Having cut her teeth on a safari ride in the Okavango Delta in June 2018, globetrotter Roz Beinke joined us on our guided exploratory ride in the Camargue, France, four months later. She later gave us some amazing feedback on the ride, saying, ‘I loved this ride! The accommodation, food, service, and fellow riders just made it a fabulous cultural and historical experience. It was so good having the GT team of Kate, Steve and Laura along, too. One of those rides I will remember forever.’
BUT there’s more! Roz also shared some evocative and insightful snippets from her ride journal! Read on to get under the skin of The Camargue Ride.
Arrival – Our hotel, Le Mas de Peint is beautifully old and charming – full of character. We all meet up and jump in Kate and Steve’s vehicle to drive to meet our horses. I pick Barrier – he’s grey, like all the others, and bred here in the Camargue. He’s solid, good tempered and kind, plus forward-moving on a loose rein. He has two clip front shoes on and big feet, healthy as, no splints and clean legs.
The weather is blustery and squally, and we ride over rough scrubby salt bush, marshes and water. It’s raining and we’re wrapped up – me in waterproofs and a blue jacket to keep out the wind, which works well. Midgee is in charge and he asks if we like to ‘gallop’ – of course we do!! Off we go, cantering at a cracking speed, leaving those behind us to cop more mud and water. The horses all wear a form of standing martingale, pelham bits with curb chains and super comfy saddles with cage safety stirrups. We return from our ride all chatting and happy. I am so pleased with Barrier, who feels content, solid and safe. The food that night is so delicious.
A picnic ride is planned today and we drive to where the horses are to be unloaded. While getting organised we meet our guide, Katrin, on JuJu, her 22-year-old mare. We ride through marshes, along canals, through water, see a few flamingos, and canter along tracks and onto the beach. Kate takes some pics of us going in and out of the wild sea – just gorgeous. We all go for a ‘gallop’ – I don’t think they have a word for ‘canter’. Several of us have a good turn of speed, especially those riding the Lusitano/Andalusian crosses, and the sand is good underfoot. It’s wild and we don’t see any other riders, or even people – just us and the horses and the sea. Bliss.
Our picnic spot is away from the beach and the horses are tied to trees while we indulge in hot soup, pastis (an aniseed-flavoured spirit), breads, meats, salad, coffee and of course, red wine. Frederic’s wife has brought everything over by vehicle. After lunch we enjoy plenty of gallops on the way home.
Beach riding today – to get there, we ride along canals and beside the blowing sea – rain is imminent, and with it stinging wind, but it makes me feel oh so alive! We are all well wrapped up and spend a couple of hours riding on the beach – driftwood, foam, horses great, galloping along… We reach the town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer literally just in time to get under cover before the black clouds let loose and rain buckets down. We then have a fantastic lunch in a local restaurant. The horses are returned to their base by truck.
Our last day today – riding with the bulls (steers, actually). It’s a good day – bright and cheerful at first, then it looks like rain, so once again I’m in waterproofs and the inevitable blue jacket. We stand around chatting and Renee and Janna braid one horse’s tail, which looks good, but not very macho for the male rider! We all ride to the cows and calves’ paddock where the Gardians, Frederic, Laurent, Frank and Midgee, enjoy racing around in the wet cutting out a calf with diarrhoea and two young randy bulls who need to be separated from the herd. Eventually we bring several beasts back to the corral to be loaded onto a truck for veterinary treatment. I elect to ride at the back and help bring several animals through the chute and onto the road to be taken back to the paddock. The steers wear bells and ten are always kept with the steer who has the honour of competing, keeping him happy and content. Some of them accompany him to the competitions, where there is no killing or cruelty in the ring, unlike Spain. These steers are between eight and 12 years old, and young ones are brought in for training to get used to being handled. A great system.
I am sad to say goodbye to Barrier, who enjoys his apples once I’ve removed all his gear. He is very responsive and the BEST walker. We stand around enjoying pastis and farewelling the horses. It’s very convivial and again, the rain has stayed away. The gypsies play for us in the evening. A Greek lady and her two daughters all joined in, dancing, and everyone dressed up. It was a great finish to a lovely few days of riding. I still love looking at the video of Frederic, Midgee and Laurent riding with the bulls through the Camargue. Such a special place.
Ready to gallop away with the Gardians? Check out The Camargue Ride here!