When we sent our Comms Queen, Anna, to the Azores, horse riding was a huge tick on her list of things to do.
So, we sent her to Quinta da Terça, to stay with Christina and Claude in their a beautiful 17th century manor house. The surrounding farmland is home to 49 horses and has a great indoor schooling arena.
Here’s how she got on:
The approach to this house is everything you’d expect of a manor house – a beautiful gated archway and a flower-lined driveway. And once you reach the house, your are not disappointed.
Staying here is an experience in itself; in my room, there is a welcome basket of fruit and chocolate, and a bottle of wine! It’s a step back in time with its antique furniture, including a four-poster bed.
The former chapel has been converted into a guest lounge and while some of the original features are still there, Christina and Claude have added a horsey twist to them.
With a garden filled with avocado, mango, orange, camellia and much more, sitting out on the veranda sipping the wine after the day’s ride is a positive delight.
There are 49 horses here, including some rescue animals. The fields are next to the house; watching these animals come down the side of the house in the evening is a sheer joy to behold.
My day started on Connie, a stunning white Portuguese horse, in the indoor riding school. Although I have been riding for years, I’ve been out of the saddle for several months, and my instructor Nelson quickly pulled me up on some bad habits. “Draw him in, open your chest and say here we go,” he tells me as I gently bring Connie into a trot. “You need to show him what to do with your legs.”
The hour soon passes and after a quick break, I’m given a new steed called Spanish! My guide for this ride is Bruno. He takes me out through the back of the property, and we ride through hidden woods and along old roads lined with the traditional stone walls – and being on horseback, you can peep over the top and see what’s behind them!
Nelson is a wealth of information; he points out the edible plants, nasturtiums, fennel, fig trees, chuchu…. he plucks the low-hanging Japanese plums and wild garlic for me to try, and thrusts delicately fragranced blossoms into my hands for me to smell. There is so much food growing wild here, I jokingly say you don’t need to go shopping. “I’m going to write a book on the natural way in the Azores,” says Nelson.
All too soon we’re back at the farm and it’s time for lunch! Christina has cooked up a treat and shakes her head at me when I say I’m full. “When you eat, I’m happy,” she says. “And anyway, you need food so you can ride.”
Discovering more of this beautiful island by horses, we box up the horses and drive into the nearby hills.
This time I’m riding Famoso (Famous), a gorgeous piebald (black and white for those who don’t know horsey talk). Katrina, my guide, started coming to the stables when she was a young girl. Now well into her 20s, she says she has her dream job.
We soon leave the roads and ride through lush pastures with stunning views over the middle part of Sao Miguel.
This is a ride with a twist. When we reach some old aquaducts, Katrina tells me to dismount and explains the way to ‘Janela do Inferno’ – the window of hell.
I feel like I’m Indiana Jones on a quest to find some important relic as I clamber through tunnels and follow the trail through thick vegetation and finish at the gaping cave with water cascading out of it.
Despite the wind getting up towards the end of the ride, the horses remain calm; in fact, the riders are more excited by the wind, and we start singing a version of ‘I wish I could fly’!
After five hours in the saddle, the hot shower is very, very welcome. As is the Christina’s home cooked food.…….. I appear to be eating, well like a horse!
Why not try out riding in the Azores? Quinta da Terca has all the riding equipment and with 49 horses on the farm, there are ones great for beginners or those with more experience.
Travel with us #TheArchipelagoWay
(And you can see more pictures of what Anna got up to on her week in the Azores in the photo album our Facebook page)