Horse riding in the south of France

Taken from …. http://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/mar/20/france-provence-horse-riding

 

When the horses come down from the hill, I’m standing on the lane, wondering if there is any way to get out of what is about to happen. It’s an impressive sight: the dozen horses, manes and tails in motion, all cantering through the forest, the dog barking at their heels. There were two patched and painted ponies, like Apache war steeds, a pair of dainty Arabs, dish-faced and bug-eyed, like they had pranced straight out of a Stubbs painting. There were a couple of greys and some big brown mares. The biggest brute will be mine, I thought – the one with the grudge.

Far below us, down 700m of mountainside, shimmering and hazy, was the Côte d’Azur with its white tower blocks, black cars and scorched skin. But we were no longer in that world; we were in a golden forest of field maples, oaks and scarlet sumac near the village of Sainte-Agnès, just a few miles north of Monaco, close to the Italian border. We were setting out on a two-day ride into the virtually uninhabited interior, our saddlebags stuffed with supplies and bedrolls.

Denis came past me, whistling, then shouting for the dog, “Avant, avant, Uxel!Allez, Juanita!” And the dog, a huge lolloping hound, was behind Juanita, one of the painted ponies, urging her down. I noticed that the dog appeared to know the horse’s name, and thought, “Is that possible?”

I stepped back. My partner, Sophie, and six-year-old daughter Maddy were with Denis, catching horses by the manes, slipping on bridles, tying them up to a rope strung between two trees. But I stepped back.

 

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