Latest update: 24 June 2021
I receive one of my best birthday gifts ever on Ibiza: horseback riding through the mountains in the North of the island. It is a ride with a special touch because all horses have been abused or abandoned in the past.
Not a standard tourist ride
I’m going horseback riding with five men. Holidaying with five men is, of course, a gift in itself, but it gets even better when they all dare to get on a horse without any experience: wow! So we planned a ride at Ibiza Horse Valley.
David and Monique receive us in their valley where the herd of horses lives. The horses still mind their own business when we arrive. I’m not used to that: on the average holiday horseback ride, you show up at a specific time, and your saddled horse is waiting. You get a quick knee to pull yourself up into the saddle. There’s a bit of fiddling with the stirrups, and the ride starts. An hour or so later, you’ll be back, get off your horse, give him another pat and leave.
Let’s eat first
How different is that at Ibiza Horse Valley? Here, we take our time and have full attention for the horse. Driving is almost a little add-on to the experience. David and Monique let us feed the horses first. They all have their own eating place in the courtyard where we put the food buckets. The horses find their way towards their spot, and while they eat, we put on the halters. It is all wonderfully quiet and tranquil, and it feels very free because the horses move naturally to their place.
Rehabilitation for horses
The Dutch Monique takes us to the end of the line of eating horses and explains all about Ibiza Horse Valley. She and David have been rescuing neglected horses since 2010. Sometimes, someone brings their horse in to give it a better life. Other times Monique and David have to have multiple talks with the owner to convince them to give up the animal. The couple places the horses in a herd. They get the time and space to find themselves again and to conquer a place in the group. Life in the herd is almost like a real-life soap: full of intrigue, fights, cheating, and enchanting love stories.
When a horse comes in, David and Monique leave it to mind its own business. They don’t interfere – they wait for the horse to come to them. It can take quite some time before the horse has gained enough self-confidence and also trusts the couple. Only then, they slowly see if it is possible to let this horse participate in the horseback riding activities. If it can’t, that’s fine too.
Meeting the horses
The horses have fixed eating spots. The boss horse is at the top of the path; the last in line is also the last in rank. We walk past all the horses and learn all about their character and history. All nasty stories – horses that were hardly allowed outside, were left behind in a meadow after a successful career in equestrian sports… Unbelievable. I can feel my eyes tearing up behind my sunglasses.
Build a relationship of trust
Monique chooses the horse Lila for me. A racy white mare. We brush our horses clean and saddle them ourselves. Even the gentlemen – who have never seen a horse from this close – are working with their horse with a fair amount of self-confidence. I’m enjoying this so much. It is so nice to build a relationship of trust with the horse in this way, even if it is only for a few hours.
Tip! Curious about Ibiza? Check the list ofall Ibiza activities.
Horseback riding through the mountains
We ride about 1.5 hours through the mountains of Ibiza. With part of the group, we get to gallop with David now and then. If you don’t want to gallop, you will simply stay a little further behind with Monique. It strikes me that I have to ride my horse, Lila. These horses are listening and reacting! In my experience, the average tourist horse doesn’t do that, so it’s pretty remarkable. The surroundings are beautiful. We ride when the sun sets and have views over the island from different angles.
Back to the herd
Once back, we saddle the horses and bring them back to the herd. We watch how the horses approach the stragglers. We immediately notice the different characters of the horses and which horses are friends with each other. One happily runs to his friend in the back, the other walks around a horse in a wide arc, hoping not to get kicked while he scores some hay. Yet another is chasing horses away from the hay. A spectacle to watch for hours. This looks like a wonderful life for horses to me, as little human interference as necessary, as much freedom as possible. My heart melts. Can I come here again, and again, and again?
Want to go horseback riding with Ibiza Horse Valley?
With Ibiza Horse Valley, you can do different tours, both for beginners and advanced. Contact them via the siteto discuss the possibilities or book directly here. Half a day costs € 90 per person. Guaranteed worth every euro.
More Ibiza inspiration?
If you’re looking for more tips about Ibiza, check out this overview. I’ve written quite a bit about this gorgeous island! If you want to get yourself an offline travel guide, you could check Bol.com, Amazon, or Book Depository.
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First published: august 2017. The article has been updated since.