Horse riding in the Luberon
One early morning, I go on a 3hour horse ride with Fabien, who together with his wife Cissou runs an equestrian centre just outside Merindol. We pass through the village and up through the woods into the hills. Instantly, we are enveloped in the heady smells of rosemary and thyme, the silence only broken by birdsong and the buzzing of many insects. It is great to experience landscape from the back of a horse – I’m higher up and can see further, while Pepito, my horse, is taking care of the rocky path. I had imagined the hills to be very dry and hot, with very little shelter, but Fabien knows a way that is luscious and green. We descend down a steep path into a gorge, where the tree branches create a green tunnel and the path is soon joined by a chatting, bubbly brook.
We return to the plains some 5km further east of the village and make our way back home via the wide floodplains of the Durance.
(There is a plaque by the old castle above Merindol. Besides pointing out landmarks, it says that the area is plagued by three great forces: The unpredictable floods of the Durance, the Mistral, and the Government in Aix-en-Provence. Imagine the cheek of the local people, writing that on a public plaque! This would not happen in England.)
When we come back to the ranch, Cissou is in the middle of saddling up four little ponies for a pony club and I watch them for a while. The children can’t be more than 4-5 years old, and they each have a pallette of water colours in their hands to paint the horses backsides and bellies, decorating them in all colours. When the ponies are suitably beautified, the children get equipped with helmets and safety jackets. “Have you thought of what song you will sing on your way to the picnic in the woods?” Cissou asks them. After a bit more to-ing and fro-ing, they all leave the farm single file, singing a jolly song. They all have to wave good-bye too – a great little exercise on the horse, freeing one hand from the reins and half turning your upper body around while the horse walks on.
This family is very committed to their farm and they love their 40 horses. All animals look well fed and are calm and contented. This is a great place to go for a horse ride, no matter what level your skills. Here is their web site.
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