Horseback riding in the French mountains, as it should be
April 23, 2018
Personally I have been riding since I was 8 years old and whenever we would be on holiday abroad, my parents were forced to get me on a horse for a ride of at least 2 hours outdoors. I still love horseback riding in nature and when we decided to go back to the French Pyrenees, I promised myself that I would go riding.
In the beautiful Biros Valley of the Couserans area of Ariège, there is a small riding school named Les Écuries du Biros in the village Sentein. When you enter Sentein (coming from direction Saint-Girons), immediately on your left, a small sign is hiding in the bushes sends you to a bridge over the river. Following the river on the opposite side you will soon see the stables of Les Écuries du Biros. Here they have some real mountain horses that are friendly and strong enough to carry you uphill. I met Chantal, one of the two owners of this place. She is a very experienced rider and knows the horses well. Before we would go riding, we had to clean and saddle our horses ourselves. I really like that because it gives you the opportunity to get to know your horse a bit better before you climb on top of it. "My" horse, named Sepia, was a friendly white and brown spotted horse with a wide back and big legs. I have to admit I wasn't sure if I could do that 'split' for two hours on his back... Chantal could quickly tell who was experienced to clean and saddle his horse by himself and who needed some help. When we were all ready to go, she guided us through the village Sentein up the hill. Some pretty steep paths were in front of us, but the horses didn't have any trouble climbing them. We went all the way up and crossed Irazein, Balacet and ended in Uchentein. The perfect way to visit all those beautiful small villages on the slopes of the valley. In the meantime the views were awesome and the horses were happy.
Real horses at Les Écuries du Biros Luckily Chantal knew how to combine a ride with beginners and experienced riders. She would simply tell us to hold back for a bit while she took off with the beginner. After some time she would signal us to catch up. Our horses would spurt in full gallop uphill to reach their friends as soon as possible. That was so much fun and the horses liked it as well. Her horses are very friendly and used to the scenery. They do not scare easily (thank good lord). But the best thing? They are still real horses. Maybe this sounds weird but as a somewhat experienced rider, you notice when you are being put on a horse that just follows the rest on autopilot. Those horses are num to any signal and are trained to follow and do the same thing over and over. They do not even enjoy it I think. The horses of Les Écuries du Biros are well-trained and of course know the routes by heart. But they do not just go on autopilot. That is what makes it fun for both parties and exactly is how it should be.
I went for a 2 hours ride which I loved and will definitely do more often. They also offer the possibility to go for an entire day or even go trekking for multiple days by horse over the mountains of Ariège. That is something I would like to do for sure. But first I need some more training in the saddle so my body is up for it as well...