Spring 2014 Newsletter

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 03/24/2014

Hidden Trails Spring 2014 Newsletter

Cherry blossoms are out! Spring, summer, fall, before you know it--winter is here again! It's been a good start for the 2014 season for us during the winter months. The trend was mostly for Central and South America trips but a lot of our North American, European, and other trips have picked up the pace as well. Many riding trips in guest ranches as well as pack trips, horse drives, and cattle drives are quickly filling up for the summer and fall tour dates--make sure you plan ahead and book well in advanced before the best date that works for you is fully booked! To reserve your tour, go to http://www.hiddentrails.com/reserve

Hidden Trails Spring 2014 Newsletter - Cherry Blossoms are Out!

Trip Finder

We've tweaked our Trip Finder function and now it is more responsive than before. You can do a quick keyword search or filter by destination and/or tour type. Give it a try!
http://www.hiddentrails.com/tripfinder/

Special Offers

As always we have a special page for "Special Offers" - there are some excellent deals available if you act quickly ... they will not last.
Where else can you find a $520 discount? Have a look at: http://www.hiddentrails.com/tripfinder/specials.aspx 

New Trips

We recently added a few more new exciting trips to our program - a full list can be found on our website at:
http://www.hiddentrails.com/tripfinder/newrides.aspx 

Some trips have been flagged as "new" due to revised itinerary -- more brand new trips will be added very soon!

Favorites

"Add to Favorites" is a function we added to our website to help you keep track of your favorite and riding trip "bucket list". It's also a great way for us to group riders together that's interested in the same trip. Look for the "Add to Favorites" icon in the lower right section of a tour's page to start using this feature.

Media Center

Our Media Center is a great place to browse through our trips with an emphasis on
--> Slide Shows, Online Videos, Trip Ratings and Travel Stories ... have a look at the visually exciting section of our website at:
http://www.hiddentrails.com/media/index.aspx

Social Networks

Your can now follow us on Facebook and Twitter .. or stay in touch with the latest updates and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!
Have a great day!

Kind regards,
Hidden Trails Team

 

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Monthly Newsletter

Happy New Year 2013 from Hidden Trails

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 12/31/2012

Happy New Year 2013 from Hidden Trails!

Happy New Year from Hidden Trails! May your new year be filled with prosperity, good health, and beautiful sunshine!

Since being hired by Hidden Trails in 2009, I had been dreaming of our riding tours in Africa. I always had coveted a visit to the vast and mysterious continent, but with the added motivation of the possibility of horseback riding there, I was more motivated than ever to make this trip of a lifetime happen! Finally in 2012, I was able to make my dreams come true, despite some unexpected obstacles that left only me less than 3-weeks to plan the entire trip before my departure. Luckily, there are no advance visas or vaccinations required for visits to South Africa or (southern) Botswana, so it was possible to do so, though it was rather harried! When I eventually arrived to Johannesburg, I stepped off the plane into the most fantastic thunder and lightning hail storm I had seen in years; there was an inch of slushy snow squishing under my thong sandals and as I stood there in a sun-dress, shivering and looking up at the heavens, suddenly realizing that all my preconceptions about Africa were truly about to be tested: starting with the weather! Lucky for you, now that I have made all the silly mistakes on my own, I can advise Hidden Trails’ customers on the RIGHT way to do everything!

I have composed several trip reports for our customers to review, that have now been posted online with each of the respective rides I had the opportunity to visit and learn from. We will share them here in this Hidden Trails Newsletter as well. Please feel free to telephone the office any time from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm Pacific Time to chat with me, Lauren, if you are thinking about joining one of these epic adventures. Nothing would make me happier than to share my experiences with you!
 
- Lauren @ Hidden Trails
 
First stop, our “Waterberg Safari Lodge” in Northern South Africa…

Enjoyed the Most:
The lodge staff at both "the Nest" and "the Hill" are simply incredible people at what they do. They are chipper, funny, knowledgeable, kind, flexible and absolutely true professionals in every sense. The gourmet style dining at this lodge is well beyond any of the other safaris I participated in during my 3 weeks in Africa; the presentation, complexity of the flavours and wonderful variety in the menu in each night was simply amazing. The plentiful horses (herd of 70+) were varied in level of difficulty to account for all the different types of riders, yet each mount was lovely in it's own way with good safari sense, always fun to ride, fit in health and well loved. The accommodations, designed by Tess, one half of your hosting couple Ant & Tess Baber, are stunning to behold. Every guest building on the two lodge property is incredibly beautiful, a charming combination of modern luxury and traditional architecture.

Bothered you:
Nothing at this place could bother anyone... you would have to have impossible standards for them not to surpass your expectations by a mile!

Comments:
You must come and see their lovely rhinos!! Due to the very sad reality of poaching, these magnificent beasts and their "owners" live each day worried that they may fall victim to the disgusting illegal trade. That being said, one positive you can take from the situation at hand, is that to keep them safe at night, the Babers have made a routine of feeding them around sunset at the lodge. The rhinos show up for their "dinner" while you sit on your hosts' private residence balcony (just a short 5 min off road drive from the guest lodges) drinking refreshing "sundowner" G&Ts. They congregate at the base of the balcony, tussling over the food in gentle competition with each other, making the most amazing and happy noises as they get excited about feeding on the fruits. They are merely a few feet below you; a truly unique moment to be had.

The buffalo are reserved for the intermediate - advanced riders only, as they are relatively dangerous animals due to their unpredictability and aggression and vast numbers. They have a tracking device on the herd so if they riding out with novice riders, they can avoid the part of the reserve they are positioned at. I was lucky enough (although I say lucky at the expense of the poor bull), to be riding out with Ant the owner who took me on my own to see the buffalo, when he noticed his prize bull was not looking as healthy as normal after the hard winter they had. So the next day, he called in the vet and we went out with his "wranglers" on horseback and a few of the guests who were good enough riders, and tracked and herded the buffalo so the vet could "dart" the sick one with the rifle. What an insane experience. Our hearts were beating fast as the walky-talkies crackled with static and transmissions about the whereabouts of the herd, and we had to set up a perimeter and yet be ready to gallop out of harm’s way if the animals stampeded! Holy cow (pun not intended), was it intense! The bull is only down for minutes, as they have to reverse the sedative quickly so as not to harm the animal. We all got to get up close and personal with the poor sleeping bull, and he stirred a few times even under the heavy sedation and man you have to watch out for those massive horns!!! I will never, ever forget that moment either. If you are into this sort of thing, I advise you to go during their census week where they take account of some animals, capture and relocate others. My time spent with the buffalo was only a small taste of what this week of theirs entails.

There are two lodges, the Nest and the Hill. You can organize to stay at both during your time here (you can horseback ride lodge to lodge in about 3 hours) or choose just one. Ants Nest has more of a communal feel to it, the way the lodge and its surrounding guest buildings have been laid out, although your privacy is never in question! Ants Nest is nestled in the private reserve's valley and nearby the owner's own residence. There is a lovely stone fire pit enclave set outside to have dinner under the stars or meals can be taken in on the lodge patio, or in the handsome loft dining area indoors. I recommend you get a massage (only about $25 US!!) outside at the poolside. The Hill is, as one might expect, perched on top a cliff on the "hill" and during the summer season when moisture returns to the land, a river flows out from beneath the stunning lodge balcony in a stunning waterfall. The various luxury cottages (which each sleep up to 6) are set back away from the main lodge, offering intimate seclusion for people on honeymoons who was their absolute privacy or for families who wish to keep it personal in their downtime. There are also a couple of lodge rooms available for singles.

Second stop: Triple B Ranch in South Africa…

Enjoyed the Most:
It is the hospitality of Laura, Shane and their smiling staff at Triple B that makes the ranch as special as it is and keep their guests returning year after year. I completely understand why they have a 51% rider return rate! Laura is a glowing host who can make anyone feel at ease in her presence; whether you are a family with children looking for an engaging and playful vacation or a single adult looking to get out of the city life for a few days to ride and relax, the ranch can be your home away from home. Best of all, it comes at a relatively affordable price in comparison to many of their luxury competitors! There is something available here for everyone! Trail ride on safaris through the surrounding property where you will find kudu, impala, waterbuck, zebra, giraffe - generally plains game here, with no dangerous animals - making it a very safe place to introduce yourself to riding in Africa for the first time for Novice riders and children, or simply those who would rather not entertain the idea of meeting a lion in the bushes while they're on horseback! Alternatively, you can improve or test your horseback skills, or be just plain competitive, by joining in on a polo-cross match on the field or get involved in the weekly Western Games, like barrel racing and pole bending. You can also request a few jumping lessons in the arena with Kirsty if you are keen to pop over a few fences. And we mustn't forget: there are several dammed lakes all across the property, where horses and riders can splash and swim with each other. This is a definite highlight for many of the guests who come here! I even met riders at other lodges over the week who mentioned how swimming at Triple B with the horses had been a definite highlight for them during their Africa trip. At night, the sounds of the bullfrogs are bewitching, the groans, woofs and honks (that is the only way I can think to describe it!) of the resident hippopotamus family is endlessly amusing and sometimes it really sounds like they are right at your doorstep. You often can hear the hyenas and jackals yowling on the hills as they hunt. It is eerie in the best of ways. Sometimes over the rest of the nocturnal din, you can even hear lions roaring - the big cats can be heard from up to 10km away! Don't worry, eventually the active night orchestra goes to sleep and therefore so can you!

Bothered You:
Nothing bothered me really - I suppose I wish they had their cross-country course still active!

Comments:
Accommodations - several adorable little "huts" to choose from, some are traditional rondavel style (round) and others were boxy little cottages on the lake. There are also a few rooms available in main lodge building. All guest accommodations are comfortable, clean and cute. Nothing lavish here folks, just a cozy place to retreat to when needed.

Food - always plentiful and delicious!! I actually found their lunch menus to be the food highlight here for me. All-star quiches and the most delectable chicken schnitzels paired with simple, but extremely tasty, fresh salads. Dinners were also tasty and well prepared, although I personally found there was too much meat for my own eating habits; next time, I will order the vegetarian menu, just because I envied every amazing dish the one veggie woman was served each night! So good to note: vegetarians are well catered to here!!

Horses - they have many of them (about 70+), so there is definitely not only one, but many horses suited to you and your riding level and desires. You can ride as many as you wish while you are there, or find a favorite few to stick with. Their horses are nothing fancy, but all are quality animals who are happy in their home and much loved, and who do their jobs very well. They have the uncanny ability to make you grin from ear to ear. In fact, my mother came as a non-rider (although she had ridden a few times over twenty years ago on “rental” horses), and she completely surprised me by wanting to ride. She was CANTERING on the ever lovely gelding Flynn on her first ride at Triple B, and was practically a cowgirl by the time we left. SHE EVEN PLAYED POLO-CROSSE. I have the photos to prove it. ;)

As they wish to evaluate riders before giving them anything with pep, I first rode Kiona, a little Appaloosa mare on my first day, who was polite and quiet and clearly an easy ride but if you are a good enough rider to coax her spirit out, you will find she has more than enough juice to happily give you a delightful canter! Sweet horse. Later I rode Scotch Bonnet, a handsome bay Boerpard (the local breed, like a mustang in origin) who was quite playful and vocal, but still well-mannered and steady. He was my favorite of my stay there! Then I played a game of polo-cross for the very first time, on a chestnut Thoroughbred gelding named Rusty who is an old pro at it and was very forgiving of my terrible novice skills at the game. There is something to be said about a horse who doesn't flinch the slightest when you are swinging a lacrosse stick around his ears and shoulders, or who doesn't mind being "body checked" by the other competitors! I went swimming in the lake with the firecracker paint pony mare, Storm. She likes to swim, and kind of treats it like a salad buffet as she goes along in the water scooping up the plantlife in her lips. Hot damn, that little mare can GO!!! I think the post-swim gallop - ahem, I mean CANTER - we had on the way back to the farm was one of the most adrenaline filled of my entire 3 weeks riding in Africa. Did I say gallop? I meant canter...

While there is not a chance to see the Big Five on the ranch property, there are easily organized jeep safaris at neighbouring reserves where you can see elephant, rhino, lions, buffalo... and if you are lucky... the elusive leopard!

Last stop, Botswana, and the Tuli Riding Safari…

Enjoyed the Most:
The horseback riding & wildlife at Mashatu took my breath away: Plenty of long and fast canters, jumping small ditches and logs along the way (optional), covering the most amazing and vast terrain, cantering alongside the herds of giraffe who look like they are going in slow motion but are covering just as much ground as we are!! I will never, for the rest of my life, forget camping in the bush not so far from a den of lionesses, who you could hear at night roaring over their territory - you can actually hear other lions from across the border (and river) in South Africa roaring back in reply! Simply phenomenal, not at all scary. You never feel unsafe in the care of this first class horse safari operation.

Even walking (on foot or horseback) is exciting; there is just so much to revel in. In some parts, the dirt sparkles with rough diamond bits. It is magical. Curious and mischevious baboons watch from their haunches perched ontop of massive termite hills, jackals streak from bush to bush looking for cover, vultures circle above looking for carcasses leftover from the cats and hyenas, the air is filled with enchanting, rythmic bird calls. Antelope, zebra and wildebeest graze vigilantly on the grasslands or stand stock still in the bushes while you pass by thinking just maybe you don't see them. We followed the drag trail of a leopard kill, and eventually found what was leftover of the unlucky zebra. We did find 2 leopards late in the week: these cats are hard to find by most safari standards. Many locals have not even seen them. Here in the Mashatu Reserve, you have a brilliant chance of finding at least one during your week here. I met someone who went the week before me, and she said they saw 6! We saw a beautifully feminine, young female who came right up to our jeep and then proceeded to roll around like a house cat in the dirt, grooming and showing off. We saw a large male leopard lazing on a low lying branch in the massive Mashatu tree; he stared at us lazily, before sliding down out of the tree and disappearing into the bush. We were 10 feet away from several lionesses and their cubs, who were tormenting their mother just like children do - it was funny! We found a herd of elephants, where one baby came up to us and wanted to play. Like a dog wanting to play fetch, he had his back haunches up and front end down playfully, trying to get us to interact with him and the ball of elephant dung he was using as a soccor ball. He kicked it back and forth, front feet to back feet, side to side. It was incredible. For safety reasons of course, we could not "play" with him, and eventually he got frustatrated, and so with his trunk, threw his dung ball at us and stomped his feet like a spoiled kid before walking back to his mother. Anyone who thinks these impressive animals are not highly intelligent with very human like personalities and emotions is kidding themselves. Elephants are everywhere in the Mashatu Reserve, some travel alone, others in herd of up to 50. Our guides West and Mpo were comedic gentlemen, who were knowledgeable and friendly, and love to poke fun at you and keep you smiling. They are not only a wealth of knowledge about their country and safari, but also have trained locally, as well as in Europe and UK, in 3-day eventing. They are not just safari guides, but trained equestrians as well. Same goes for their wonderful horses; they are not only fearless safari animals, but well schooled horses who do dual duty competing in the ring when not trekking.

Bothered you:
That I did not have more time to spend there!? I could have stayed for weeks!!!

Comments:
This place is great for experienced riders. There is a short riding test on the first afternoon to be sure everyone is up to par with required riding level and to make sure your selected horse is a good match. If you are not able to ride to the ability required, you unfortunately cannot continue. While this sounds a bit nerve-wracking for anyone who has doubt in their riding, for those who are strong riders, this ensures that you have the fast paced, exhilarating and SAFE riding experience you seek without worrying that an unfit rider may negatively affect the group. I kind of had butterflies even though I know I am a good rider! Haha! You do a large triangle... one side cantering, second side hand gallop/extended canter, and third side you need to bring the horse back at a collected canter. You can do it! ;)

Camping. Yes, it's camping, but really, REALLY nice camping. Put it this way, my mother came with me, who is NOT an outdoor type at all, and she felt completely at ease, wonderfully taken care of and always comfortable and happy while at all the camps we went to along the trail. She came as a non-rider and rode with the support vehicle each day from location to location and her experience was just as wonderful as the riders. There was a few days were she saw some wildlife I was jealous of! And don't knock having an outdoor shower until you have done it. Seriously. I already knew how divine they were from past trips in the backcountry, but I enjoyed seeing the rest of the group come to realize after the first day just how lovely they are!! If you are really not into the camp scene, you can book a safari that is lodge to lodge (Mashatu Deluxue Safari)!


Most of rates and dates for 2013 are already on our website. If you have any questions about a trip that is not yet updated please give us a call or send us an email at info@hiddentrails.com

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Monthly Newsletter

Happy Holidays 2012 from Hidden Trails

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 12/20/2012

... the best wished from the crew at Hidden Trails
    www.hiddentrails.com
     call Toll Free from North America:  1-888-987-2457
     call Toll Free from the UK:             
808-189-0420
     skype:hiddentrails   - Toll Free from anywhere

Happy Holidays 2012 from Ryan and the staff of Hidden Trails

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Monthly Newsletter

June 2012 Newsletter

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 06/19/2012
Summer - here we come !  
-- Enjoy on & with Hidden Trails
  June 2012 Newsletter  


Spring in the Pacific North West had all time record low temperatures - I don't know about you, but I am ready for Summer ! We will be checking out some trips in Europe in July and then again in September and I am personally very tempted to go back to Mexico this fall ... I just can't get enough of it Mexico's landscapes, weather, people and the horses.
The upcoming rides in Chiaps, Mexico, are extraordinary riding adventures that should not be missed. Both trips on July 15 and July 29 are confirmed and have space for a few more riders !  It has everything .... Culture, Breathtaking Landscapes, Great Horses and wonderful guides !

Of course we are also working on our Facebook Fan Page (almost 15.000 Fans) and our website. Have you seen the latest improvements?  We have installed a "Favorite" feature that lets you save trips in a "basket" that you can view any time you like, send to your friends or print as a PDF brochure.

  on horseback in Central Spain with Hidden Trails  
 
on horseback in soutehr Mexico - Chiapas.
-- a few spaces are still available for our July 15 and July 29 riding tours in Chiapas !


Special Offers:
Check our pages for trips with reduced rates

Examples:
Yukon Wilderness Horseback Expedition
Yukon, Canada
20% OFF for Sept 7 departure - limited time offer !
10 days / 9 nights, regular rate $3,290

Land of the Giants - Tuli Riding Safari
Mashatu, Botswana
$500 OFF for June or July trips.
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $3,700

Medicine Lodge Horse Drive
Idaho, USA
$260 Discount pp - limited time offer
7 days / 6 nights, regular rate $1,300


Banff - Wilderness Tenting Ride
AB, Canada
20% Discount for July 4 to 9, 2012 - limited time offer
6 days / 5 nights, regular rate $1,370

Appalachian Gourmet Ride
PQ, Canada
10% OFF for reservations with 2+ riders
7 days / 6 nights, regular rate $1,095



Added New Rides:
As always we strive to offer the widest selection of trips all over the world at the most competitive rates. We continuously work on making the search for your perfect trip as easy as possible and improve the reservation process for you. 

Here are some great New Trips that we added in 2012:

Caribbean Border Trail Adventure
Caribbean Coast, Costa Rica
6 days / 5 nights, regular rate $1,095
-- also Coast to Coast 16 day option available


Highlands Cattle & Horse Round Up in Ecuador
Highlands, Ecuador
9 days / 8 nights,
regular rate $1,695

Ile-de-France Ride to Versailles
Il-de-France, France
8 days / 7 nights,
regular rate $2,030

Colonial Villages and Haciendas Trail
Central Mexico, Mexico
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $1,865


If you are looking for the best deal
- we created a specail "BEST DEALS" page for you.

We collect trip reports from our clients, so you can have a look at the best rides on the "Best Top Trips" page.

For all of you that are on Facebook - an easy way to follow us with new Special Offers, new Slide Shows or Videos ... become a fan of our "Facebook Page" - we already have almost 15.000 followers!

 
Order your free   196  page print Brochure
--
for 2012 rates and dates, please refer to our website


Favorites

Look for this sign and use it to keep track of all the trips you like on our website. Check your list any time, send the links to your friends or print them to a digital PDF brochure.


 

Featured Rides

 Canada-Yukon-Yukon Wilderness Horseback Expedition

Yukon Wilderness Ride
Discover the treasure of the northern Canada landscapes on horseback as you climb majestic mountain ridges, splash across creeks and ride through the peaceful valleys. Witness the transformation of seasons in the colorful autumn landscapes of the Yukon Wilderness as the wildlife prepares for another long winter.


Canada-Yukon-Yukon Wilderness Horseback Expedition


Extraordinary Ride in Mexico
Mexico-Sierra Occidental-La Sierra Classic Cavalcade

Classic Cavalcade
- Mexico

One of the best rides anywhere will be discontinued. Only 1 trip date left - 2 spaces ONLY !
Ride with Pepe and Lucia around the beautiful landscapes of Valle de Bravo..
Only 2 spaces for Dec 2 to 9 .....


Mexico-Sierra Occidental-La Sierra Classic Cavalcade

 

Buddy FinderBuddy Finder


Looking
to find a Travel Buddy to save on transfers or Single rooms - we just implemented a 'new' Buddy Finder on each trip page. Just enter what you are looking for and others can contact you from there.

Trip Finder at Hidden Trails
To make it easier for you, we have created a "TripFinder" where you can search for your horse vacation of a lifetime by entering the type of ride, the location, time period or riding level.  
Find your trip here !!

What are these riding trips all about?
They are about galloping on endless beaches, forging rivers, cantering through forests, trotting along age-old trails, gazing at beautiful vistas, and encountering foreign cultures. Most of all, these trips are about getting away from the cycle of work and never enough free time. Escape from the rituals, which long ago froze our nights and days into little more then routine, because deep inside we all feel the longing of the nomads, whose lives we lived thousands of years ago.
Leave your stressful life behind and explore a foreign place away from the tourist rush and off the beaten path - on Hidden Trails.
You will see the “real” country, its hinterland and meet the local inhabitants. The love for horses has no boundaries, but possesses a common language we all speak and understand.
 
www.hiddentrails.com
Toll Free 1-888-987-2457
E-mail: info@hiddentrails.comm

Follow us:  Follow us:   Follow us on Facebook   Follow us on Twitter   Follow us on our RSS Feed  Follow us on Our Blog

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Monthly Newsletter

Bienvenidos a Mexico! Hidden Trails hosted ride.

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 05/01/2012

Hidden Trails organized a hosted ride in Mexico from March 17 to 24, 2012. Susanne Risse from the Hidden Trails office represented Hidden Trails on the ride ... here is her trip report:

“Bienvenidos - mi casa es su casa”- this greeting on the main building drew my attention when the friendly driver dropped me off in the early morning at Rancho las Cascadas. 

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails

This was followed by a cordially welcome by host Uschi, her assistant Jenny and several tail-wagging dogs.  After a delicious breakfast, two fellow riders from Europe and I joined a Rancho member on a trip to the Friday market in the neighboring town of Jilotepec.  This local market was not only heaven for our taste buds but also the perfect place to find inexpensive sombreros, Mexican style riding boots, leather belts and so on – a Cowgirl’s shopping paradise!  Back at the Rancho, we couldn’t wait to go out on our first ride, and it was not only due to our new sombreros that we had big smiles on our faces all day long. Mexico, here we are and ready for adventure!

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails

The next day our fellow riders gradually arrived and we were all looking forward to the “Highlands and Explorer Ride” to start.  The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, our group of 11 international horseback riders and 3 Mexican wranglers was all set to go – VAMOS!  Later, after our first canter, you could hear a “Yippee’ here and “Yeehaw” there and not only the riders seemed to enjoy their first ride but also our four-legged friends.  Afterwards, “The Copa” – a waterfall ending in a martini-glass shaped rock, seemed to be a perfect stopover to cool down a bit!  Thanks to our team of wranglers, we were able to split up in smaller groups with varying riding pace when necessary.  So in our case we split up in a fast, faster and ‘Adolfo’ speed (our fastest wrangler! J). But seriously, with the skill of various wranglers, the Rancho can accommodate any riding level and they will make sure that every participant will enjoy the ride at their preferred riding level.

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails 

The following days were marked by fast paced riding, diverse landscape and lots of FUN!  E.g. our little “photo shoot” along a beautiful lake shore, where every rider (and horse) had a blast, all cantering and galloping smoothly alongside each other! Every new riding day surprised us with varying landscape – from open rangeland, lakeshores, small forests, agricultural landscape and rocky canyons- we had it all!  And besides the all the variety, some things seemed to be in endless supply on our rides: sunshine, blue sky, delicious picnic lunches and the stamina of our horses! I guess we, the riders, didn’t perform badly either. Whether it was the daily early morning “Yoga Stretch” session offered by the Rancho, the hearty breakfast, the delicious after-dinner margaritas or a good night sleep in cozy rooms that re-charged our batteries, it worked!  One afternoon we even had enough energy for a shopping trip to the tack shops of the neighboring city of Tula.

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails

The last day of the progressive ride led us to the so called “Los Organos” (organ pipes), a rock formation in the middle of nowhere.  Here we enjoyed a nice picnic lunch and afterwards a refreshing swim in the nearby river.  But every journey has an end and to mark the end of this journey we shared a wonderful “Farewell Dinner,” with a live performance by a traditional Mexican band.  The next day it was time to say goodbye … but not before one last ride!  Our host was so kind as to offer a last “treat” to those who were still hungry for more riding – an early morning “Sunrise Ride” before breakfast.  This was indeed a perfect way to end this great riding adventure in Mexico! 

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails

Thanks to Uschi and her staff from Rancho Las Cascadas for all their wonderful hospitality - “mi casa es su casa” is more than just words at the Rancho!  A special thank you to all my fellow riders - you made this trip especially unforgettable!  Hasta la proxima!

-Susanne

If you want to find out more about the “Highlands and Canyons Explorer Ride” in Mexico, please have a look on following website: http://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/viva_mexico_horseback_riding_tour.aspx

Mexico - Highlands Ride with Hidden Trails

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Bulletin News | Equestrian Travel Stories

May 2012 Newsletter

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 05/01/2012
Get Ready for Summer     

Winter has gone, spring is almost over and summer is fast approaching. Now is the time to reserve a Riding Getaway to relax and enjoy life for while ! Don't let the media get you down - life is short and we only have one life to live !
We have implemented a new "Buddy Finder" on our tour pages .. pretty exciting  --
read more below.
We have added some new trips and some upcoming riding trips are just fantastic --
read more below.

  Spain-Catalonia-Mediterranean Spa & Wine Coast Trail
May 2012 Newsletter  
On horseback in Arizona - Trails of the Ancient Ride
Some spaces for our Monument Valley rides just opened up ...  act fast - they will not last.

March 16 to 23 Event:
Our Hidden Trails hosted Highlands Explorer Ride was an overwhelming succes. All 12 riders had a trip of a lifetime .. with some of the fastest paced riding anyone had ever done.
Read the Story on our Blog ...
Special Offer: We are offering a $300 discount for the May 5 and June 2 departures.

Of course the Highlands Explorer Ride is just one of many fantastic riding tours in Mexico. Have a look at our
Mexico Pages
... truly some of the best rides anywhere.


Special Offers:
Check out our page with all the upcoming "Special Offers".
Examples:
Turkish Riviera Riding Vacation  Turkey
25% OFF for all new reservations for May - limited time offer
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $975
Medicine Lodge Horse Drive  Idaho, USA
$300 OFF for May 20, May 27, June 3 and June 17 trips - new reservations only.
7 days / 6 nights, regular rate $1,300

Just Added Rides:
As always we strive to offer the widest selection of trips all over the world at the most competive rates. We continuously work on making the search for your perfect trip as easy as possible and improve the reservation process for you. 
Examples:
Here are some great New Trips recently added:
Himalaya Horse Safari   Ladakh, India
12 days / 11 nights, regular rate $2,275
Dates : May to August
Chianti Hills Estate - Western Riding  Tuscany, Italy
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $1,670
Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostella  Galicia, Spain
7 days / 6 nights, regular rate $2,215
Big Horn Basin Rides in Wyoming WY, USA
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $1,800

-- fast paced ride

If you are looking for the best deal
- we created a specail "BEST DEALS" page for you.

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Trip Finder at Hidden Trails

To make it easier for you, we have created a "TripFinder" where you can search for your horse vacation of a lifetime by entering the type of ride, the location, time period or riding level.  
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Buddy FinderBuddy Finder
Looking
to find a Travel Buddy to save on transfers or Single rooms - we just implemented a 'new' Buddy Finder on each trip page. Just enter what you are looking for and others can contact you from there.

Featured Rides
Mexico-Chiapas-Mountains, Canyons & Coast Explorer of Chiapas
Mexico - Ride in Chiapas
Explore mountains, canyons and canter on the beach.
Two departures of our new adventure ride in Chiapas  just confirmed and we are looking for a few more riders ! Great trip !
July 15 and July 29 dates are ready for you to join !
Mexico-Chiapas-Mountains, Canyons & Coast Explorer of Chiapas

Gourmet Ride in Spain
Spain-Catalonia-Coastal Gourmet Passion Ride

Coastal Gourmet Ride
Join us on a great ride in Spain from May 20 to 27 ... a few spaces are still available !
Spain-Catalonia-Coastal Gourmet Passion Ride


 

What are these riding trips all about?
They are about galloping on endless beaches, forging rivers, cantering through forests, trotting along age-old trails, gazing at beautiful vistas, and encountering foreign cultures. Most of all, these trips are about getting away from the cycle of work and never enough free time. Escape from the rituals, which long ago froze our nights and days into little more then routine, because deep inside we all feel the longing of the nomads, whose lives we lived thousands of years ago.
Leave your stressful life behind and explore a foreign place away from the tourist rush and off the beaten path - on Hidden Trails.
You will see the “real” country, its hinterland and meet the local inhabitants. The love for horses has no boundaries, but possesses a common language we all speak and understand.
 
www.hiddentrails.com
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Monthly Newsletter

Irish Derby from June 24 - 26, 2011

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 07/05/2011

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is one of the most prestigious horse racing events of the year. Held at The Curragh, one of Europe's oldest sporting grounds, this event attracts the attention of horse-lovers from across the globe, and especially in the horse-mad country of Ireland itself. It is run at the Curragh over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs (2,414 metres), and it is scheduled to take place each year in late June or early July. It is the Irish version of the Derby Stakes, and it is currently held three weeks after the English event. For more information visit www.curragh.ie

 

 

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Horsey Events

Lonesome Spur Ranch Experience

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 06/20/2011

Original Story by Sheila Haviland

Working ranch vacations in Montana at the Lonesome Spur Ranch with Hidden Trails

As a little girl I would lay in my bed at night and just before I fell asleep, I would escape to my fantasy world of me riding a beautiful spotted Paint and herding cattle across the prairie. So we booked the Lonesome Spur Ranch in Montana with Hidden Trails, an agency specializing in equestrian vacations all over the world.
Last week I finally got to live out my fantasy.

On 29 May 2011 I embarked on a trip I will never forget.

Two girlfriends and I arrived at the Lonesome Spur Ranch, in Montana on 29 May. The Lonesome Spur Ranch is a working ranch. They are not setup to pamper you, but instead encourage you to participate in any and all ranch chores. Since the three of us own our own farms, the idea of doing chores on someone else's place was not at the top of our priority list. Most of the guests were there for the riding and not for the "ranch hand" experience.

Besides the ranch owner and wranglers (hired help) my friends and I were the only Americans on the ranch. Everyone else was either from England or Switzerland. Even the owner’s wife was a Brit. That rather surprised us, but it also made the trip a bit more interesting, because now we had people from other countries with other points of view. Including my friends and me, we had seven people (guests) in our group. We were lucky; all the folks in our group were good people. We didn't have to deal with any idiots. Big plus in my book!

The ranch impressed us because all the horse bridle's were either a hackamore, a Bosal or had a snaffle bit (for those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, just know that they didn't allow the guests to hurt the horse's mouth). The horses were not deadheads and would ride tail to nose or as individuals, depending on the rider’s ability. For those of us that were experienced riders, an independent horse was a huge plus. Granted the horses are not as responsive as our own horses, but we learned to communicate in their language.

Upon our arrival we were assigned our cabin. Our bathroom was adjacent to our cabin. We had to walk outside to get to the bathroom, which was not so nice if you had to pee in the middle of the night, but it helped us wake up in the morning...brrrr.

We did not get fresh towels every day, nor was our cabin or bathroom cleaned while we were there. We lived a little better than the paid ranch hands. There was a hot tub on the property for the guests to use and thanks to my friends we used it once. My friends had to find someone to tell them how to unlock it and how to operate it. If it had been left up to me, we would never have used it, but I'm glad we did. We had such a good time in the hot tub. My friends brought wine and I parked the car next to the hot tub and turned up the music. We laughed and giggled so much that night that the entire valley heard us. The next morning the ranch cook asked if that was us making all that racket last night. Guilty.....we had a blast!

When we arrived in Montana the day's high was 44 degrees. When we left Maryland it was 91 degrees. I was freezing! Thank God our beds had double comforters or I would have frozen to death that night. Even with two comforters, my PJs and my sweater on, I was still cold.

The next day the weather warmed up to 68 with clouds and occasional rain showers. We saddled up our assigned horse (we got a new horse assignment every day. Sometimes it was the same horse as the day before, but in five days I rode three different horses) and the ranch owner's daughter and her family loaded our horses and took us to the Crow Indian reservation to go check on their cattle. They had pushed their cattle to higher pastures weeks earlier but because it had rained in Montana for weeks, they were unable to check on them after they left them on the mountain. We rode for hours to get to the cattle in the mountains. The wind was blowing at a steady pace and horses sank into the ground about four inches every step they took. The ground was so saturated from all the rain they had, that the ground was like a soggy marsh. Even in the mountains the ground was soggy. We found their cattle and they were all there and safe. We rode for at least six hours that day.

On Tuesday, the threat of rain was imminent so the owner wanted us to stay close to the ranch. One of the wrangles took us on a trail ride around the ranch. Good thing we didn't go too far because we did get rained on and the wind was still blowing, so I was froze to the bone when we returned. Even a "ranch" trail ride was a two hour trip, so it was nothing to sneeze at. After our ride we drove our rental car to Cody, WY and did some shopping. I bought an Outback Oilskin, to keep my legs dry on the next ride. I'm so glad I bought that coat because I needed it for the rest of the week.

On Wednesday, we rode to the top of a mountain near the ranch. Again, we rode for about 3 and a half hours and saw a beautiful view. One of the horses went lame on that ride, but he got back to the ranch ok. The ride to the top of the mountain was a steep climb over rocky terrain. It was not a ride for the faint of heart. I'm not sure if they take the novice riders on that ride too, but if they do I can tell you it probably scares the crap out of them. I just gave the horse his head and sat on him like a passenger until we reached the top. Poor guy was working his butt off. It was so steep that we stopped every 200 yards to let the horses catch their breath. After our return the ranch had organized a trip to Cody to eat at the Ima hotel which offers a dinner theater with a shootout in the streets of Cody and a trip to the Rodeo. Since the three of us had already been to Cody, we decided to drive to the nearby ski resort of Red Lodge. Red Lodge was a quaint town nestled in the mountains. We eat dinner and walked Main Street window shopping. When we returned to the ranch we found out the Rodeo was cancelled due to the EHV-1 threat. Good thing we went to Red Lodge.

On Thursday, the ground had finally dried up enough to where it was looking like a cattle drive might be possible, but there was no mention of it. After breakfast the wrangles loaded up our horses and took us to a nearby Natural Resource area. It was called the Cottonwood Plains NRCS. We unloaded the horses and split up into two groups. Our mission for the day was to check on the ranch owners cattle. We were barely a mile from the trailers when our Wrangler said he just saw a Rattle snake. Of course most of the people in the group start to get worried. They asked him a million questions about rattlers. Personally I think he was just pulling everyone's leg, but God had the last laugh. By the end of our ride, we had seen three rattlers, one bull snake and one yellow garden snake. My friends’ horse nearly stepped on one of the rattlers. The horse jumped six feet to the side. After that, all the horses were jumpy. My horse later thought he had seen a snake under a rock and almost threw me out of the saddle. I folded like a leaf and nearly missed the saddle horn. But thank God I stayed in the saddle and there really was no snake. We found the cows and they were fine. I'm sure that those cows get checked on, with each new group of guests. Which I'm guessing isn't a bad thing either; since that way the longest they wait for someone to notice something is wrong is a week. At dinner that night, the owner finally announces "We are going to move cattle tomorrow. We will be leaving at 7:15 AM and any one late will be left behind. Saddle your horses at 6:00 AM, eat breakfast and we leave at 7:15 AM. Get a good night's sleep because it will be a long day." I almost jumped out of my skin! On Thursday the wind blew at a steady 25 mph. It blew so strong that it was blowing under our cabin door and straight into my bed. Granted the fact that the cabin door had an inch gap at the bottom of it, probably had something to do with it. At one point during our ride, the wind blew so strong that it almost unseated me from the saddle. I had to literally push myself back into the saddle. Up in the mountains the winds blew steady all the time. You can hear it on the videos.

Cattle ROund up in Montana

Friday was the big day. I woke up without the alarm. I couldn't wait to get started. My friends and I were ahead of schedule. We got showered, saddled our horses, eat breakfast and were ready to load the horses at 7. At 7:15 we pulled out of the driveway headed for the Crow Indian reservation. The roads on the reservation are not paved and since it had rained for weeks, there were huge ruts (or as we know it, pot holes) in the road.

We arrived at the ranch, unloaded 15 horses from three stock trailers and were in the saddle by 8:15AM. Our ranch owner broke us up into two groups. Each group was to ride and gather as many cattle as they can. It took us awhile before we got to the pasture (mind you these aren't pastures like we have but HUGE expanses). Then we formed a long line of horses and started walking and gathering the cattle we came across. After we go to the pasture we saw why we had split up into two groups. There was huge canyon that ran straight down the middle of the pasture. While we were looking for cattle, an antelope jumped up in front of us and kept running around in front of us. You can see that on the video. Later we realized what was going on. It was a mother and she was distracting the dogs from finding her baby. We almost stepped on her baby, but it popped up just in time. The dogs weren't around, so all was good. We found some cattle and began pushing them towards the rest of the cattle.

We gathered up two bulls as well. These bulls did not take kindly to us wanting to push them anywhere. Just when we thought there was no way we could get these bulls to move even an inch, the dogs show up and bit those bulls making them move forward. I was never so happy to see a dog!

We moved our cattle up the mountain and eventually ran into the cattle that the other group had gathered. All of a sudden we had a huge herd in front of us. It was impressive. We stopped for while in front of a gate. None of us knew why they didn't open the gate and let the cattle through. After a while a wrangle rode by and told us to eat our lunch. One of my friends asked why we were stopped for so long and was told that we were waiting for a videographer to arrive. Apparently the cattle owner video tapes the cattle and shows the video to the cattle buyer so the buyer doesn't have to go into the mountains to see the cattle first hand. I guess that is modern cattle sales? Finally the videographer arrived and we could move the cattle up the mountain. We pushed them through streams and up steep slopes. What I didn't realized was that the new born calves can't walk for hours, so every hour or so we would stop and give the calves a break. When we got to the top of the mountain, we had to stay with the herd until all the mothers had found their babies, because if we just left immediately and they didn't find their calf, the mothers would run back down the mountain and look for their calf.

At the very beginning of the round up, we had one calf break ranks and we couldn't catch him. That calf's mother followed the herd to the mountain pasture and then realized her baby was missing. After we had left the herd, the cow broke from the herd and was running for all she was worth to find her calf. The cattle owners had to race her down the mountain to open the pasture gates for her or she would have killed herself trying to bust through the gates.

We had one calf get injured during the drive. I suspect that it was trampled when we crossed the creek. I saw a bunch of babies get stuck in mud up to their bellies. I was surprised that we didn't have more injuries. When I asked the cattle owner what to do about that injured calf, the answer was "If it can't make it up the mountain, just leave it." It wasn't the answer I wanted to hear, but I knew I was in cattle country now and things are different. Later the cattle owner cut the calf and it's mother and yearling sister from the herd and left them in a lower pasture. The idea was to give the calf time to heal so the three of them would spend their summer in the lower pasture. Mind you, I know there are predators in the mountains, so I don't see how an injured calf would survive. I didn't say anything to anyone, but we all knew the deal and no one was real happy with what was happening.

We spent 10 hours in the saddle on Friday. We were all exhausted but loved the experience.

Saturday morning at 4 AM, my friends and I got into the car and drove to Billings to catch our flight home. We almost missed our plane. That would have really sucked because Billings only has two flights a day leaving in the direction that we needed. I was still so pumped from the cattle drive, that I slept very little (at least for me) that day.

When we got home I had jet lag and I'm still paying for staying up late in a different time zone. I crashed in my living room chair at 7:30 PM on Monday night.

I had the time of my life!

For more details, take a look at the Hidden Trails website at:
http://www.hiddentrails.com/pub/tour.aspx?id=mt_lonesome_spur_ranch&tourtype=WorkingRanch

You can also call them toll free at  1-888-987-2457

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Equestrian Travel Stories

Horse safari in Mozambique

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 06/11/2011

Story by  Kate Kellaway    -- first published in The Guardian, Saturday 11 June 2011

Kate Kellaway

Horse play … Kate Kellaway in Mozambique

Two years ago, I received an email from a woman called Amanda Retzlaff. Her story sounded extraordinary: she and her husband had fled Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe with 104 horses which they had rescued during the land invasions and taken across the border to Mozambique. They were trying to piece together a new life and start a riding holiday business from scratch. Would I like to come and visit? I told her there was little chance of my getting there – but held on to her email.

I had reasons of my own, aside from the riding – which sounded fantastic – for being interested. I had taught in Zimbabwe in the 1980s and been curious about neighbouring Mozambique which, at that time, was more or less unvisitable. Independent from Portugal since 1975, it was in the grip of civil war (between the Renamo resistance movement and the Marxist Frelimo, the Liberation Front of Mozambique). I tried to forget about Amanda's invitation. But at the beginning of this year, I realised I could hold out no longer: I had to swap my armchair for a saddle.
The Retzlaffs met me in the last week of March in the tiny, shambolic (though being expanded and refurbished) airport of Vilanculos – a seaside resort 750km north of Maputo. They are what my grandmother used to call "real people". Mandy is warm, talkative, good company. Pat is quieter and a fine horseman: he makes his own saddles, shoes his horses and escorts all the rides.
They had been farmers in Zimbabwe. In time, I would find out more. But at first, I wanted to hand over the gifts I'd brought – honeyed horse treats, a spare riding hat and, at Mandy's request, a DVD of the award-winning documentary Mugabe and the White African. This film, which they had not seen, is the harrowing account of white farmers – friends of theirs – who were beaten up on their farm by war veterans in Mugabe's "Land Reform", went to court about it, and won, but later lost everything when their farms were burned to the ground.
Mozambique, unlike Zimbabwe, is uncontroversially peaceful now. I spent the first night in Archipelago Lodge, a resort of self-catering chalets on the ocean south of Vilanculos, where you feel you could easily run into Babar and Celeste, the elephants from Laurent de Brunhoff's stories. Each chalet is spacious, with a thatched roof and a view of the Indian ocean.

Mozambique riding
Riding by the Indian Ocean.    Photograph: Alamy  

It is a serene, reasonably priced base for a Vilanculos riding holiday. Mandy and Pat are open to riders of all abilities and can customise rides. (It is too hot to ride all day – two to three hours at a stretch feels right.) They proposed riding out on the afternoon I arrived. And that ride was a revelation.
The beaches of Vilanculos are wide – they go on forever when the tide is out – and bordered by mangrove swamps and the Indian ocean. I ride regularly and have had several holidays on horseback, but Mozambique has to be the most outstanding beach riding destination. I have never been allowed such freedom on a horse holiday. Here we were not herded or bossed, though Pat was mindful of safety. He might say, "Canter up to the yellow boat," or,"Stop at the big rock" – which was a small speck on the horizon. The atmosphere was personal, ad hoc and magical. The heat was intense but there was a constant breeze coming off the sea. The silk on my hat kept threatening to blow away.
The sea, in many variants of turquoise, was calm, though it rushed into the mangroves at speed. I had forgotten how the African sunlight transforms everything. And nothing could be more wonderful than speeding along the sand past egrets, herons, a solitary ibis. You might dodge a bed of shells, a rock or the rope securing a fishing boat but otherwise there were no obstacles. We rode along the north beach and up a red dune to a place nicknamed Fingerprint of God. God, I observed, seems to have had his hands all over this place.
In Mozambique, everything happens in its own time. There is a saying that in the west we have money; in Mozambique, they have time. The truth is that Mozambique needs our money: its tourist industry has huge potential but the country is still (blessedly for visitors) under-visited. And it is perhaps also true that we need its time. My timetable involved nothing more challenging than leaving Vilanculos for a 20-minute boat trip to the bewitching Bazaruto archipelago.
First stop was Benguerra island, 14km from the mainland, where half a dozen of Pat and Mandy's horses live and where rides are overseen by Lucy Campbell Jones, an engaging Englishwoman who first came to Mozambique as a volunteer.
The plan was to sample the varied pleasures of Benguerra and neighbouring Bazaruto islands. My life has not featured many luxury hotels but I adjusted with indecent speed to Benguerra Lodge and to being waited upon by the Byronic Sergio in his floor-length white gown and scarlet cummerbund. There was no resisting his ability to produce iced tea at the double, summon a dhow or string up a shady hammock.
When I lay in the hammock, I reasoned that everyone deserves to visit this country once. I walked down from Benguerra Lodge to a barbecue on the beach one night, where a fire was burning and its smoke, driven by breeze, poured out horizontally – it reminded me of our beach riding as it vanished rapidly alongside the sea.

The riding on Benguerra is out of this world: the horses are safe, well-schooled and fit. One late afternoon, Lucy and I cantered along the beach and trotted inland past beautiful freshwater lakes where there were cashew nut trees (the toxic husks are used to brew liquor), wild orange trees and gatherings of flamingos.

Benguerra Lodge
Benguerra Lodge.    Photograph: Alamy

On Benguerra, I was introduced to non-riding pursuits too: fishing and snorkelling. I think of fishing as a wait at the edge of a dreary English pond and had not realised it could be so active. At one thrilling moment, guided by expert fisherman Graham Pollard, I caught a ladyfish which, with unladylike athleticism, promptly flung herself back in the sea. At another, I hauled in satisfactorily – with help – a majestic green spot trevally. From the boat, we saw several dolphins and a turtle (I was thrilled to catch its beady eye on camera). Sometimes it is also possible to see humpback whales and dugongs in these waters.

The next day, I went snorkelling above a coral reef and was entranced by the shoals of parrotfish, the finest of which was maroon with traces of gold – like swanky hotel upholstery (an escapee from Benguerra Lodge?). I also saw powderblue surgeonfish and goatfish – white with inky dark spots. I could not believe how unfazed the fish were – as if we were of their company, just larger and more cumbersome, with our rigid flippers.

I stayed one night in the immaculate, modern Marlin Lodge (also on Benguerra) where I was treated to a memorably over-the-top "bush bath" scattered with hibiscus petals in an outdoor playpen made of palm leaves. At Marlin Lodge, they toss their flowers about freely – like confetti for the many ecstatic honeymooners who fetch up there.

I spent another night on Bazaruto island, a mile or two north, at Indigo Bay – a magisterial hotel for those who prefer not to give modern life the slip altogether (air-con, computer room and, a rarity in Mozambique, sparkling mineral water). But what I most enjoyed was an outing with Indigo Bay's Mozambican horseman Domingo, who took me up a 100m sand dune called the Pelican. Going up was easy enough but then I had to descend an almost vertical sandy slope. It seemed impossible, but I just had to trust that the horses knew what they were doing (and they did).

Back on the mainland in Vilanculos, I decided the time had come to find out more about Mandy and Pat. I already knew their story had not been one of five-star luxury. They were victims of the 2001 trashing and looting of farms in Zimbabwe's Chinhoyi district. As the land invasions spread, thousands of horses were abandoned on the farms, or destroyed.

Many veterinary surgeons, depressed by the relentless slaughter, left the country altogether. Pat and Mandy took in horses from miles around. Some were in a sorry state. One had a war vet's spear piercing her withers – a wound that took two years to mend. ("I could stick my fist through her back," Pat says).
The Retzlaffs moved from one leased farm to another as the land invasions intensified. Often, they would have to pack up and move on in less than four hours. Along with most of Zimbabwe, they hoped Morgan Tsvangirai would win the presidential election: "It would have been light at the end of the tunnel."
After their sixth eviction, they moved to Mozambique, by which time, they had to acknowledge, the horses were becoming "a huge burden".
Mandy was starting to panic: "What on earth are we going to do with all these horses?"
Pat replied: "We are going to start a horse safari."
He took his horses off the truck at 4pm one day and was taking guests on rides the next morning: "I went up the beach, and found a few paths. The customers loved it."
And the horses themselves were "delighted by beach life – as though they were on holiday". It was then that Pat realised he had "never ridden anywhere as beautiful".

But on 22 February 2007, two months after they'd settled into this new life, disaster struck: a cyclone flattened Vilanculos: "We didn't get a single customer for six months."
Did they think then of giving up?
"No, because the horses had become part of our lives. There was no question of deserting them."
They got by, with help from volunteers from overseas. (It is hard to imagine a more brilliant destination for horse-mad volunteers.)
But on 14 November 2010, disaster struck again. They had moved 26 horses to an area where there was fresh drinking water and grasslands.
"We thought we were being clever but we weren't. The horses ate a rare, poisonous plant called crotalaria and started to die. We lost a horse every three days. We were pulling dead horses around in a Land Rover and digging pits to bury them."
They had to hide this tragedy from clients and "paste smiles on our faces" while weeping behind their backs. "We had been through so much together," Mandy told me, with tears in her eyes. She has written: "May their hoofbeats always be heard on the beaches of Chibuene."

mozambique map

On my last morning, the plan was for a swim on horseback after a final gallop along the beach, if the tides allowed it. By this stage, any attempt at equestrian propriety had gone and I was, like my hosts, riding in Crocs (practical, as it turned out). As I rode into the sea, I registered, suddenly, an uncanny weightlessness as the water lifted half a tonne of horse and me. The horse was swimming horse paddle, moving like a stocky dolphin. It was wonderful. I laughed at the absurd joy of it – this was the ride/swim of a lifetime.
And then it was time to say goodbye. The previous night had been spent at Casa Rex – a charming, Mediterranean-style hotel in Vilanculos, an upmarket alternative to Archipelago Lodge. There I did my last-minute packing with reluctance, trying to work out how to wedge a tremendous Mozambican wire-and-beadwork chameleon – a metre long – into my suitcase. I'd named him Bazaruto.

I noticed that I was behaving as if there were all the time in the world. And that, I now realise, is because Mozambique makes you believe that there is.

Getting there
Virgin Atlantic (virgin-atlantic.com) flies Heathrow-Johannesburg from £740 return; Fed Air (fedair.com) flies to Vilanculos from £325 return.

Horse Safari: All details can be found on the Hidden Trails website at: http://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/mozambique_coastal_paradise_riding_holiday.aspx
Five days and four nights start at $1525 pp with accommodation at Archipelago Lodge, including meals, riding and transfers but not flights.

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Equestrian Travel Stories

June 2011 Newsletter

by Ryan Schmidt [Hidden Trails] 06/10/2011
    Explore the World on Horseback                                              
           - with Hidden Trails                                                   -  June 2011 Newsletter  -

Horseback riding in the Azores, Portugal

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Summer is here - time to think about your Fall Vacation. Sept/Oct/Nov can be some of the best months for equestrian travel. The weather is perfect for riding, there are no crowds left and availability is still good !
Do not miss out on a vacation of a lifetime !
Secure your space today !

Recently we have added a new exciting ride:
Green Azores Island Rambler
 Azores, Portugal
8 days / 7 nights, regular rate $1,610

Dates : Available all Year

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Riding holidays in the Azores, Portugal
 On horseback in the Azores
To make it easier for you, we have created a "TripFinder" where you can search for your horse vacation of a lifetime by entering the type of ride, the location, time period or riding level.  
Find your trip here !

  
Specials Offers from Hidden Trails in June 2011

What are these riding trips all about?
They are about galloping on endless beaches, forging rivers, cantering through forests, trotting along age-old trails, gazing at beautiful vistas, and encountering foreign cultures. Most of all, these trips are about getting away from the cycle of work and never enough free time. Escape from the rituals, which long ago froze our nights and days into little more then routine, because deep inside we all feel the longing of the nomads, whose lives we lived thousands of years ago.
You will see the “real” country, its hinterland and meet the local inhabitants. The love for horses has no boundaries, but possesses a common language we all speak and understand.

Leave your stressful life behind and explore a foreign place away from the tourist rush and off the beaten path - on Hidden Trails.

On horseback in Botswana - Safari with Hidden Trails










 
 
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