On the Canary Island of Menorca, the people have had a long love affair with horses that spans centuries. Menorca has its own breed of horse – the Menorquin, which is descended from the Andalusian and Arabian horses from the neighbouring lands.
Horses form an important part of pageants, festivals and celebrations in Menorca, and visiting at festival times will give you the chance to see Menorcan horsemanship at its very best.
If you visit at a time when there is no fiesta to celebrate, there are still plenty of opportunities to see the island on horseback, and there are stables and riding schools dotted across the island that will take everyone from the novice to experienced rider on a journey through the beautiful scenery.
If you’ve never ridden a horse before but have always harboured a yearning to learn, Menorca is the perfect place to start your equestrian journey. The island is dotted with riding schools that offer tuition for everyone from kids to grandparents on mounts that range from tiny ponies up to tall, handsome steeds.
A number of Menorca’s riding stables, such as the Can Pouny Horse Riding Centre near Mahon, offer riding lessons for everyone from the complete beginner. A short lesson in the stable yard is followed by a short trek out into the countryside or, if you prefer, a longer ride to the beach where you can head across the sand and into the surf on horseback. Menorca’s horses are very familiar with the water and most riding schools give you the opportunity to “swim” with your horse – that is, for your horse to wade out into the depths with you still mounted until you can both say that you’ve got your feet wet!
In recent years, the Menorcan authorities have opened a bridleway that covers some 200 kilometers around the island and gives horse riders access to every bit of the coast.
The Cami de Cavalls circuits the island’s coast and follows the path that’s thought was followed by some of the first settlers on the island. The coastal path formed some of Menorca’s vital coastal defences back to the 18th century and would have been patrolled by customs guards on horseback to prevent smuggling on the island.
Get the chance to ride a horse in the surf while trekking in Menorca.
The horse riding schools of Menorca will be able to guide you around this path, whether you want to see it in part or in full. Trekking holidays can be arranged, that will allow you to explore everything from the barren cliffs of the north of the island through to the soft, sandy beaches of the south.
On the 23rd and 24th June each year, the Menorcan town of Ciutadella holds a fiesta in celebration of St Joan. The fiesta is very much focused on horsemanship and invites the farmers, farmers’ sons and farm workers of the lands surrounding the town to ride through the streets on horseback on their Menorquin horses.
A Menorquin horse and rider performing the “bot” through the crowded streets of Ciutadella on the Fiesta Sant Joan.
In full ceremonial regalia, the riders in their suits and pointed hats and horses with richly embroidered livery, the horses perform the “bot” where they ride on their hind legs through the crowded streets. Jousts and other medieval horseback tournaments are held over the two days for the entertainment of the crowds.
If you want to attend one of the island’s many Fiestas, make sure you check ahead and book early. They’re very popular with locals and tourists alike. Staying at a Menorcan villa is recommended, visit http://mymenorcavilla.co.uk/ to see a fine example.
Menorca is an island with a strong equestrian heritage. Whether you’re a newcomer to horse-riding or a seasoned rider, you’ll find something horsey that you can enjoy.
Image Credits: Matthew Cook and Wikipedia.
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