I had a great time on my working holiday at Caballo Blanco. I was thrown into the deep end as soon as I arrived with both tasks and riding. I was nervous about the horses because I haven't rode for so long and the horses can be intimidating but the working holiday was fantastic. I should have stayed for more than one week!
The accommodations are basic, just as Sarah lets you know on the website and in her emails. I personally loved sharing a caravan with no electricity with two other girls. This probably won't be the case for everyone. Most of the volunteers and working holidayers were young - 16, 19, 23, 25, 27 etc. but I am 36 and a couple of late 60 year-olds were there too, and I like to think we did a fair share of the work.
There is a lot of physical work but I think the working holiday people do less than the WOOFers or work exchange people. The work was simple; something most people can do. The ranch is busy (even in late October and November) so that people are coming up for rides all the time which keeps you running around or allows you to ride out with them. Paying the working holiday fee guarantees you 5 days of riding out of 7. I rode once for 1.5 hrs and at the other extreme for an entire day. I loved the horses. Make sure you clarify your experience and ask for a horse that matches your comfort. I absolutely loved riding Lucero on my first two days because he's so friendly and easy going but he is slow and I was happy to move up the ladder of horses (Flamenco, Terrano, Rio, and Pieper) so to speak.
What I loved: no electricity but solar and a generator in the evening; the quiet; getting up in the dark to feed the horses; falling in love with all the dogs; goose wrangling; walking up to check that the horses out on the fields have water; using the loo during sunsets (the view is awesome); hiking up and down the mule track to Lanjaron to buy wine, honey, and local chorizo (sausages); Lanjaron itself is wonderful to explore; the amazing star lit nights; the olive, chestnut, acorn and other trees; the local fruit trees; the wild thyme, rosemary, and oregano which fill the air-- along with the pine-- with natural fragrance; being busy and working hard but taking long breaks for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; meeting people, especially the young, energetic workers, and talking for hours; learning the +20 horses names and personalities; riding off road along mule paths with spectacular views; having long and peaceful sleeps with no noise except the odd goose honk or horse neigh; going to sleep tired but happy. Also, many of the core volunteers are actually very knowledgeable about horses and really help run the place very well and it was great to learn from them.
The not so great: be prepared for some sore knees and tender bits as you get used to being in the saddle again!! Also, it would be great if the working holiday youngins were tidier in the kitchen; not all of them seemed interesting in scrubbing the kitchen after cooking!! I think the core volunteers that stay there for months and/or are returnees find it frustrating to constantly be teaching newcomers what to do but they do put up a good show despite this. The big negative for me was that there was not a single person from Spain at the ranch. I thought that at least half the people would be Spanish and I’d have the chance to practice the language and speak with locals but this was not the case. Also, while many of the volunteers were very experienced with horses, the ones that lead trail rides didn't necessarily know much about the region and didn’t really have a feel for customer service. As a tourist, I want to know about the names of the local villages, the history of the area, local customs, and so on and didn't really get this from the young workers. I thought the riders might like to learn more. I think Sarah might do a better job of this when she leads tours but I was never up at the front of the line with her.
The food is as good as you make it. Sarah and Ali provide lots of basics like fresh veggies (from their garden and the store) and fruit, rice, pasta, lentils, chickpeas, sauces, tuna, bread, and more. You have to decide what to eat and cook. I found everything to be basic but wholesome. Some girls complained about not having high-end cheese and sausages but I didn't feel the food was lacking. Ali brought us the most amazing roasted chickens one night and we never went without a good meal. Frankly we were all so tired and hungry that we were satisfied with eggs on toast with pesto sauce and a side salad or just veggie pasta. As a group we took turns cooking dinner. I bought chorizo in Lanjaron one night for us all.
If you just want to ride and forgo the working holiday then you can book a riding holiday. When I was there the guests raved about La Casa del Viento (the accommodation and the food) and Ali, Sarah's husband, will shuttle you up and down to the ranch (10 to 15 mins?). It's actually not a long walk up and down the mule track between the two places either. For volunteers there was no guarantee for riding horses but in the week I was there, everyone got on a horse. The experienced volunteers did ride a fair bit. I enjoyed being immersed in the horse ranch.
I must recommend Caballo Blanco. I think that the horses are excellent. The entire ranch is focused on the horse’s welfare and they really know what they are doing. The working holiday allowed me to really get a feel for the ranch and animals and to meet some lovely people. I’d return in a heartbeat!
- Also Known As:
- Caballo Blanco Trekking Centre Lanjaron, Andalucia, Spain