For a start, booking some riding as a tourist in France is rarely easy. Many places do not respond to emails, phone messages or carrier pigeon and over the years I’ve tried several places who have all retained a stony silence. The Ranch des Baous was different however - I quickly received a friendly and encouraging response from the owner, Anne Condesse (who runs the stables with her partner Michel Condesse).
The stables are located in the foothills of the Alps and, for a tourist from the East Anglian fens, the drive up there is pretty steep! The venue was easy to find with google maps (not all of them are) and there unobtrusive yet visible signs pointing the way. The road is wiggly and narrow so take it steady!
|Anne + horse!|
Jacques taught me to ride in a very different style to that which we use at home. In the UK I’m always taught to keep my hands low - perhaps because I ride one-handed, and it’s a good way of controlling that arm, but I think most people are taught to keep their hands low here. Jacques encouraged me to ride with my hands higher and higher and although it felt very strange to me I can’t deny that it had a lovely effect on Saga! We spent quite a while working on getting a good, rounded outline on the flat in walk, trot and canter. Saga was clearly very well-trained, responsive and eager to please.
|Little collage of me with Saga|
Throughout my lesson, Jacques checked that I was OK and not struggling too much with pain or control. He also had full awareness of Saga’s needs: it was a hot day and he made sure she had plenty of time to rest in the shade while we talked. We spoke in a mixture of French and English but there was probably more English than French going on as my French equestrian terminology is limited!
|Found these guys on the Ranch website and they were too cute not to include!|
|Before my hack with Source|
At the end of both my lesson and the hack I was able to untack the horses, brush them down and turn them out with their friends. It was lovely on the hack to see their different characters: mine had a habit of scratching her tummy on the undergrowth whilst another lady’s was a really greedy character and an opportunistic eater! After the horses were settled we flopped for a bit in what I suppose is a clubhouse, where there was ambrosia in the form of lovely, chilled water and squash to drink - a nice touch!
1 hour private lesson €50 (approx. £44)
2 hour hack with two other riders + instructor €55 (approx. £48)
|Pony pit stop!|
- Horse health/wellbeing - 5
- all the horses looked very well and it was clear that Anne and Jacques were always thinking about their comfort. Riders were encouraged to help in caring for the horse before and after the ride.
- Friendliness of staff - 5
- they were just lovely!
- Accessibility - 4
- fairly easy drive to get there; not very easy for a wheelchair to get around the site but I don’t think you’d expect it to be - I used crutches. The site isn’t huge which makes it easier to handle if you can’t walk far.
- Ease of booking - 5
- I contacted Anne via email (initially through the website) and she responded promptly with all the relevant information. Email is my preferred booking method (yes, it's slower than the phone, but I struggle to hear properly with a phone and you have to be sure someone will be free to pick up!). The website also supplies landline and mobile numbers so you could use them if you prefer that to email.
- Value for money - 5
- riding isn’t cheap anywhere, and at this venue I had fantastic guidance and learned a lot - and had a lot of fun! You might be able to find some places a bit cheaper but I don’t think they’d be anything like the same quality.
- Suitability for tourists - 5
- Anne and Jacques speak excellent English so if you’re an English speaker that’s a plus. They also speak Spanish. They are friendly and welcoming to anybody.
- Suitability for beginners and more advanced riders - 5
- large variety of horses on offer (size and temperament), good facilities including 2 sand arenas, show jumps, and excellent tuition tailored to meet your precise needs. The hack out that I did would probably have been a bit tricky for complete beginners but there are plenty of other possible routes.
- Range of activities - 5
- Dressage, jumping and pleasure riding available to tourists. Many more activities (including competitions) running throughout the year for regular visitors.
- Anything else?
- Anne and Jacques took photos in both my rides and emailed them to me afterwards, which made a lovely memento. I will definitely return.
|Corto at 4 months playing with Caramel the Shetland!|
Find out more:
Ranch des Baous website (in French)
Information on the Mérens breed in French (breed website) and in English
Tourrettes-sur-Loup tourist information (in English)