Over the summer season here at Caballo Blanco, we’ve been blessed to have some fantastic working holidays and volunteers to help the yard and treks run smoothly. If you’ve ever wondered about whether or not to come and stay with us, then read on for our guest blog this month, from the lovely Lachlan!
This summer was my third visit to Caballo Blanco trekking centre. How lucky I feel to be able to visit again! Two summers ago, visiting as a working holiday, I loved it and decided to cancel the rest of my holiday and stay longer as a volunteer. And so began many adventures! Big thanks to Sarah and Ali for putting up with me again this year. Anyone who has spent time working at CB can tell you how hard the work can be. Early mornings -unfortunately never my strong suit- of hauling feed, water, manure and horses to and fro. This is the morning ritual. After a couple of hours of fairly steady activity we can fix some breakfast. Food tastes better once you’ve worked up an appetite! Soon the sun shines hot, the wind can blow and there seems to be an uncanny lack of flat surfaces anywhere. Yet once you hit a rhythm, one can find enormous satisfaction and -dare I say- addiction, to the simple lifestyle that Sarah, her family and small army of summer volunteers can enjoy. Who can ever get sick of that spectacular view? The incredible natural surroundings? Even the most jaded nature-phobic individual must concede, that it’s an utterly beautiful corner of the earth.
We are told before first arrival that you’ll be far away from most ordinary, everyday luxuries we enjoy, ‘Accommodation is very basic!’ is the phrase I think. A mild expression of shock sometimes plagues new arrivals in their first couple of days (sometimes not). However, by visiting CB one can learn to value and appreciate the important things in life. You realise how little you need to be happy, healthy and comfortable. This is the greatest kept secret that a trip to Lanjaron and work with horses can afford, in my opinion. It can give you a new perspective to take back to your everyday life. And probably save you a bunch of money along the way, if you decide to forgo unnecessary luxuries after your visit too!
There’s always a job to do on the ranch, if there’s none on ‘The List’, then Sarah happily finds one for you. The chores, just like the horses, are often assigned to suit each person individually. Otherwise, oiling tack is an excellent cover to socialise with the other volunteers and working holidays (sorry everyone, the jig is up), and CB is never short on interesting people to get to know. We rely on each other to get through the day, co-operating and helping one another, so you become quite close with the other people and learn many things about their life. Here I was thinking I just go there to ride horses!
There is lots of riding to be had. There’s dozens of different, beautiful trails in the area and plenty of fantastic horses that need work. I’ve many favourites at the ranch, but young Sanson for some reason seems to just get along with me. It’s strange, why do we get along better with some horses (or people) and less with others? We forged an understanding which can bring tremendous satisfaction and joy. Last year we started to work together. He is a true clean slate! He likes people. He’s sweet natured, not a single bone of grump, laze, or irate in him. Full of curiosity. Hours of sleepy cuddles and scratches are not just tolerable but are mandated by him, from his human. A thorough wash, buff and shampoo on that remarkable mane and tail of his and he shines up like the loveliest horse in the Alpujarras.
There is room for improvement; his confidence and physical strength. With Sarah’s blessing and help from the wonderful Emma over a couple of lessons we endeavoured to work on that. Depending on his daily state of mind depended on how much security and comfort he needed from his rider. For this reason he probably needs a bit more time and patience to bring him out. But I am sure that Sarah will have him Super-Safe-Plod-of-the-Universe! in due time. He certainly has that potential to take care of his rider. Already a year on he is much improved and matured. It was a delight to achieve expedient Join-ups, get the beginnings of backing up, precise stops and comfortable collected movement with him. We had the chance enjoy trips out on the mountain in groups and alone and on my last day at the ranch, Sanson bravely stepped out as lead horse. And I’ll never forget the vertiginous joys of the Get-Fit Track! I’ve always felt safe around him and on his back. Even in the midst of his stressful, fearful moments; a mini-bolt, a shy, a sudden freeze or a snort at Horse Eating Butterflies, for example, I could feel him mentally connected to me. Even though he could be tense, I felt him asking for guidance and support, never honestly wishing to escape or cause harm to his human altogether. One morning, on a 2 hour trek with other horses, we became temporarily trapped on the corner of the road between a jagged rock face and a lorry. Surprisingly, with only a little leg from me, he quietly walked to an empty place in front of the group and smoothly led the other horses out of the way to peace and safety… what a good boy! One misty afternoon he let me jump up on his back without a saddle and posed for the camera like a seasoned pro. Think he knows his good looks by now?
In any event, I am keen to return and see him and all the other horses, dogs, cats, chickens, geese and people again, to stock up on hours of more stories and experiences to remember forever. I’m told it is even fantastic to visit in the winter, by which time Sanson may resemble a wooly mammoth. It’s great to go back after some time has passed and see steady improvements around the yard which make the work easier and more enjoyable. The yard was so well organised some days that it almost ran itself! If you are still unsure of whether or not to make a visit to Caballo Blanco yourself, stop thinking about it and just do it!