Giles and Miranda Crawford-Alards are the combined driving force behind our ride in Andalusia, Spain. These guys take enormous pride in their work and love nothing more than showing off the sublimely beautiful countryside of southern Spain from the backs of their super-responsive Andalusian, or PRE horses. Read on to learn more about the passion and professionalism that drives the couple behind this spectacular ride.
How long have you been running your riding outfit in Andalusia? And what was the background, history, reason for starting?
We have been running our ranch now for almost 20 years. I, Giles, had an equine background when I came to Spain in 1996 to work at a small stables in Mijas Costa, near Malaga. Equestrian tourism and horse displays were the order of the day. Miranda had been living and working in Miami for 7 years and had returned to her home country, the Netherlands. Spain had been her second home since childhood and she and came down here for a holiday. Miranda always went riding when she came to Spain and after visiting the stables where I was working and going out riding together, we fell in love in very short order. We decided that we wanted to work and live together with our passion: the Spanish Horse in Spain. There are four-star eventers in Miranda’s family and she had ridden all her life. We both share a deep mutual love for Andalusia and her horses… so it almost naturally resulted in realising our dream of running our own equestrian business.
We found our ranch in Coín, then all ruins and under a jungle of trees and vegetation, and most people thought we had bitten off more than we could chew. But over the years we have slowly renovated all the buildings – including our 300 year old mill – and have created an oasis in a small valley hideaway here in Coin, Andalusia. Just minutes from the town with stunning countryside on our doorstep. A dream come true!
How many guest horses do you have?
We currently have 13 horses, all PRE (pedigree) or Andalusian and one Hispano-Arab (Spanish x Arab).
Describe your herd of horses in four words:
Fit – Happy – Light – Reliable
We think our horses deserve a few more words though. Our horses are a mix of mares and geldings, all extremely fit and strong, but at the same time very light on the aids and very reliable in all situations! They vary in size from 14.2 hands all the way to 17 hands, from age 5 to over 20 years. In fact we have a small group of horses because we do not sell or trade them. Every horse that comes to us has a lifetime career with us. An example is Sirrocco, our chestnut gelding. He came to us as a 2 year old and started his career as a 4 year old, first ridden by us only in the group, then a lead horse, then a guest horse. He is still in full work with us as a 20 year old. Many people think he is only 8 or 9 and are very impressed with his lightness in contact and off the leg. All our horses are individuals, they can lead or be within the group and you can ride them properly – they are not head to tail horses! When our horses retire, they go to former riding guests. So our herd is very bonded, leading to mentally relaxed, stable and happy horses.
What is the philosophy or ethos behind your horse riding experiences?
To produce fit and happy horses that understand and enjoy their work.
What do you love most about your jobs?
To see our herd of horses every morning ready and eager for work, and to meet so many different people from all walks of life and from so many different parts of the world, learning and understanding all the different routes and journeys people may have had in their relationship with the horse. It is the one thing of course that brings us all together, and sharing this passion with other human beings is always very special and makes for lovely evenings whilst enjoying a good glass of wine!
What is the most challenging part?
Seeing one of our career horses move into retirement and head off, often to another country to live out their lives with one of our former riding guests. Although the rider will know the horse from the many years they have come to us to ride them and we know they will have a great retirement life with a more relaxed riding schedule, it remains hard to see them go. They are part of our family and our great team.
Why should globetrotters sign up for this ride?
Because we believe that globetrotters are adventurous, happy and outgoing horse lovers up for enjoying great rides within the context of different cultures and traditions and in amazing and beautiful countryside. Adventure, excitement, new experiences, being immersed into another culture… this is what we try to offer, and we believe that fits the ethos of the globetrotter.
A tip that every globetrotter must know before signing up for this ride:
Be riding fit and ready for Spanish culture.
Finish this sentence: Don’t leave home without…
A ready smile and an open mind. And for the practical stuff: a hard hat, comfy riding clothes, boots, sunglasses…
What has been the most memorable or significant moment of your guiding careers?
Spending a week with members of the Dutch Olympic Dressage team when they stayed with us to ride and discover Andalusian horse culture and do a photo-shoot.
Anything else you would like to add?
We provide an intimate riding week with never more than 6 riders on our quality and very well cared for career horses. Although this is a centre based riding holiday, don’t worry, the countryside around us is very diverse, from pine forests to riding through the town to riding through river valleys (crossing rivers), fruit orchards and beautiful rolling countryside with wide open views – every day will be a very different ride! Our place is like a little oasis with a wealth of local history within its walls, which we built back up from ruins. We are completely integrated into the local culture so be prepared to be immersed into a very special world for the few days you are with us. We believe that this is why so many riders keep coming back to us year after year after year…
If you like the sound of riding in Andalucia with Giles and Miranda, click here for more information.
To meet one of Giles and Miranda’s stunning Spanish horses, click here.