saw at least four or five herds of the wild Garrano horses as well as herds of the local long horned cattle that are also grazing in the mountains. There are no fences to protect the cattle just cattle dogs left to protect them. Some of Pedro and Anabela’s dogs accompanied us on the rides, to make sure the cattle and the wild horses stayed a safe distance from us.
The week went way too fast and suddenly it was our last day on horseback. We had a wonderful full day ride to the fabulous Valley of Wolves with a picnic lunch in the saddle bag. We didn’t see any wolves but did see their droppings. It was a really beautiful ride, but also a bit sad bearing in mind it was the last day. I was going to miss my dear ‘Punk’, the dogs running alongside us and the wonderful wilderness and stunning views.
After our farewell dinner we enjoyed some local port so that we could make some toasts known as “Chin Chin’s”. Chin chin to the horses, to new friendships, to Pedro and Anabela, to the wonderful food and until we meet again. After this wonderful retreat and riding holiday combination, I felt re-born, healthy and full of energy!