This week, we’ve been chatting to the lovely Sarah from her stables in Andalucia. Shes runs a rescue and rehabilitation centre for animals, and especially for horses from all around Spain, that also double as fantastic horse riding activity holidays.
They’ve been busy keeping the centre running during lockdown – the animals very much still need looking after, even if they don’t have any visitors.
But now restrictions are beginning to be lifted in Spain, they’re heading out on their first rides of the summer, so things are looking up. We hear from Sarah to find out a little bit more
So Sarah, tell us a bit about yourself
I’m a Brit living in southern Spain with my two teenagers on an off-grid ranch of 30 horses, 7 dogs, 9 cats, 2 ducks and a gaggle of geese. They’re pretty much all rescues, and we regularly foster. I’ve got three foster kittens right now, who are keeping us entertained. I’m originally from the New Forest in the UK and came over to Spain for a holiday, visiting a friend here, around 20 years ago. I just fell in love with it and went home, sold up and came over in a caravan.
What makes your centre so unique?
We live in such a special place that anything anyone does here is automatically ‘special’! We are regularly contacted to see if we can take on horses in need (if we can’t, we will liaise with other rescue associations as of course, we only have limited space).
When we get a new rescue in, we work with them, slowly, carefully and if it’s right for them, they can then progress into becoming one of our trekking horses. We then go on treks with guests across the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, staying in mountain cottages and revelling in the natural wildness of the area. The horses thrive here and when the time comes, they find forever homes so quickly; often even going to people who have met them and fallen in love on their holiday with us.
The area is so beautiful and I just loved riding here myself. I really wanted to share that with other people and trekking here is an amazing way to rehabilitate horses.
And what makes the Sierra Nevada mountains such an amazing place to be?
I love the dramatic scenery. The mountains are so beautiful, and we can even see Morocco from the Ranch when the weather’s right. It’s very rural so sometimes it feels like being in the UK but twenty years ago – the fashions, the technology (the pharmacies won’t accept e-prescriptions!). There’s a charm to that, which, mixed with the around 320 days of sunshine we get a year, just makes for a relaxing way of life.
Also, being so rural means that the air is cleaner and there’s less noise pollution. The wild herbs on the mountains being crushed as we ride is an aromatic experience. At night, we regularly see the Milky Way as there are so few other light sources. It’s such a treat. The flip side of all that being, we are only about 30 minutes to the coast and 30 minutes to Granada so we can snorkel one day, ski the next or go shopping!
Lanjarón is our nearest village and has been visited for centuries because of the spring water. It’s famous for it in Spain and still attracts a lot of people for the supposed healing properties. It’s a village with the oldest average age in the Med, or something like that. The foothills of the Sierra Nevadas have been inhabited for centuries; it’s an area with such rich history.
The Moorish influence can be seen in the architecture, the people and the traditions. It’s amazing to see it still today when you consider the Spanish conquered the area and drove the Moors out in the 1600s!
How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?
As I mentioned, we have 3 foster kittens so that’s been a lot of fun! We will miss them when they go, like with all the foster animals but it’s so rewarding. Of course, looking after all the animals is a never-ending range of activities, as is our off-grid location; it’s amazing how difficult a problem water is when it’s not up to someone else to sort out!
We recently got a new rescue horse who we are working with. She was a plough horse but sadly neglected. At 19 hands, she’s a lot to handle so we are working little and often to keep everyone safe and improve her quality of life.
Volunteering is a good thing to do and certainly helps places like us survive. There are associations, like The Cinnamon Trust in the UK, that look for volunteers to care for people’s pets who are struggling, e.g. the elderly or cancer patients. We have been cooking and baking a lot too, like a lot of other people! My jodhpurs certainly know about it!
What have you been missing the most during your time in lockdown?
In Spain, we weren’t allowed to ride the horses for about 10 weeks so we really missed that; so did they! We also really missed seeing all our returning guests who were booked to come. It’s fallen over our busiest period, which is such a shame.
Seeing the wild flowers changing across the mountains is one of the yearly highlights so that’s been disappointing missing that but they will be there again next year and we can all look forward to that.