Photo courtesy of Panorama Trails
It’s easy to get caught up in urban life and forget just how nurturing and restorative nature is. A day in the hills is enough to melt away a week’s worth of stress. And if heading to the countryside provides some much-needed peace for a city slicker’s psyche, then doing so on horseback is the zenith of relaxation. Horse riding is one of the best ways to take to the hills, breathe in the country air and disconnect without taking a single step yourself. Besides the communion with nature, many people find the connection with the horse to be profoundly therapeutic. Highly intelligent creatures, horses are deeply attuned to body language and emotions. Winston Churchill famously said: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man”—the psychological benefits of being with horses are well-known. Equine therapy has become a popular way to help people deal with stress and addictions. It’s good for your body too, exercising muscles that are essential for core strength and balance.
Catalunya is rich in possibilities for some horse play, from gentle treks with the kids to week-long excursions that will leave you saddle sore but exhilarated. And the landscapes you can explore are many and varied. Wind your way through the nearby Collserola hills and the lush beauty of the Montseny natural park, or travel further afield and trek through the Pyrenees or along the Mediterranean coastline. Spring is a wonderful time to get in the saddle. Crisp, sunny days and the rich abundance of flora and fauna will make for a spectacular and thoroughly relaxing city break. Don’t worry if you have no prior experience or find the thought of horses unnerving, as there are many good riding schools that offer adventures for all levels, from beginner to pro.
THE BEST PLACES TO
Hípica Can Taió in Santa Perpètua de Mogoda is located just 18 kilometres outside Barcelona and easily accessible by public transportation. Founded in 2009 and located in the grounds of a medieval castle, Can Taió offers a wide variety of activities. Its treks are suitable for riders with no experience and take participants through a beautiful part of rural Catalunya, where they can enjoy views of the peaks of Montserrat, Montseny and Sant Llorenç de Munt. The team’s experience with equine therapy and coaching horses makes them an ideal choice for nervous first-time riders.
Children can enjoy their first riding experience at Poni Club Catalunya in Sant Just Desvern, which offers short tours on ponies through the Parque Natural de Collserola. Likewise, adults with no riding background can build their confidence in the club’s beginner classes. The school is 10 minutes from the city centre by car, but it’s also possible to get there by bike or public transport.
...Try Something Different
Natural Hipic was founded in 2001, by local equestrian Juan Araquistain. Besides trails in the Montserrat natural park, the centre offers Western-style riding. The focus here is on communication with the horse and helping riders position themselves as the ‘leader’. Once you have your Western style down pat, you can perfect your cowboy skills, herding cattle and learning how to lasso a calf.
Set among fragrant pine trees in the hills behind the Maresme city of Mataró, in the Parc Natural del Montnegre i el Corredor, is Horseway riding school. Horseway specialises in equine therapies and teaching the benefits of Connected Riding. This method was created by US horsewoman Peggy Cummings and is based on promoting freedom of movement and an ‘in sync’ connection between horse and rider.
The course focuses first on exercises to improve body consciousness. Once the rider is more aware of their own body’s movement, they go on to ‘riding from within’, fluidly and harmoniously. The awareness and greater connection transforms the riding experience, eliminating any tension or resistance between the horse and rider.
Classes are for individuals or for groups of between three and six participants.
Families can also work on their own dynamics through immersion in nature and interaction with the horses. Family sessions take place on the fourth Saturday of the month from 10am to 1pm and cost €60 per family.
...Have an adventure
Bolder explorers can join equestrian club Catalonia Horse Trails on one of its spectacular journeys through Catalunya. Based in Sant Fruitós de Bages, the club takes experienced riders on trails that last from four to eight days, covering up to 180 kilometres. Four to six hours are spent in the saddle each day, but you’ll be well rewarded with a hearty dinner and a comfy bed in hotels and guest houses en route. The different trails include the ‘Mountain to Sea’ trek from the foothills of the Pyrenees through the Empordá and ending at the bay of Roses. Or try the ‘Smuggler’s Trail’, which explores Romanic Catalunya and climbs to an altitude of 2,000 metres into the Massif of Bassegoda.
Panorama Trails in Terradelles is a 21-year-old riding establishment that offers many trail options on well-trained, reliable horses. Multi-day excursions lead to the Pyrenees, along the coastline, and to Andorra. And, while you’re not riding, there’s plenty of time to indulge, particularly if you choose one of the tours with a special focus, such as wine tasting or local gastronomy. The true adventurers can opt for one of Panorama Trails’ self-guided tours. You’ll be packed off with a map, itinerary, GPS and information about your lodgings. The rest is up to you.