IN ASSOCIATION WITH BRITISH AIRWAYS

In The Saddle: 'I was expected to subdue a pure-bred'

The trainer was not impressed. A small linguistic misunderstanding had led him to believe that my horsemanship was more advanced than the scarcely-above-beginner level I'd attained from a few holiday hacks.

As we drove into Cortijo El Esparragal, a top-notch hotel and riding centre 20km north-west of Seville, I caught sight of two beautiful horses cantering around the saddling enclosure. Nearby were half a dozen stable staff, waiting for us to do our stuff. All too soon, the awful moment came.

My partner is an enthusiastic rider who's been known to control a galloping horse and even clear small fences. In line with the machismo culture of Spanish equestrianism, she was directed to mount the smaller and more lady-like of the pair. Horse and woman instantly bonded.

I, on the other hand, was expected to demonstrate my manhood by subduing a pure-bred Spanish horse with an attitude problem. The instant I settled nervously into the saddle, the horse sensed my mixture of incompetence and fear. It broke free of its handler, charged around the ring, and only just stopped short of leaping over the fence and carrying me off into the wide blue yonder. Somehow I managed to hang on, but the more I pulled desperately on the reins, the less inclined he was to stop.

My blushes - and possibly my neck - were eventually spared by the know-how of the trainer, who brought things to a halt with nothing more than a sharp bark and a wave of the arms. When we eventually set off around the country estate, he roped my horse to his. Neither animal even broke into a trot. No, he was not impressed at all.

Cortijo El Esparragal is one of numerous farms converted to meet the rising demand for riding horses. Expert training is offered to all but beginners (I now read in the small print). Two hours for two people costs €96 (£67).

It will be a while before I feel I am ready for the cowboy life, but when that day arrives I know where I shall go: Cortijo el Sotillo, just outside the pleasant resort of San Jose on the Almerian coast. Clint Eastwood stayed here when the arid landscape attracted Spaghetti Western film-makers in the 1960s.

The four-star complex has a well-maintained stable of Spanish horses and is situated in parkland near the lovely hills and empty beaches of the Almerian hinterland. It has been beautifully modernised in terracotta, wood and marble. A two-and-a-half hour trek costs €45 (£31.50) per person.

The breeding and training of horses in Andalucia is considered to be one of the higher arts. The spiritual home of equestrianism is in Jerez, where choice examples of the pure-bred greys are brought to a pitch of elegance - and obedience - at the School of Equestrian Art. The highlight is the "ballet" performed publicly at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays - and also on Fridays in August - in the magnificent indoor arena. To stirring music, the horses are put through a complex routine of sashaying dance steps and prodigious leaps, with the riders rarely having to use their sticks. The utter subservience of the horses may not be to everyone's taste, but it's undeniably enthralling. Admission to the 90-minute performance is €15 (£10.50).

Back in the great outdoors, Andalucia's wild Atlantic coast - the Costa de la Luz between Cadiz and Tarifa - could have been purpose-built for trekking, with an abundance of white beaches and a network of forest trails. For some, the mix of scenery, climate, comfortable accommodation and five days on horseback is a good approximation to perfection. Los Alamos Equestrian Holidays, based at Barbate, provides the whole package, excluding air fares but including three meals a day, for £725 per person. Riders are assigned horses according to their standard, from a stable of pure-bred Andalucian, Spanish-Arab crosses, and a couple of redoubtable Welsh cobs, ideal for conveying what the company euphemistically describes as "heavier loads".

FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH

Cortijo El Esparragal (Carretera de Merida Km 795; 00 34 955 782 702; www.elesparragal.com).

Cortijo El Sotillo (San Jose, Nijar, Almeria; 00 34 950 611 100; www.cortijoelsotillo.com).

School of Equestrian Art (Avenida Duque de Abrantes, Jerez; 00 34 956 318 008; www.realescuela.org).

Los Alamos Equestrian Holidays, Barbate (00 34 956 437 416; www.losalamosriding.co.uk).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam