If you live in the South West corner of Mallorca, right up close to the coast, then the prospect of travelling ALL THE WAY to the furthest point from you on the island, the North East, can seem a little, daunting.
Anyone who lives in Mallorca will tell you, the longer you live here, the less tolerance you have to what we would consider a long car journey.
And FYI, a long car journey in my house is anything over forty five minutes. However, given my recent proclamation that I am now ready for adventures, it was time to live up to my word, and get back on the horse, literally.
Natura Cavall had called and offered me the chance to go riding with the cowboys! How intriguing.
Give me a challenge and I will do it, so, a couple of weekends ago Oliver (long suffering husband and excellent photographer) and I made the “big” journey from one coast to another.
I am not joking when I say we planned a coffee stop in the middle of it. Anyway, I digress…
You might have heard about the family of cowboys living over in the Manacor area. Father and sons, their partners and friends who share a natural flare and sympathy for horses have been building a small business called Natura Cavall since 2019.
The sons, now adults, grew up around horses with their dad Joan teaching them in an instinctive way how to ride and communicate with the animals.
The Natura Cavall concept is to share and show a different side of Mallorca, and discover the wild beauty of the island whilst on horseback.
The team leads expeditions to explore untouched corners of Mallorca, discovering stunning and remote places which you would be hard pressed to hike to like Santuari de Bonany or Santuari de San Salvador. They also offer overnight stays where you can sleep in the open air on the beach, in a tipi or in a finca off the grid.
The Natura Cavall family now have more than twenty horses and ponies.
The animals tend to have been rescued from the abattoir where after having careers as competitive trotting horses they are dispatched at the end of their perceived usefulness.
Alternatively the horse might have been kept in terrible conditions and need to be rehomed.
This is where a crucial element of the Natura Cavall project begins, in rehabilitating and nursing the horses back to health, then training them to be secure but fun horses to have on an expedition where indeed any obstacle could be in their way whilst on the trail.
Growing up I was passionate about horses from as soon as I could say the word “horse”. I remember riding when I was four, and rode constantly until I was an adult.
These days, we do own a horse, who is stabled in Calvia, but she is not for me, she is for my daughter, and I barely ever get to ride.
Oliver had a similar history, riding throughout his childhood, but had not been on a horse in more than thirty years. So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that we made our way up North and to the Llevant natural park: cowboy country.
We had been invited first to stay overnight at a finca owned by the English member of the cowboys, Lizzie and her partner, off the grid in the natural park. “If you need mobile connection you will have to go to the top of the hill”, she tells us.
Being given permission to abandon our phones and just relax is exactly what we needed to hear and very soon we were sitting under a tree at a table drinking tea and wine and chatting about Natura Cavall and Lizzie’s love of the wild countryside of Mallorca.
“So many people have this stereotype of Mallorca in their minds as a package holiday destination where it is full of hotels and the beaches are packed”, she says.
“But nothing could be further from the truth.” In fact she tells us, she is working on a book about the wild spaces in Mallorca which will be published in 2022.
As the sun goes down and the stars come out it becomes even more apparent that we are in a wild space, there is no light pollution where we are giving us a fabulous view of the night sky.
Our bed for the night is a cosy studio space with a log burner which Oliver has stoked up and we crawl under the covers with a belly full of food.
The following morning I wake having had the most intense anxiety dream about the coming ride. I worry about not being able to get on the horse from the floor, (remember I am a fatty and not as bendy as I was when I was 18).
Lizzie smiles when I admit my fear, “Don’t worry, Xavi will help you if you need it”. Xavi arrives as if on cue, he is the son of Joan and will be riding with us.
There are five on the expedition in total, myself and Ollie, Xavi, Lizzie and Boris, who looks the part (he should just abandon his work as a professional goldsmith and become a full time cowboy in my opinion).
We eat some breakfast and look at the route. Then we collect the horses from the paddock and begin to get ready. I am introduced to Voronoff, he is a former champion trotting horse from Spain and France I am told.
I have a quiet word with him and he seems like a good sort. The moment comes when we have to mount up, and yes, I can’t do it.
There’s no handy log nearby to stand on so Xavi literally gives me a bunk up. Poor boy. But I am on! And on I will stay.
I look around to see my husband already up and on his horse, with many cameras and gadgets stuffed in his pockets ready to record the occasion. And so we are off!
We walk through woodland and rocky trails, and then find ourselves on a winding path leading down to the sea. After a little while Xavi, who is leading the ride, looks around, asks if we are all ready for a faster pace and we break into a short but exhilarating canter.
“You said you haven’t ridden since you were 18?” he asks me in a way that I decide must mean that I am doing okay.
Xavi speaks great English and it is quite a while before I admit to speaking any Spanish, then we switch between the two as we need to. We spend the next hour chatting about his childhood and his youth, how he trains the horses and their different quirks.
We arrive at the first beach, it is completely empty, and very beautiful.
The horses go willingly down to the sea and paddle in the water.
There is normally the option to swim with the horses Lizzie says, but I chicken out of taking Voronoff’s saddle off and riding bareback, partly because I worry about getting back on and also because the water looks really cold!
But I do get on and off a few times during the ride, always carefully spotting a rock or ledge I can use as a mounting block, and Xavi is there every time taking care of me to make sure I get on safely without damaging myself or Voronoff.
It all starts to come back to me and I have a go and riding in a more Western style and feel quite inspired.
I promise myself that I will bring back my horse-mad daughter for a ride after her exams are done. Of course, you don’t need to be an experienced rider to do this.
Natura Cavall has horses and routes suitable for everyone. They only ride in small groups with similar riding experience to make the experience a good one for each person, and you can also ride directly from their base in Manacor if you wish.
In total we rode for about six hours, covering 30 kilometres of trail, forest, beach and mountain, exploring coastal lookout towers that we came across along the way.
All of the horses managed perfectly with the different terrains which amazed me, always carefully picking their way around rocks, walking purposefully on sand, and going confidently under low hanging branches filled with bright yellow pollen.
For our lunch break we stopped and tied up the horses to trees and had a picnic of cheese sandwiches, oranges and wine, sitting on a ledge looking back over the coast.
Before climbing back on and making our way through more amazing scenery.
By the end of the day we are feeling a bit sore and tired, and as we rode into Arta to find the horse transport my body felt grateful to be getting out of the saddle.
Once back on terra firma I thank Voronoff and wish I had something nice to give him as a treat, but Lizzie and Xavi both say that the horses would be going straight back to the stables in Manacor and to be showered and fed before a two or three day rest before another ride.
Ollie and I agree that we think we could also do with a shower, a good dinner and three days off, but in the end a takeaway and an evening on the sofa at home does the job.
Thank you Natura Cavall for the views, the experience and the memories the day brought back and the new ones it created.
You can see more about Natura Cavall and their work on their website and if you want to listen to the full interview we did with Lizzie then visit www.majorcamallorca.buzzsprout.com where you will find that podcast and several more about Mallorca.