Riding around La Camargue on horseback is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in the company of experienced and well-trained horses trekking through marshland and along the dusty-paths of the famous region.
The feeding horses are tied to a post under a wooden roof when I arrive to the Ganderia before today’s trek. They are at peace in the shade as I walk over the grass towards the main house; one lifts his head in my direction and gives me a shrewd glance – we both know who the boss is going to be today.
Isabelle, the host and owner of the stables, invites me to a shady spot under a wicker roof beside a sleepy cat and she brings me a coffee, some peaches and a glass of water to enjoy as I await the others to arrive and the family to finish lunch. Never mind the horse-riding; I could happily sit here in the shade for the rest of the day - I knew it was a good idea to arrive early.
The Bergerie d’Alivon feels like a home that facilitates some Promeande d’Cheval and not like a business churning out tours and treks. Love and passion is present everywhere and I feel welcome in their home.
By now the family and the stable hands have finished lunch and they go back to work around the grounds using tools I have never seen before. They all say “Bonjour” as they pass me by. An old dog wanders over to say hello and roll around in the spikey grass. An eclectic mix of seats and tables are dashed around the garden to be used at different times of the day depending where the sun happens to be. Old bicycles are propped up against tree trunk fence posts having been there so long that they are now invisible to those who live there.
“Orion” is the name my horse goes by; “Like the stars” I am informed. Before I know it I’m on him and given a quick lesson on how to turn left, turn right and how to stop; but I find out along the route that Orion will be the one to decide where we go today. All the horses are well-trained by the Gardian who leads us on out and save for a few scares from lizards, the 6-strong group are very well behaved.
Orion mostly follows in line over marshes, through fields and along the dusty paths of the Camargue. I pull gently on the reins to slow him up and leave a gap between me and the rider in front, then click my mouth and swish the reins so that he gets up to a canter. He loves it, so I don’t fight him when he drops his head to snatch off some long grass to eat – although this does cause some wind problems for the person behind me.
The riding style is one-handed here, like cowboys in the movies. It’s a much more comfortable and exciting style than the one other time I’ve been on a horse where we were stuck to a trot along a flat path. Orion does his thing and I just have to stay balanced on top with the best rush being when we go up and down the banks of the rivers, forcing me to hold the reins with one hand and throw the other one out to the side for stability.
By the end of the two-hours I was quite tired and sore from the riding and during the last half hour I just kept Orion at a trot and stayed within a length of the horse in front, who he kept head-butting when we got too close.
The Camargue has great views across its flat expanse and we got up close with some Camargue bulls and beautiful birds; but the most important part of the day is that you’re riding a horse the whole time and not just any horse; a white Camargue horse with a Gardian as your guide.
Afterwards the Resto du Paty is 200m from d’Alvion en Camargue base and beside the bus-stop which goes back into Arles or to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The restaurant has great local dishes and is well worth a visit.
A two-hour horse trek with Bergerie d’Alivon en Camargue costs €38.
- Horse Riding