As with every Hooves meet-up, we all met at the airport, this time in Turkey. We were four horse riders and myself, two girls from America and two girls and myself from Germany. Upon arrival our driver was already waiting for us with a name sign, so far everything went great. Except for the fact that one of our fellow riders missed her connecting flight from Istanbul to Dalaman! That she would land the same day, but only at 10pm, we learned only when we were already halfway to the hotel. So I got off in Fethiye, spent a few hours in this really cute town, ate the most delicious dates ever and later took the bus back to the airport to pick her up. With another shuttle we went from Fethiye to our hotel, which was about 2 hours away from the airport. Once there, we went straight to bed, since it was already quite late.
This blog post is written by Luzia Montag
Also read: Horse riding in Namibia with Luzi
The hotel itself was located in a beautiful pine forest with a view of the beach of Patara and the mountains of the Lycian Way in the back. The accommodations were small but nice bungalows with a bathroom adjacent for two or three people.
The next morning we woke up to sunshine and a sumptuous, very delicious and typical Turkish breakfast. We met our horseback guide Ercihan, who from now on accompanied us the whole day from breakfast to dinner and drinks. At breakfast, the whole group met each other completely for the first time and as with every Hooves trip, the dynamic was right, everyone got along great right away. Then it was finally off to the horses!!! We drove about 40 minutes high up in the mountains while three of us snuggled up in the back of the truck. It was a little windy but pretty fun.
Once we arrived at the horses we were greeted by a beautiful view of a small valley, with a view of snow capped peaks in front of us and a beautiful pine forest on mountains in our backs. Our two American riders rode the Arabian mares Shiraz, a beautiful chestnut mare, and Zorlu, a grey mare with some serious fire under her rump! The two other horse women rode the mares Askar, a grey-brown mare and definitely the fastest of the group, and Bulut, also called Baby, because she was still very young but the most relaxed of the group. My horse was called Eylül. A beautiful grey mare that was completely new in the group and therefore still a bit nervous. The first 20 minutes on the horses were a bit chaotic, because they are all typical Arabian horses: everyone was dancing around in excitement! After we climbed (YES, climbed) up the first historic amphitheater, which by the way was really impressive, the first excitement was over and we started our trail ride down to the nearest village.
We made our way through and here we realised for the first time how bombproof these horses are - literally. As soon as we arrived in the village we heard a bang right next to us that really sounded like a gunshot and the horses didn't even flinch. They simply didn't care at all. This was to fascinate us for the entire week, no matter how close trucks or motorcycles passed us, by the way they always honked their horns in greeting, and no matter how much noise, banging tarps, barking dogs, screaming children or even fire we encountered on our way, the horses didn't care. Even I have never experienced anything like this before. Our route continued along a river where we really had some really relaxed canters, through beautiful olive tree forests, up steep slopes and down again and across flower-covered fields. Since my horse Eylül was still a bit scared of the (to her) new horses, I rode right at the back with her most of the time and quickly found out that she really wasn't interested in the group at all. I could have easily ridden away without her getting upset - I loved that a lot about her.
We had our lunch break with delicious sandwiches, Ayran and cool drinks in a small Mediterranean wooded area. The horses were tethered to the trees and they were also served water, hay and grains. Since we had already covered a lot of distance on the trails in the morning, after the break we slowly but surely headed towards home. However, not without one more beautiful, very long gallop uphill, which above all showed us how infinitely powerful these horses are. We knew that they are all trained for endurance races, but that they are so fit, even we would not have thought. The rest of the way was downhill, with beautiful views over the forests and mountains to the sea. For dinner we treated ourselves to red wine and gin and tonics and ended the evening with stories about everything and anything horse related! We were all pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the first section of the Lycian Way was, especially from horseback.
After another really good breakfast with homemade jams, Turkish cheese, lots of bread, olives, fresh eggs and lots of tea and coffee we started the day at the stable of the horses. Off we went to the old ruins of Lycian Way, which were truly breathtaking. But our goal of the day was the dunes at the beach of Patara, from where we wanted to watch the sunset over the sea. Since there was no suitable bridge for horses on the way to the dunes to cross the river, we had to take a little detour. So we first rode our horses along the river into the city to use the big bridge there, and then we rode along the river again towards the beach.
While riding in the city, we were shown once again how fearless the horses were. We trotted along the road, practically in the traffic, trucks overtook us, motorcycles honked everywhere, children screamed, dogs and chickens ran loudly along the roads and between the horses legs, very impressive. Then we had our lunch break in a somewhat quieter corner. Next to the river, between tall trees and fortunately in the shade, because it was already a bit hot in the sun. Camping chairs and straw bales were set up for us and we were served typical Turkish dough rolls. Again extremely tasty. Since we had started late that day, we had to hurry a bit on the second part of the trail, and a crazy highlight was still ahead of us.
The second part of the route was extremely beautiful! We rode across wide, green marshy meadows where farmers herded their sheep, and then through cool eucalyptus forests! Most of them were blooming lush yellow and since the branches were hanging very low, we were completely surrounded by yellow flowers. This part of the trail was really dreamy! Then we came out again at a river. A very small, but very deep one, which made it impossible to ride through with the horses. But there was a bridge. A bridge that I had never even crossed on foot. It was actually just wildly stacked wooden planks that didn't even look like they had been nailed or bolted together. It curved downward and you could tell from a distance that it would swing wildly if you stepped on it. And that's where we were supposed to go over with the horses.... Ercihan our guide of course lead us on foot, and his horse Bam Bam followed him without even a second's hesitation, and the bridge held. Little by little one rider and her horse after the other dared to cross the bridge and indeed the bridge held every single one of us. Arrived on the other side we were all nevertheless very relieved and became already nervous with the thought of somehow having to return, but we could worry about that later.
The sun was slowly approaching the horizon and we wanted to be in the dunes by sunset. So we rode fast, galloped through the sand in serpentine lines around bushes, shrubs and the first small dunes. It was extremely fun! Then we came into a thicket in which we got lost a few times until we suddenly broke out and were in the middle of the dunes! It was breathtakingly beautiful! Simply indescribable! The sun was already large and orange above the horizon and we looked directly at the sea! Our goal was the high dunes to our right, from which one could overlook the entire beach, so we galloped towards them. Our Arabians were having the time of their lives galloping up and down the dunes and you could feel that they were completely in their element. Of course there was a little bit of chaos when everyone galloped wildly, but it was just beautiful! Arriving at our destination dune, we were all speechless! The sun was setting at the perfect moment, the sky was pink, orange, red and we could see over the complete dunes, the beach and the whole coast! It was simply insane. Late in the evening we went back to the hotel by car and the horses stayed overnight (of course with two grooms who took care of them) in a small forest area behind the dunes.
The next day started where we left off with the horses the night before, in the dunes. In the bright morning the sea was shining turquoise blue and showed all its beauty.
Our trail went to the ancient City of the Lycian Way, and we were not disappointed. There were whole parts of an ancient city of which one could only guess how incredibly spectacular it must have once been, but it was still very impressive and extremely exciting to look at. At first we visited everything on foot while our guide took care of the horses, but later we rode in the ruins and explored everything on horseback - which was extremely fun. The horses, sure-footed as they were, climbed up and down stone steps and of course had no problems with the terrain.
We continued to the beach. We were all waiting for this and obviously the horses were too! You could feel their joy and they were visibly excited. After a few minutes of walking we finally got what we were all waiting for - a gallop on the beach! It was an absolute blast. These horses are unbelievably fast and it was so much fun to ride them. I can't tell you how long we were racing along the beach, but it definitely felt like half an eternity.
At some point we were stopped by another river, which flowed wide directly into the sea. Now we knew why we had taken the huge detour through the city the day before to use the bridge there. It was impossible to cross the river without getting wet up to the belly button. Ercihan our guide first rode in at various points to test how deep the river was. The narrower and the more tempting the spot looked for a crossing, the deeper it was and the more impossible it was to get through there. So we all stowed our cell phones and cameras is a plastic bag, Erichan held it over his head, and we rode virtually straight into the sea to ride a wide arc around the mouth of the river. Our instructions were: Keep the reins long, trust the horses completely, don't steer, and no matter what, hold on to the horse at all costs!
To be honest, we were all pretty excited because the sea was not exactly calm either and thick waves collided with the river water. But the excitement gave us the advantage that we didn't really feel the cold water. The horses went into the water without hesitation and knew exactly what to do. Routinely they waded into the water until they could no longer stand and instead of getting restless or panicked, they just kept swimming. The waves sloshed over us, sometimes up to our shoulders, the saddles had completely disappeared into the water, but the horses were absolutely not bothered. And so we arrived wet, absolutely over-excited, but completely safe on the other side.
Here we took a very long break to eat, doze and dry off, except for our shoes, which remained wet until the next morning. The rest of the ride continued very fast along the beach. Perfect for sunset we arrived at the hotel and the horses slept behind the bungalows, sort of in our garden. This evening we all felt like having a few drinks, as the day had been quite exciting. So we sat together by the fire with gin and tonics and red wine and let the evening slowly fade away.
Today the ride started directly at the hotel, and from here also directly up into the mountains that opened up behind us. We spent the morning climbing the steep and narrow part of the Lycian Way up the mountains. It went through beautiful pine forests, and here and there we could catch a wonderful view of the sea. It went further uphill until we were many hundred meters above the coast. Now it became a bit flatter again and our horses got a well deserved break from all the climbing, although they probably didn't really need it. Once again we were absolutely impressed how fit and surefooted they were. We continued along wide hiking trails until it slowly became windier. In the distance we could see a steep cliff and the excitement of the view that awaited us grew. And what can I say.. We were not disappointed. The view was absolutely stunning!!!
The entire way back led us along the cliff and we all stared continuously down the slope, on the one hand because the height was somewhat intimidating, but especially because the view was simply overwhelming. The weather was perfect, the horses were incredible and the view was a dream - it couldn't get any better! Except for the gallop on the beach of course, which we reached late in the afternoon. This time we split into two groups of three. It's just more fun to gallop in small groups, because the last rider definitely eats less sand that way... It was a fantastic feeling - we were flying along the beach and the two kilometers we had chosen to race were covered in seconds. It was just unbelievable fun to overtake each other and to feel how the horses had the joy of their lives!
On our last day climbing was on the program. The goal was to ride over the mountain range we had been looking at since we arrived. This meant that we wanted to climb three mountains up and three mountains down again - and when I say climb, I mean climb. The first climb was quite relaxed, again we rode through beautiful Mediterranean pine forests, rocks piled up left and right and around us it was already blooming in all colours. Here and there we got into a flock of sheep that wanted to follow us for some reason, which annoyed the farmer quite a bit, because he had to run after us and had quite a struggle to gather his sheep!
When the trails became wider and a little less flat again, we took advantage of that for wonderful canters uphill - I enjoy these canters the most because they are just so comfortable and you feel the power of your horse under you like never before. And of course the horses were not tired, even the steepest routes didn't seem to bother them. The descent was so steep that this time we even dismounted and led our horses down. Actually, a real path was no longer visible, so we went cross-country down the mountain with our horses. The horses led us rather than the other way around - they knew exactly what they were doing, which was not necessarily the case for us riders...
Safely arrived at the bottom, we went up the second mountain, where a really fantastic lunch spot awaited us after the ascent. We were surrounded by pure nature, had a beautiful view of the mountains and heard nothing but the chirping of the birds. We unsaddled the horses, tied them up in the shade and fed and gave them water and feed. After that, it was our turn to relax. All over the clearing we relaxed on blankets or in camping chairs, enjoyed a fresh salad and cool drinks followed by a long nap.
When it went on to the second part of the ride, we decided to change the route again at short notice (the plan is no plan here!). We didn't feel like climbing anymore, we rather wanted to gallop on the beach for the last time. Fortunately, our guide was very spontaneous about it. So off we went to the beach. It took another two hours, but it was definitely worth it. The sun was already low and the light was beautiful as we rode through the dunes towards the sea. It was the perfect ending to the perfect week: the sun was just setting, the sky was already glowing orange and we were galloping along the beach towards home.
Most of our group stayed in Turkey for a few more days after the horse riding holiday. Some of the horse riders went on to Cappadocia and Istanbul, the perfect complement for such a trip. And according to their stories, it's highly recommended!
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