Horse Riding in the Loire

Take an equestrian journey into history on this  holiday, traveling into the Middle Ages to visit several of the most important castles of the Renaissance. The group will visit: Cheverny (17th century) which has been owned by the same family for 7 centuries; Chambord, the most magnificent of all the Loire castles, built by François I; Chaumont sur Loire (15th century), a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Amboise (15th century) a royal castle residence of several French kings and finally, Chenonceau, known as the “Women's Castle” after being bought by Henri II  for Diane-de-Poitiers, once his governess, before becoming his mistress.

Along with faster -than-average horseback riding on fit Anglos Arab horses, this is an equestrian journey of discovery not to be missed. Accommodation is in local Bed and Breakfast's or small hotel's with fresh home-cooked meals sourcing local specialties. Of course, the delicious wines of the region will also be on hand at the end of a good day in the saddle!

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from IB of Santa Monica on 30/08/2016

Any other comments:
My personal experience on this trip was really unforgettable.

David, Beatrice and especially Zoe are absolutely delightful people! I would take another trip with them any time! Seeing Zuzu's beautiful smile at the end of every day (or at lunch time), it was so uplifting!

Seeing France's countryside on the back of a horse it was a nice experience. But visiting those unbelievably beautiful castles, for me it was like living the history of France through Alexander Dumas's books! I did not expect to step foot into the rooms of Catherine de Medici or Queen Margot or Diane de Poitiers or all the other kings and queens.

But if I can make a small suggestion would be to allow more time for the visit of all these castles. They are too beautiful and interesting and it's a pity to go through them in a rush. Also it would've been nice to have more time to visit those towns near the castles, they looked really cute but there was no time to go into them.

Although I liked this trip a lot, I would've preferred less time on the horse and more time visiting those sites. I know it was a horseback riding trip, but the fields are nice the first couple of days, then it's all the same. Whereas the small towns are very charming and different and worth visiting!

Another thing that I loved about the trip was the fact that I got to practice and improve (I hope!) my French:))

All in all in was a great experience and I want to thank again our wonderful hosts and guides David, Beatrice and of course Zuzu!
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Arrival Day 1
Arrival at Montrichard train station, transfer at 6.30 pm to Hotel I'Auberge de l'Ecole (or similar) in Pontlevoy

Day 2 (First day riding)
After the introductions and assignment of horses, ride towards the village of Fougères-sur-Bièvre where lunch awaits at the foot of its fortified castle. Built in the late 15th century, itt offers the ideal image of a small castle from this period with a curtain wall, a dungeon, gunboats, a walkway and machicolations. Late afternoon visit to the beautifully furnished Cheverny castle which has been owned by the same family for more than 6 centuries. Dinner and night at Hôtel du Cygne á Bracieux (or similar)

Day 3 (Morning Ride)
Morning ride through Cheverny forest, following wooded paths and moorlands. Keep an eye open for the Roe deer and hares make their home here. Stop off at the 16th century Chateau de Villesavin, lovingly cared for and restored throughout the centuries. A free afternoon and dinner and night at Hôtel du Cygne á Bracieux (or similar)

Day 4 (Riding Day)
Start the day riding through the forest for a picnic at Beauregard castle. Built under François 1st, this former hunting farm of Chambord is famous for its gallery of 327 portraits of well-known people. Visit the castle before going to Candé-dur-Beuvron. Dinner and night at Hôtel du Cygne á Bracieux (or similar)

Day 5 (Riding Day)
Ride along the Loire to Chaumont-sur-Loire. A charming village and UNESCO World Heritage site, Chaumont is also well-known for its feudal castle (late 15th century) overlooking the valley and village. Picnic next to the castle and enjoy a visit in the afternoon. The stables were built in the 19th century and were considered the most luxurious in Europe at the time. The trail then crosses the Sudais forest to reach the overnight stop. Dinner and night at  L'Hostellerie du Château (or similar)

 Day 6 (Morning Ride)
Start the ride at 10:00am, heading along the Loire by the river's edge before climbing the hillside into vineyards and cereal crops. Stop for lunch in Amboise followed by a visit the castle. The 15th-century was a prosperous period for Amboise with Louis XI, Charles VIII and François 1st, all promoting it’s development and embellishment. Cross the forest of Amboise in the afternoon to reach Saint Martin le Beau and a taste of the local wines. Dinner and night at  L'Hostellerie du Château (or similar)

Day 7 (Riding Day)
After breakfast, enjoy a long gallop through the Ambrose Forest to reach the magnificent Chenonceau castle, built on the Cher River. It is called 'Château des Dames' (Women’s Castle), because it was built and renovated by famous female personalities throughout the centuries. Picnic on site and then visit this jewel of the Loire valley. Spend the afternoon riding toward the town of Pontlevoy where we say goodbye to the horses. Dinner and overnight at Hotel I'Auberge de l'Ecole (or similar) in Pontlevoy.

Day 8 (Departure)
After breakfast it is time to say goodbye and get the transfer to arrive at Monrichard train station by 10.00am.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses used on this trip are pure or cross-bred Paint, Arabian or Thoroughbreds and warmbloods varying in height from 15.5hh to 17hh. Most of them were born at the local farm. The horses are calm, experienced, well-behaved and suitable for all types of rider. Comfortable trail riding saddles, saddlebags, poncho, and water are provided but riders are asked to being water bottles with them. Horses are ridden in “Myler” bits. Helmets are mandatory and are not provided.. The pace on this trail varies according to the terrain. there are long periods of walking, but plenty of opportunities to canter and gallop; often faster than comparable trails. The terrain varies day by day and includes rolling hills, vineyards, farmland and woods. There are no drop-offs or extreme terrain.


Rider requirements

Riders must be competent at a walk, trot, canter and gallop over varied terrain and in open spaces over long distances. Riders must be able to mount a horse using a horse block. There are no age limits, children under 18 must be accompanied by a legal guardian. Riders should be in good physical condition, have soft hands and be confident riders. On some days walking beside horses may be required, usually max 30 mins a day. The horses will be prepared by the support team each day.
Please note that if the ride leader determines that a rider does not have the required level, OR if the rider/group ask to stop the ride of their own decision, there is a 300 euro fee for the transportation of each horse.
Riders must please confirm their weight, height and riding level prior to arrival in respect to the health of the horses.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation on this trail is in small hotels or B&Bs (these vary according to the seasons and availability. There is sometimes a private bathroom but riders should be prepared to share bathrooms on this trail. Continental breakfasts are served at the accommodation each morning. Lunches are buffets with a wide choice (adaptable to particular diets) with wine, coffee and water. Dinner will be typical French fare served at each hotel/guesthouse (wine and other extras not included). The support van follows the trail to prepare lunches and to transport the luggage.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/france

In the USA: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/France.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/france

Climate Summary

France, including the Loire Valley, is at its best in spring, though winter-like relapses aren't unknown. Summer is hot and dry, autumn is pleasant but the days are fairly short.

Climate Chart

Weather conditions for Blois:

 

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in France and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.


Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

The emergency phone number in France is 112. If you need to contact other emergency services, call 15 (medical), 17 (police) or 18 (fire).

Electricity

In France the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Shops are few and far between so please bring all your camera equipment with you. Mobile phone reception is available most days, Wifi is usually available in your evenign accommodation but this is not guaranteed.

Packing List

Riders should have only one suitcase (size 69x47x27) and one handbag. We also ask that for environmental reasons that riders bring their own water bottles. This avoids unnecessary plastic use. Drinking water will be provided.

We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.

• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384.
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Sunhat
• Sunglasses
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• Warm layers - At times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities. We do not supply plastic water bottles so please ensure you bring your own reusable bottle, we will of course provide water.
• Raincoat - it is always a wise idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport
• Baggage: Riders should only bring one suitcase (size 69cm x 47cm x 27cm) and one handbag.

Programmes

Set dates are available. Programmes last 8 days / 7 nights / 6 days riding.

Departure Dates

2024: 8, 16 June (FULL), 10 (Full), 18 Aug (FULL)

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.

If a sharer can be found after the single supplement is paid this will be refunded.

Recommended Reading

The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France - Ina Caro



Theodore Zeldin ‘The French’,



Francoise Sagan ‘Bonjour Tristesse’,



Peter Mayle ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’,



Louis Stevensons ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and



For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback, visit www.thelongridersguild.com. An excellent source of equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com  


Other Activities

The trails are suitable for non-riding companions, they can hire their own transport if they wish.

Other Information

We ask that riders have only one soft suitcase (20kg/44lb) and a small day-pack for travel.
Please note that if the rider/group ask to stop the ride of their own decision, there is a 300 euro fee for the transportation of the horse/s.
Should the guide judge that a rider does not have the level or skills to do the trek on horseback, they can decide to stop it without refund.

Other Country Information

The French wrote the book on la vie en rose and gave the world champagne and camembert, de Beauvoir and Debussy, the Tour de France and the Eiffel Tower. It is a country steeped in history. Staggering monasteries and castles dotted all over the country are a reminder of a turbulent and often violent past, especially in the Carcasonne region where the Gnostic Christian organisation the Cathars held fast against a crusade launched in the 11th century by an angry and vengeful Catholic church for over twenty years. Despite their vow of non-violence they had a strong support base, including the Knights Templar, and their name often pops up in the legend of the Holy Grail.

The French character has undoubtedly been influenced by their past, today they are a proud and patriotic people famed for enjoying the finer things in life and displaying a great generosity character in their willingness to share their country with the millions of visitors they receive each year.

Food is very important in French culture, almost a passion. Families eat dinner together late in the evening and their diet is usually very healthy, packed with home grown fruit and vegetables. You will hardly ever see anyone eating on the street; if you do chances are they're not French!

France is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for France is +33.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Montrichard train station, a 2hr train journey from Paris Montparnasse station or a short journey from Tours.
Transfer:
2024: From Montrichard train station, €20pp return. Transfers payable on site. (subject to change)
Flight Guide:
London - Paris or Tours from £50 pp return
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