This relaxing horse riding holiday in Portugal is based on a ranch, situated in 12 hectares of good rugged riding country in the beautiful Algarve.

Trails pass through scented macchia, trees and shrubland, over hills and dales and along paths that are only accessible on horseback, by mountain bike or walking. You may not see another soul, meaning you are free to enjoy the magnificent views and the peace of the countryside around you, just horse and rider.

All the horses are schooled in Western style using natural horsemanship, where a closeness and trust is developed between horse and rider. They are kept in a large paddock which runs in front of the accommodation, so your day will begin with a view of grazing horses and the smell of freshly brewed coffee coming from the nearby kitchen.

Many other interesting activities are available should you require them, including trips to the nearby beach. The ranch is situated in ideal countryside for Western riding trails, which is the speciality of the hosts. The Wild West is at the back door - you'll explore it daily from the back of your horse and on return to the ranch in the evenings you can sit around the camp fire and enjoy some drinks relaxing under the beautiful Algarve night skies.

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 CM of Worthing on 20/10/2017

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday

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)     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments
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
Meals
Meal Quantity     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) 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?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response We had a wonderful holiday, good riding, friendly people.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response The cabin we stayed in was excellent, but if it had coffee making facilities in the room, it would have been champion.
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 The style of western riding was slightly different to what we’ve learnt, but very good, and well explained. Fast long canters, very good rides, and Stephan and Lana were amazing out with you, very safety conscious.
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?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments
Unicorn comments Thanks for the super comments on this lovely ride!

Day 1
Arrive and transfer to the ranch. This is about an hours drive and you may arrive at anytime. There is no riding today.

Days 2-7
See below for a typical day. Rides go out twice a day and you will ride through the beautiful surrounding countryside. For advanced riders there is one full day ride, following trails for 3 hours through forests and scented Macchia trees to a large impressive Dam. Here you will enjoy a well deserved BBQ at a small Portuguese restaurant for lunch. The 3 hour ride back to the ranch takes you via a different route with the impressive coastline always in view. The afternoon before the full day ride there is no riding - you are free to do what you want on that afternoon, be it swim in the pool, relax in the sun or your hosts would be happy to take you to the beach or nearest town and pick you up again for no extra charge.

Day 8
Departure. After a sad goodbye to your lovely hosts and of course your trusty steed you will be transferred back to Faro. Again, your departure flight may be at any time.

A Typical Day;

8am-9am
Breakfast - choose from an array of food including bread, cheeses, a selection of meat, yoghurt, fruit and fresh soft boiled eggs. A feast to start the day!

9:30am
Meet at the stables, catch your horse from the field and tack up, ready for the off at 10am. On the first riding day you will be introduced to Western tack and shown how to tack up, however there is help available everyday and horses are checked prior to mounting. There is plenty of guidance too for those new to western riding and you are encouraged to take the natural horsemanship approach when around your horse.  

10am - 12:30pm
You will explore the wonderful countryside riding in a different direction every day. Encounter large lakes, home to water turtles, ride through wild lavender and under imposing Eucalyptus trees. Everything is relaxing; the pace is gentle, the reins are long and every now and then experience a 'jog' or a rythmical 'lope' along the tracks.

1pm - 2:30pm
Lunchtime - the lunches are also relaxed, help yourself to whatever you can find in the kitchen, from last nights lovely leftovers to bread, cheeses, meats and fruit. And of course help yourself to a cooling can of something from the fridge!
Next it is siesta time...or you may choose to have a dip in the pool, have a walk or simply relax in the sun with a good book.

2:30pm - 4:30pm
Back at the stables you will prepare your beloved mount for the afternoon ride - again exploring the countryside and taking in the wonderful views to the coast and out to sea. It is strange to see the bustling town of Portimao in the distance while you are sat on a horse at perfect peace in the hills above.

5pm
Back at the stables you untack your horse and give him the final groom of the day, before slipping him a few tasty treats to say thank you. Now there is free time to shower and do whatever you like - sit around the large outside dining table, beer in hand, and talk about the days events.

7:30pm
Dinner is served! Expect typical German dishes such as Schnitzel, stews and roast meat and help yourself to some fruit or a yoghurt for dessert. Again, drinks are on tap, be it wine, beer, cider or soft drinks. Your host Stephan also makes an excellent cocktail - Caprihinas; a lethal blend of rum, ice and freshly squeezed limes!

In the summertime the lunch break runs from 1pm-3:30pm and in the wintertime it runs from 1pm-2:30pm due to the weather and daylight hours.

 

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

All the horses are schooled in western riding on the Ranch, where closeness and trust is developed between horse and rider. Safety is of the utmost importance and this can only be offered this if we can trust our horses. The ranch has developed their own method through years of experience based on Natural Horsemanship.



The horses are first trained to recognise body language, the horse is then walked without rider behind the more experienced horses so they are never pressured or made nervous. After this the horse is introduced to saddle and then rider. It is necessary to accustom the horses to everyday noises and distractions e.g. barking dogs, traffic noise and sudden unexpected movements. The horses are schooled daily with regular treks through mountainous countryside and across riverbeds etc. to maintain their sure footedness and excellent condition.



There are a total of 23 horses and 14-16 horses are available for the guests to ride at any time. The Western style saddle gives the utmost comfort and safety to horse and rider alike on long day treks. Depending on the condition of the ground riders will walk, jog (which is a very slow seated trot) and canter. You will always be accompanied by an experienced guides on all trails. For advanced riders: there are 2 hours riding in the morning, 2 hours in the afternoon, and one whole day (6 hours), (we do not ride in the afternoon before the dayride) altogether 24 hours per week. For beginners: 1 and a half hours the morning, 1 and a half hours in the afternoon, altogether 18 hours per week. If required you can have lessons in the outside training paddock. There is no riding on arrival or departure days.

Rider requirements

For the beginners programme you do not have to have any riding ability. You learn by handling the horse on-site. According to the principle ‘Learning by Doing’ we are soon able to do our first rides in the countryside. There is a minimum age limit of 18 for this ranch.

Guests who book the programme for advanced riders (longer hours, faster pace) must be confident in walk, trot, and canter and open to Western style riding. Your guide will give you directions in western style: neck reining, jogging and seated canter. All the horses are trained in real western style and ridden this way. Your guide is passionate about Western Horsemanship and likes things done according to ranch protocol. He has a strong personality and is lots of fun.

Riders for the advanced programme should be used to riding in the countryside and must be fit enough to ride between 2 and 6 hours a day. There are lots of hills and rough terrain in the Algarve, some of the very steep hills we have to lead our horses down. So riders should be able to mount and dismount by themselves and should be sure footed also. Riders who are less experienced can ride in a separate group, this way all abilities can be catered for.

Guests are encouraged to catch, groom and tack up their horse by themselves however there is always someone who can lend a hand! Either a keen interest in Western riding and natural horsemanship or a willingness to learn is preferable for this ranch.

Weight limit: 14st/90kg

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 is situated in 12 hectares of good rugged riding country, 3 km north of the little village of Mexilhoeira Grande (near Portimão) in the beautiful Algarve. It is a very quiet place and is an ideal destination for a relaxing holiday.


The accommodation consists of basic 4 apartments, each with 2 beds, a shower and toilet. They were built in 2000 and are comfortably but simply furnished and decorated to offer a private seating area to relax in. The beds come equipped with heated under blankets for the cold/damp mornings and evenings you may experience in the winter.


In the separate kitchen and covered area a plentiful breakfast is served, with coffee, tea and a choice of fruit juices. Lunch is either taken outside on the trails or at the ranch you can help yourself to food. There are usually leftovers from dinner the evening before or you can help yourself to bread, cheese, cold meats, yoghurts and the like from the fridge. A freshly cooked hot meal or BBQ is served for dinner, often with invited guests and friends. The evening meal is just one main course followed by coffee or tea. Again, guests can help themselves to fruit or yoghurt from the fridge for dessert. The kitchen is always open and is for the use of guests at any time so you can help yourself whenever you need, the fridges are always fully stocked.


Between the paddocks you can find the sun-heated above ground pool, ideal for a refreshing dip in summertime between the rides, while watching the horses.

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

Climate Summary

The pronounced Atlantic climate brings at the Algarve coast not to hot temperatures in the summer and moderates winters, never under the freezing point. Most precipitation we have from November to February. The water temperature of the Atlantic is in the midsummer about 21 degrees. The most beautiful travel months are April/May or September/October, if the temperatures are not too high and in April/May the Cistus and wild Lavender bloomall over the hills. In addition, in the summer it is always relatively green in the countryside. The average temperature amounts to 17°C, the average air humidity is between 50% and 75%. In the winter (December, January, February) the temperature can drop below 10°C, and in the dry and hot summers the high temperatures (the hottest month is August reaching over 30 degrees during the day) are made comfortable by a constant light wind off the sea.
The whole year around the climate is perfect for horseback riding in the countryside.

Climate Chart

Health (ride specific)

It is recommended that you bring anti-histamine cream/tablets in case of insect bites

Film and Camera Equipment

The next town is about 20 minutes to drive by car. There you can get any accepted film and camera equipment.

At the ranch there is mobile phone reception and they also have WiFi.

Packing List

In the apartment you can find linen as well as a selection of towels.
For your holiday at the ranch it would be helpful if you bring along the following things:
- everyone has an obligation to take care and safety of their well being: riding helmet, if you want otherwise a hat to protect you from sun (or rain)
- jeans or jodhpurs, maybe chaps if you have some
- boots, but no rubber boots in case of the high temperatures, best would be boots up to the ankle with a heel
- long-sleeved t-shirts or blouses to protect against the sun
- sunglasses
- sunscreen
- mosquito repellant
- swimsuit
- travel medicine
- casual dress
- warm jumper beacuase its getting chilly in the evening, even in summertime
- jacket against wind and/or rain
- torch (there are very occasional powercuts at the ranch)

Riding hats are not provided and children under 18 must wear a riding hat. Mosquito plugs and electic underblankets for the beds are also provided.

Programmes

There are two programmes offered at the ranch: A programme for beginners which includes 18 hours of horseback riding over a 6 days period. You learn to handle the horse informally. With the varied training “on” and “off” the horses you quickly obtain a ‘relationship’ together. According to the principle ‘Learning by Doing’ we are soon able to do our first rides in the countryside.

The programme for advanced riders includes 22 hours of horseback riding within 6 days. We ride through the Macchia, through trees and shrubland, over hills and dales on small paths. On our dayride we will go to the largest artificial lake in the Algarve called ‘Barragem de Bravura’, with beautiful views of the coastline.

Departure Dates

2017: Any day start and finish from 1 March to 2 June; 7 June to 4 August and 27 August to 5 November.
2018: Any day start and finish from 1 March to 2 June; 5 June to 4 August and 25 August to 4 November.

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.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp94
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme675
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme609
2017 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement76
2017 Weekly8d/7n6non rider325
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme599
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme549
2017 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio745
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme609
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme549
2017 July Special8d/7n6single supplement76
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider325
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme539
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme495
2017 July Special8d/7n6El Rocio745
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider per night47
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme695
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme629
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement85
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme619
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme565
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio785
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp105
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme749
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme675
2017 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement84
2017 Weekly8d/7n6non rider359
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme665
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme609
2017 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio819
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme675
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme609
2017 July Special8d/7n6single supplement84
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider359
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme599
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme549
2017 July Special8d/7n6El Rocio819
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider per night52
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme739
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme669
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement90
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme659
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme599
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio835
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp125
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme885
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme799
2017 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement99
2017 Weekly8d/7n6non rider425
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme789
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme719
2017 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio975
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme799
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme719
2017 July Special8d/7n6single supplement99
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider425
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme709
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme649
2017 July Special8d/7n6El Rocio975
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider per night62
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme909
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme825
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement109
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme815
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme739
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio1,029
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp1,029
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme7,419
2017 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme6,699
2017 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement825
2017 Weekly8d/7n6non rider3,555
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme6,595
2017 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme6,029
2017 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio8,145
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme6,679
2017 July Special8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme6,029
2017 July Special8d/7n6single supplement825
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider3,555
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme5,939
2017 July Special8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme5,425
2017 July Special8d/7n6El Rocio8,145
2017 July Special8d/7n6non rider per night515
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme7,629
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme6,905
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement929
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme6,805
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme6,185
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio8,605
Wildlife

During our rides we occasionally see a shepherd with his flock of goats, sheep or cows wandering the hills. There is abundant wildlife in the Algarve and many different and unusual species can be seen on the rides such as water turtles, eagle eared owls and even golden eagles have been spotted!

On the ranch there are lemon, clementine, orange and sweet pepper trees and out on the rides you will discover cork, eucalyptus, oak, pine and olive trees.

Other Activities

Although the holiday is specifically tailored for horse riding there are many other activities available locally for non riders including golf, places of historical interest, waterparks, etc. Some of the most fantastic golden sandy beaches are close by offering various watersports, with beachbars and restaurants with mouthwatering local cuisine. Independent transport will be required by non-riders and the hire vehicles can be obtained at Faro airport through companies such as Avis and Europcar.

Other Country Information

The Portuguese have historically been the intrepid explorers of the world. In the 15th Century they discovered the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498 and Pedro Cabral, trying to reach India, discovered Brazil two years later (1500). Other Portuguese explorers reached the Far East, China and Japan. The first circumnavigation of the globe was led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.

Portugal has a rich seafaring past, superb beach resorts, wistful towns and a landscape wreathed in olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields. Littered with UNESCO World Heritage sites and graced by one of Europe's most relaxed and attractive capitals.

Savouring life slowly is a Portuguese passion, and much of the best is humble - traditional folk festivals; simple, honest food drowning in olive oil; music that pulls at the heart strings, recalling past love and glories; and markets overflowing with fish, fruit and flowers.

Portugal is in the GMT time zone 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 is +351

If you are hiring a car, you will need to know about how to pay any toll fees as these are done automatically and not on the road. This is a new system from January 2012 and the method for how to pay this will change throughout the year. Please check this website for current information: http://www.amoita.com/node/1414

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Faro Airport (FAO)
Transfer:
2017: From Faro airport - €80 per person return. Transfer time is approx 1 hour.
Flight Guide:
London to Faro with easyJet from £70 return
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