Category Archives: The French Experience

Why should you book a French riding holiday in June? Here are 3 excellent reasons…

Riding holidays in France
A bee orchid

There’s something very special about the Lot Valley in June.

The fields are bursting with colour and life, and the temperature is balmy. So, here are three excellent reasons to book your riding holiday in France then:

  1. You’ll spot beautiful orchids

Plant-lovers will be amazed at the range of wild flowers in bloom in Lot during June. The area is famed for its wild orchids including:

Military orchid – a small, purple orchid which blooms on the roadside in the Lot Valley. Look out for this from mid-May onwards.

Greater butterfly orchid – lovely white flowers which look like small butterflies, growing in a V formation. They love sunny woodlands.

Lesser butterfly orchid – a beautiful white orchid found in wooded areas and blooming from May onwards. Can be distinguished from the greater version because the flowers are parallel.

Woodcock orchid – grows on verges and roadsides and is often mistaken for the larger bee orchid.

Bee orchid – a soft, pink flower which is seen in meadows and pastures in June.

Man orchid – a rare bloom found in the High Causse and in flower in June.

Red helleborine – grows on the edge of woods and flowers between April and June. Look for these flowers in the Foret de Braunhie.

Dark red helleborine – a rare flower which comes into bloom in late June. Look for it in rocky limestone in the High Causse.

Chalk fragrant orchid – a pink flower with a lovely scent, look for it in grasslands in June.

Common spotted orchid – flowers well into June. This flower loves chalk grasslands so look for them in fields and meadows.

Frog orchid – a rare bloom with a green-brown colour which makes it hard to spot. Look for it in open woodlands and fens throughout June and July.

Heath spotted orchid – a flower found on acidic soils including peat bogs and marshy pastures which is seen in June.

Bird’s nest orchid – lives in leaf litter in beech woodland and comes into flower in May and June.

  1. You’ll enjoy pleasant weather

It won’t be too hot during your visit in June. The average temperature high is 25C and a night-time low of 12C. So, riding will be warm and comfortable – you won’t face searing temperatures. Plus, you’ll also be able to sleep well at night.

There is also an average of eight hours of sunshine a day. The climate here in June is balmy.

  1. You’ll see amazing butterflies and birds

The proliferation of wild flowers mean Lot has many butterfly and moth species which you could see in June. Look out for rare Swallowtails, Meadow Fritillaries, Glanville, the Adonis Blue, and the Provencal Short-tailed Blue in limestone country including the Causse. In forests, you may see the Camberwell Beauty, Lesser Purple Emperor, Cardinal, and Southern White Admiral.

The number of insect species also attracts a large number of birds – perfect for any ornithologist. Look out for a hoopoe, short-toed eagle, marsh harriers, kites, buzzards, and black redstarts.

Are you ready to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere of Lot in June? Click here to book your riding holiday in France.

 

 

Want to improve your riding or horse-handling skills? Discover our week-long intensive training course

Riding holidays in France
Get closer to horses and learn valuable skills with our intensive training

Have you hankered after a week-long experience which would allow you to spend as much time as possible with horses?

If so, our intensive training week would be an ideal experience for you. It’s back by popular demand in 2018 after two courses in May and September 2017 and will help you learn about horse care, bonding with your horse, and riding skills.

For the week starting May 5, 2018, we’re offering you our all-inclusive, bespoke intensive riding workshop holiday.

Alongside the long, leisurely rides for which Château de Laumière is famed, you’ll receive a one-to-one training programme which we tailor specially to your individual needs.

You’ll be able to spend the entire day handling and working with horses.

This is ideal for riders who want to learn more or those who want to improve their confidence.

For some riders, a fall or a scare can knock that confidence in the saddle.

Our highly-qualified riding instructor Tanya will help you overcome your fears. She is calm, sympathetic, and has years of experience.

The intensive course will give you valuable skills including:

  • Groundwork – the basis of riding and handling skills, with lunging, join-up, long-lining, and work on the ground.
  • Dressage – our manege is the perfect place to learn and hone dressage skills, especially if you’re interested in competitions.
  • Jumping – always wanted to jump but have never learned how? Perhaps you need a refresher after a break of several years. Come to our intensive course where our experienced instructor will show you what you need to know.

Whatever you need, we’ll tailor our course to help you. It’s all about helping you to enjoy horses and riding.

Our course is for all levels of rider, not just those who are very experienced, and you can attend whether you own your own horse or not.

It’s about developing your skills the way you want to take them. Whatever you want to do more of, we’ll help you achieve that.

We’ll be offering the usual morning ride, with intensive sessions in the afternoons.

Our intensive training week always starts with Tanya discussing the group’s needs, them formulating the training.

You’ll enjoy the beautiful countryside, riding trails free of traffic, authentic local cuisine, and relaxing atmosphere, too!

Meet our horses…

We have a horse to suit every rider – from traditional French Mérens horses to thoroughbreds.

Here are a few of them:

Hope – An Arab/Mérens cross standing at 14.3hh. A beautiful horse with a wonderful character.

Ursala – A beautiful Heinz standing at 14.3hh. A safe, comfortable, and kind horse.

Rocco – A Portuguese standing at 15hh. Bags of character and a sense of fun, but a safe ride.

Chico – An Andalucian standing at 16hh. One of our most popular horses, who loves our visitors.

Atila – A Lusitanian standing at 16.3hh. Likes to show off skills in dressage.

Nao – A Mérens standing at 15hh. A sensible and comfortable horse.

Would you like to book a place in our intensive training week? It’s worth doing so soon – they tend to go quickly. You can contact us here.

7 great reasons to book your next riding holiday in France before Christmas

 

Rising holidays in France
Give your horse-loving relative or friend the best Christmas ever

Wondering what to buy the horse-lover who has everything this Christmas?

Look no further! Organising a riding holiday in France for 2018 would be a wonderful surprise for them on Christmas morning.

Plus, if you book your riding holiday for 2018 now, you’ll get it at 2017 prices. It’s a win-win situation.

If you need more reasons to book, we’ve come up with seven excellent

  1. Our horses are one of the best reasons to book with us. Our Arab/Mérens cross Hope was born at the château, and she has a wonderful character. Ayva, our Selle Français, is hugely popular with our visitors and we have traditional Mérens horses Nao and Mollie, half-siblings who are excellent examples of their breed. We have Spanish, Lusitanian, Andalucian, sports ponies, and a thoroughbred. Each has their own distinct character, and there is a horse to suit every rider. From kind and calm horses and ponies to horses experienced in dressage and events, you can view our horses here.
  2. You’ll meet our foals! If your loved one loves horses, they’ll love meeting and interacting with our foals.
  3. Your horse-lover will be delighted with a special trip to such a scenic part of France. Lot has many tranquil riding routes in beautiful countryside, and you won’t have to worry about traffic in the way you do in some parts of the UK.
  4. There is plenty to see on our doorstep – from stunning walks along the river to visits to the prettiest villages in France. See our blog on some of the most beautiful villages in France here.
  5. You’ll find some of the best cuisine in France. From mouth-watering local melons to tasty local recipes, our château gives you a true taste of authentic Lot. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy it – we cook and prepare all your meals. Find out more about the cuisine here.
  6. We’re English-speaking owners who are fluent in French. We’re here to help you have the smoothest trip possible and our language skills could prove useful.
  7. You can book your surprise present online – there’s no need to fight through the crowds to look for something special. That’s a huge bonus when we’re all so busy.

Enjoy relaxation and a little luxury

Visiting our château is like stepping back in time.

It has the original central stone staircase and several wonderful examples of 16th Century fireplaces.

Set within a hundred acres of land, the château has breath-taking views, a swimming pool, a manege, and a cross-country course.

The stable block is also conveniently close to the house.

A riding holiday in Château de Laumière gives you relaxation, good food, and luxurious accommodation.

Ready to book your 2018 break? If you book before the end of December, we’ll fix it at this year’s price. You can check out our prices here.

The wonderful wildlife you could spot on your riding holiday in Lot

French riding holidays
You may spot a hoopoe

Whether you’re walking or on horseback, Lot is a wonderful place to see wildlife during your French riding holiday.

You could see all sorts of animals – from mammals and birds to insects and lizards.

The area has excellent natural habitats including woodlands, grasslands, and small areas along the River Lot where people once washed their clothes. They have now become mini wildlife sanctuaries, attracting all sorts of animals.

Here is some of the wonderful wildlife you could see during your stay:

  1. Roe deer, known as Chevreuil in France, are a wonderful sight for our visitors. At certain times of the year, you will see them grazing in the fields.
  1. You may be fortunate enough to spot a loirs, a large dormouse also known as the glis glis. Although their population is spread across rural France, they are not common.
  1. The rare putois, a polecat, lives off frogs and small mammals and has been found across France. You may be lucky enough to come across this nocturnal relative of the ferret and otter.
  1. Wild boar have been spotted across France. It is estimated there are two million of them in the country, and they tend to congregate in areas where agricultural land meets woodland.
  1. Pine martens, known as martres in French, live in woodland across the French countryside, and you may well see red squirrels – now a rare sight in most of the UK.
Riding holidays in France
A praying mantis
  1. There is a wealth of insect life including the praying mantis, green scarab beetles, Be crickets or cri-cri in French, grasshoppers, bees, wasps, and moths and butterflies such as swallowtails and hawk moths – especially the humming bird hawk moth.
  1. You may well see some lizards. Small brown lizards are relatively common, skittering around in the undergrowth. Although salamanders are rare, you may spot them. Treat them with respect – they are a protected species.
  1. The bird life of Lot is rich. You’ll probably hear owls, including the Scops owl, cuckoos, and nightingales during your stay. You may spot marsh harriers, black redstarts, buzzards, or kites, and some visitors have reported seeing short-toed eagles flying above the limestone cliffs near Rocamadour. Many are keen to see a hoopoe, a small bird with an exotic look which is the size of a mistle thrush. It’s distinctive pink-brown body and crest, black and white wings, and black, downcurved bill make it simple to spot. These are rarely seen outside the very south of the UK, but are far more common in France.

Is it time to book your next riding holiday in France?

If you book next year’s stay before the end of December, we will fix it at this year’s price.

You can check out our prices here.

Think of all the beautiful wildlife you could see in a stunning, relaxing part of the world.

 

 

Love the great outdoors? There’s so much to do in Promilhanes during your French riding holiday

Holidays in France
Try kayaking or canoeing to see the great outdoors in Lot

Whether you’re a horse rider looking to make the most of your time in Lot or countryside lover holidaying with an equestrian, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors.

From getting around on bikes or on foot to enjoying drifting along the River Lot in a kayak, here are some of our suggestions:

Hiking

For an easy 4km walk which takes an hour, take a 30-minute drive to the village of Arcambal where you will discover the banks of the Rover Lot, the village, and the medieval castle. Find out more here.

You’ll find an intermediate walk 5km away from Promilhanes in Limogne-en-Quercy.

The Malecargue Fountain Circuit is a 10km walk which takes three hours and 15 minutes.

It starts outside the Maison des Associations, a large white building, and the route takes you through the hamlet of Mas de Charrou where there is a distinctive dovecote tower.

You’ll also see the Bouzou fountain, an old windmill, and the Malecargue fountain.

The route also gives you the opportunity to spot the flora and fauna of Lot. Find out more here.

For stunning views and a five-hour, 50km walk, take the path from Arcambal to Saint Cirq-Lapopie, then follow the towpath carved from the cliff face to Bouziès and back to the start.

Or, you could cut the time and length you walk by starting and ending your walk in Saint Cirq-Lapopie.

Find out more here.

Talk to us about local walks around our base in Promilhanes.

Cycling

The Lot Valley is paradise for cyclists.

The countryside is beautiful but less busy than the popular Dordogne to the north.

There are several fine cycling routes near Cahors, which is a 40-minute drive away from Promilhanes, and from Lamothe to Saint Cirq-Lapopie, where there are stunning vistas between rocky outcrops and the chance to visit the small towns of St Gery and Vers before ending the tour in one of France’s most beautiful villages.

There are options to suit all levels of cyclist – from those who prefer a sedate ride to thrill-seekers who are looking for off-road cyclins and hilly routes. We have many parents or partners of horse riders who like to explore the countryside on two wheels. Ask us for our recommendations for routes close to our base.

Kayaking or canoeing

At nearby Villefranche de Rouergue, there is a water sports centre which offers kayaking and canoeing on the Aveyron.

The site also offers boat hire and boat tours of the river which offers gorgeous scenery along its banks.

The Averyron river offers 300km of navigable white water, with sports including rafting and canyoning also on offer for the adventurous.

The Célé Valley is also a popular spot for enjoying the river – along with its attractions to potholers.

The River Célé joins the River Lot at Bouziès.

Talk to us to get the local knowledge you need to plan your river trips.

Is it time to arrange your next riding holiday in France? Book here.

Meet the Mérens, a horse with a unique place in French history

French riding holidays
Our Mérens horse Mollie.

If you’re looking to ride a sure-footed, hardy, and docile horse, look no further than a Mérens.

Also known as Ariégeois ponies or Cheval de Mérens, the small horses are native to the Ariégeois and Pyrenees mountains of the south of France.

Always black, the Mérens can either be a small and traditional mountain horse, or a taller, more modern horse.

They were often used for farming and as pack horses because of their superior endurance, and were traditionally taken on a summer migration higher into the mountains – a practice which is being revived in the area.

Now, Mérens horses are used primarily for riding and carriage driving.

The breed standard says a Mérens should have an ideal height of 14.1 to 15.1 hands and a weigh 400kg to 500kg.

Their black coats can take on a ruddy tinge in the winter and foals can be born silver-grey, black, or coffee-coloured. Their coats become black as they grow.

Some may have small, white markings on their face.

 

Thousands of years of Mérens history

The Mérens breed is thought to have originated in prehistoric times, either from Iberian horses or Oriental horses brought to the area by settlers coming from the east.

There are records of small black horses in the area which go back to the time of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.

They have been associated with famous historic figures include Charlemagne and Napoleon Bonaparte. They pulled the artillery used by Napoleon’s Grand Army in its Russian campaign.

Smugglers used these horses to haul their ill-gotten gains through the Pyrenees, they were used by miners, and at the end of the 19th Century they had become known as light cavalry horses.

Widespread cross-breeding had led to decline in the pure-bred population. So, in 1908 a local agricultural society too charge of the breed, creating a registry in 1933 and a stud book in 1948 under the control of the French National Stud.

As machines replaced horses in French agriculture, the population declined disastrously, putting the breed on the verge of extinction in the 1970s.

Then, there were just 40 pure-breed Mérens horses registered with the stud book and a reported 2,000 animals of Mérens descent.

 

How hippies saved the breed

Hippies looking to escape the rat race and become self-sufficient discovered the breed when they moved to the Ariège mountains.

They resettled areas which had become depopulated and brought a welcome boost to the local economy.

They also started Mérens breeding programmes, just at the time there was a resurgence in interest in riding during the mid-1970s.

Many Mérens horses are descended from a semi-feral horse called Bonbon who was orphaned by an accident and raised on goat milk, returning later in life to his herd in the mountains as a prize stallion.

Numbers recovered to a reported 4,000 animals in 1985 and there are 600 pure-bred horses now in the stud book. There are now around 500 births every year.

One genetic study in 2008 however, still considered the traditional Mérens an at-risk breed.

The breed has become more and more popular. In fact, French magazine Cheval Pratique ranked the Mérens one of the 23 most beautiful horse breeds.

There are now Mérens horses registered in Italy and Belgium, and some are reported in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, India, and Tunisia.

In 1998, the French National Stud reclassified the Mérens as horses rather than ponies.

 

Our Mérens horses, half-sisters Nao and Mollie, are beautiful examples of the breed.

Both are docile and sure-footed – and ready to meet you!

Find out more about our horses here.

Are you ready to book your next French riding holiday? Book here.

 

Visit prehistoric wonders during your horse riding holiday in France

CAVEPAINTINGHANDCDLA painting of an ancient hand in the caves at Pech Merle.

Have you ever wanted to walk in the footsteps of our prehistoric ancestors?

During your holiday in the Lot department, you can do just that – and you can see paintings they created between 16,000 and 25,000 BC.

Take a trip to one of the most awe-inspiring attractions near Château de Laumière, the Pech Merle caves.

The site is one of the few in France with prehistoric cave paintings which remain open to the public.

The cave system extends over 1.5km from the entrance, down into an area where a river once carved deep channels and where prehistoric people lived.

The cave entrance had been covered by a landslip until the 20th Century, giving the system an airtight seal.

Then, two teenage boys discovered the paintings in the deeper areas of the caves in 1922.

Henri and Andre David Dutetre had spent two years exploring the cave system, encouraged by local curate and amateur archaeologist Father Amédée Lemozi.

The caves opened to the public in 1926 and were classed as a historic monument in 1952.

In the seven chambers of the cave system, the walls show hundreds of breath-taking paintings of reindeer, woolly mammoths, bison, horses, and humans.

Some of the most touching images are those created when our prehistoric ancestors blew ‘paint’ over their hands using a delicate spitting technique, creating outlines on the wall which we see to this day.

Fossilised footprints of children, who once ran through the then clay floors, have been discovered more than a half a mile underground.

It’s believed the cave system was used for shelter during the Ice Age.

The area would have had a climate similar to that of the Arctic now, and its animal species were very different to those found in modern-day France.

The geology of the caves is also fascinating.

Visitors can see how they were formed and eroded by water over many thousands of years.

You’ll also marvel at the stalactites and calcite pearls in this amazing cave complex.

The number visiting the system is capped to ensure there is as little erosion as possible and that changes in gases underground caused by people breathing out carbon dioxide do not harm the beautiful cave paintings.

Visitors are advised to wear appropriate clothing and shoes for the conditions underground. The temperature is 12 degrees Celsius. There is also a discovery centre at the site. Find out more here.

 

Visit spectacular caves and drift along on an underground river

You’ll see more of France’s geological heritage at the Gouffre de Padirac, considered the most spectacular cave system in France.

There, a steep descent takes you 103m below ground to a boat trip on a turquoise underground river with spectacular views.

You’ll also discover a 60m high stalactite hanging ‘by a string’, and walk to find the most impressive cave ceiling in France in the Salle du Grand Dôme.

The awe-inspiring ceiling is 94m high.

Visitors are advised to book tickets in advance because it can become very busy and to be prepared for stairs and lifts. Discover more here.

 

Step into a lost world in an old mine

A former phosphorous mine is another underground wonder in Lot.

The Phosphatiere du Cloup d’Aural, Bach, has been colonised by some surprising vegetation since the miners left the site in the 19th Century.

There are giant ferns and up to 13 different orchid species. It feels like walking through lush jungle.

The site’s fossils have provided a rich insight into the area’s prehistoric past.

Researchers have found more than 500 animal fossils dating back up to 34 million years. Visitors will learn about the prehistoric mammal the caducothère, which resembled a rhinoceros.

Visitors are encouraged to take a 50-minute tour of the site.

Find out more here.

 

Is it time for your next riding holiday in the South of France? Contact us today about availability http://www.chateau-de-laumiere.com/enquire.php. There’s so much to see and do on your trip.

 

Two Upcoming Events for Riders

Own Your Own Horse Week – 27 May

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Do you ride regularly but not actually own your own horse?  Is it your dream or are you just curious as to what’s involved?  Well for week commencing Saturday 27 May you can make that dream come true for a week.  Take this opportunity to experience horse ownership in the most ideal surroundings with the reassurance that there is a knowledgeable team on hand to help if needed. Own a horse week enables you to to be as hands on with your four legged friend as you wish to find out what it’s really like to have a horse of your own.  img_20160503_084405

 

 

 

Training Week – 16 September

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Last year’s training week was a real success and we were asked to think about another one this year.  Well we did and scheduled it in for the beginning of May – it was full almost as soon as we advertised it and there has been interest shown in another one being added.  We have looked at the diary and can now say that we will offer this for week beginning Saturday 16 September.  If you’re interested do get in touch asap.

Some people mentioned that they were a little worried by the phrase ‘Intensive Training’ as they thought it meant it was only for very experienced riders so let me put your mind at rest over this because that really isn’t the case at all.  It’s more of a usual week with the opportunity to do extra training – riding, horse care, bonding with your horse or whatever you have problems with or want to do more of.  It’s for riders of all levels – horse owners or not – and as with all of our rides it’s tailored to you.  There is the usual morning ride then as an addition in the afternoons Tanya can help you to work on any issues that you would like help with.  She will talk everything over with the whole group at the beginning of the week and work out a program that fits and can be worked on through the week.  11870817_1787696334790436_6895041293615577366_n