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horse ranch in France

This is a beautiful rustic horse ranch situated in the unspoilt countryside of the Haut Languedoc Natural Park. The varied terrain of pine forests, heather moorland and steep, craggy hillsides makes for exciting riding country. There is tuition available for intermediate riders as well as trail riding in the surrounding area for all levels.

The ranch is 3,200 ft above sea level with views to the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea on a clear day, making it a pleasant temperature even in the heat of summer. Accommodation is in comfortable en suite rooms on site, with a western bar and dining room in the lodge.

A welcoming atmosphere combined with fun filled riding days create a wonderful holiday experience with a high level of returning guests.
 

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 JB of Bures on 08/08/2018

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday
A really lovely week of riding in the most beautiful area.
Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments
Despite being told it was going to be an English spoken week. 90% of conversations were in Dutch.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments
Horses were extremely well looked after and cared about.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Other office staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Other ride staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
It was said that there would be demonstration and tuition on how to ride western. This was a quick demo by one of the staff and no tuition before leaving for first ride.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

What could we do to improve this ride?

How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
I'm a fairly new rider and although I could cope with the different speeds some of the rides had very steep descents. The night ride although fun was not explained clearly enough for me to know we would be cantering in the dark down a hill.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
    (X) NO     (   ) YES
Any other comments:

Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. I'm glad you enjoyed your holiday. I'm sorry that a lot of Dutch was spoken - we do make it clear that the ranch is Dutch run :)

Programme
This programme allows riders with some experience to develop and test their skills with adventure trails and obstacle courses. Riders should be comfortable in all paces.

Day 1
Arrive at the ranch from 16:00. You can take some time to look around the ranch and settle in to your room before a delicious 3-course home cooked meal with your fellow guests.

Day 2
After breakfast there is an introduction to the horses and the western saddles used on the ranch. A saddling demonstration gives plenty of opportunities for discussion and questions. After lunch you meet your horse for the week and have your first ride.

Day 3
Today you take a full day ride around the park, across plains and through woodland. Lunch is taken at a beautiful picnic spot.

Day 4
After breakfast you tackle the Adventure Trail in the morning. In groups of 2-4 people, and without a guide, you take a map and explore the extensive grounds of the ranch. This is a good time to really develop the partnership with your horse. The afternoon is free to relax before an evening ride, the best time to see wildlife in the park.

Day 5
This is a rest day for you and the horse. Relax at the ranch, go walking in the forest or, if you have a car, you could drive to the beach or visit the historical village of Carcassonne.

Day 6
Today you will explore more of the trails around the farm.

Day 7 
A trail ride to the lake is finished off with a big BBQ back at the farm. If the conditions are good, you can take the horse swimming in the lake.

Day 8
Depart after breakfast.







 

Riders will keep the same horse all week to enable them to build a working relationship with their horse. Riders are also asked to saddle and groom their own horses.

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

The French - Theodore Zeldin
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and the Amateur Emigrant - Louis Stevensons
Labyrinth - Kate Mosse

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

There is a mix of horses all trained by the ranches owner in western style. The tack is western. You will be shown how to saddle and ride in this style. The horses are trained for endurance, strength and good character. The riding is at a walk, trot and canter over varying terrain. The ranch is situated high in the mountains and there are large open meadows to canter over as well as small trails in the forests. There are several lakes and everyone will be given the opportunity to swim with their horse weather permitting so bring your costume!


Rider requirements

Advanced Programme:
Riders should be comfortable in all paces, riding out in the open countryside. Riders of any discipline are welcome. Western riding skills are taught on the ranch and no previous experience of western riding is necessary.

The weight limit for this ride is 90kg and riders should be 16 years or over.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The ranch house and buildings are all of traditional construction in wood and stone to respect the unique environment. Some rooms have been carved into the side of the cliff (troglodyte) and have a truly natural stone wall! There are 5 comfortable double bedrooms all with shower, toilet and small living area. Outside there is a covered lounge corner and dining area, and sun deck with stunning views across the ranch and into the National Forest. There is a traditional wood panelled bar and open fire for long evening talks and barbeques and camp fires are held outside. The food is varied, plentiful and freshly homecooked with several meals cooked outside over an open fire.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year 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 on request.

General information:

Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.

The British Consulate in Paris is at 35 rue de Faubourg St Honore, 75383 Paris Cedex 08. Tel + (33) 1 44 51 31 00. Email: webmaster.paris@fco.gov.uk.

The French Embassy in the U.K can be found at 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT. Telephone: (020) 7073 1000. Email: presse.londres-amba@diplomatie.fr.


Climate Summary

The climate in the mountains are always changeable so you should come prepared with a raincoat and warmer jacket even in summer time. The temperatures below are for the nearest town on the plains and are cooler in the mountains, although it can be hot during the day in July and August.

Climate Chart

Health

No special health precautions are required for visits to France, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!

For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org.

Health (ride specific)

No special health precautions are required for visits to France, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!

Electricity

Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.

Film and Camera Equipment

Once on the ranch there is no opportunity to purchase film or batteries unless you go to a nearby town on your leisure day. There is electricity available to charge cameras and batteries.

Packing List

It is recommended that you bring clothes that air-dry quickly.
Riding trousers - jeans or jodphurs
Riding boots or riding trainers (with heel)
Lipbalm with sunscreen
Half or full chaps (optional)
Insect repellent
Riding gloves
Sunblock
Riding hat with brim
Baseball cap or similar (that will stay on while riding )
Sunglasses
Plastic bags for wet clothing
T-shirts and shorts
Swimsuit
Mobile phone
Camera and film
Long sleeved shirts
Binoculars
Heavy sweater or sweatshirt
Informal wear for evenings
Lightweight rainwear
Water bottle
Copy of your passport
Towels for bathroom and for swimming
Toiletries
The ranch provides small saddle bags for packed lunches/ water bottles and such like.

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night with 5 days riding, programme available every Friday from May to October

Departure Dates

2019: Every Saturday between May and October

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20198d/7n5double pp949
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20198d/7n5double pp1,005
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20198d/7n5double pp1,195
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20198d/7n5double pp11,079
Recommended Reading

Theodore Zeldin "The Franch"
Francoise Sagan "Bonjour Tristesse"
Peter Mayle "A Year in Provence" and "Tojours Provence"
Louis Stevensons "Travels with a Donkey"
Henry James "A Little Town in France"
For an ecellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com, a part of the Long Riders Guild

Other Activities

Either by walking or by car rental exploring the local towns and villages. Campfires under the wide Languedoc skies, archery, darts or a walk to observe the local wildlife. Courtyard with stunning views across the ranch and into the National Forest. There is always plenty to do at the ranch.

Other Information

Flights should be engaged to arrive by 5 pm to Beziers Airport and departure after 14 am as departure transfer is available after 11 am.

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 puritanical. 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):
Beziers Airport (BZR)
Transfer:
Beziers - €75 per person return payable on site. Transfer time is approximately 1.5 hours. Transfers on arrival are between 15:00 and 17:00 so please make sure flights arrive with enough time to get through immigration etc by 17:00. Departure transfer is available according to flight schedule, preferably after 11am.
Flight Guide:
London - Beziers return from £70 with Ryanair. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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