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On Castles, Caves and the French Malbec Trail

To the drum of my horse’s hooves

In this travel exposé I am supposed to write of the itinerary of the french Malbec Trail…to describe the incredible, ancient french villas we slept in, to expound upon the minerality and subtle classic french flavor of the daily wine tasting and the visits to the vignobles, or ancient, millenniums old wineries. But this trip was not just about visiting wineries…it was about riding through a 500 year old vineyard to the beat of my horse’s hooves, with the spring sun slanting through vines just budding out…

So, I will leave that traditional travel exposé to others, and instead write about what is indelibly inscribed into my being after this week of riding through the beautiful Célé and Lot river valleys of south-western France…

Imagine lush green countryside…imagine thick-necked, spiky-maned, buckskinned, French horses…that come in fantastic colors….isabelle fonçé, café au lait, champagne and alezan brûlé. Each impeccably, dependably trained… Imagine passing those envious, traditional tourists, climbing out of their cars, watching, speechless, as you ride past, through the ancient, fortified gates of a cliff side castle, 800 years old. Imagine lounging in the late afternoon sun, drinking a beer, and watching your horses roll in the luxuriant grass when you finally reach your french Chambre D’Hôtes, or bed and breakfast. All of you slaking down the heat and sweat of a fine day galloping through the french countryside in your own species-specific ways…

Friends at home have told me…why would I spend money to ride horses somewhere ELSE, when I have these horses of my own here, to ride at home? I have an answer for that now…for this type of journey is about discovering a country on a human scale, one gallop at a time, far from the aggravations and crowds of traditional tourist travel. It is cave paintings dating back to 25,000 BC, of spotted horses running over neanderthal plains. It is hidden river valleys, ringed with hanging white limestone escarpments, studded with spectacular stone troglodyte dwellings, clinging to the cliff sides and promising more secret, painted caves yet to be discovered. It is learning new horses and new languages and drinking coffee and cocoa from steaming, peasant, country bowls in the homes of sweet old french couples. It is new friends from around the world. It is laughing at cultural differences and toasting cultural similarities. It is drinking in the flavor of the life we have always dreamed of to the drum of our horse’s hooves on cobble-stoned roads as they carry us to our next french villa, our next country cheese discovered, our next bottle of wine together, our next connection made.

I would call this the ‘trip of a lifetime’… but that is so wrong… A trip like this is just the beginning…once you are here, you will see that this is just the first journey of many that you will make, to reconnect and ride again with old friends, and to meet new friends around the world. Adventures like this are not once in a lifetime experiences…they are the living, galloping reminder that THIS is life…today…THIS trip, THIS horse, THIS shared laughter on the trail. Don’t miss it. Come and join us!

Author Teri Weronko

Ride review by Teri Weronko, DVM

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