Tag Archives: French riding holidays

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.

 

 

5 of the prettiest villages and towns to visit during your French riding holiday

French riding holidays
The picturesque streets of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Lot has some of the prettiest towns and villages in France, perfect for a visit during your riding holiday.

Here are our top 5:

Visit the narrow, picturesque streets of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. In 2012, it was voted ‘The Favourite Village of the French’ and has been awarded the status of being one of the most beautiful villages in the country.

Part of the village is a listed monument, and it is an excellent village to wander around on foot.

The streets are lined with buildings made from golden-coloured stone. Many are charming craft shops or art galleries.

Art-lovers should visit the Rignault Museum, named after the painter and collector who was the site’s owner in the early 20th Century. It has temporary exhibitions of contemporary and modern art alongside the museum’s own collection.

You can also visit its impressive Gothic church built in 1522.

The village clings to cliffs 100 metres above the River Lot, and there are impressive views.

Look for the lock and mill of Aulanac, and the villages of Tour de Faure and Calvignac.

You can get fine views of the village itself by walking up the Peyrolerie.

Walk down to the river, and you can stroll along the tow path next to the river – a path which was carved into the rock face in 1847.

Look out for the beautiful reliefs carved on the rock walls of the towpath. They were created in 1985.

Along that towpath, you’ll come to Bouziùs.

It is known for its fine suspension bridge spanning the river between impressive cliffs.

It’s a busy base for tourists taking trips along the river – an excellent way to see local villages. It is also a wonderful base for anyone looking to explore nearby caves.

Walking under fortifications created during the 100 Years War, you’ll leave Bouziùs under the “Castle of the English”.

Nestled in the heart of Cahors vineyards, the medieval village of Puy l’EvĂȘque clings to a rocky promontory overlooking the River Lot.

Wander around its lanes and steps and spot its historic sculptures. There are streets named after its medieval trades – nail makers, dyers, and boatmen.

Walk down to the old quayside which was once abuzz with industry. At the top of the village, there is a 13th Century tower and the church of Saint-Sauveur, which dates to the 14th and 15th Centuries. Explore its Gothic nave.

You can take a boat trip or watch local ceramics being made.

Cahors is a town built by medieval merchants and bankers.

It has an impressive bridge, the 14th Century Pont Valentré fortified against the English in the 100 Years War, which has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site.

Cahors also has many medieval townhouses.

Its cathedral has a Roman-style entrance, attractive frescoes, and a cloister.

The Museum Henri-Martin tells the story of the town’s history in its artefacts.

Cahors is in wine country, so you will be able to buy excellent local wines, and it is famed for its beautiful gardens.

In Villefranche de Rouergue, founded in 1252 by Alphonse de Poitiers, there is a chequerboard network of streets all leading to the main square in the tradition of Bastide towns.

They were built on commerce and their position near the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella.

There are arcades which are topped by Renaissance and Gothic houses. Visit the impressive Notre Dame Collegiate Church and the nearby Carthusian monastery completed in 1459.

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

 

 

 

Meet the MĂ©rens, a horse with a unique place in French history

French riding holidays
Our MĂ©rens horse Mollie.

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

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 MĂ©rens 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, MĂ©rens horses are used primarily for riding and carriage driving.

The breed standard says a MĂ©rens 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 MĂ©rens history

The MĂ©rens 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 MĂ©rens horses registered with the stud book and a reported 2,000 animals of MĂ©rens 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 AriĂšge mountains.

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

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

Many MĂ©rens 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 MĂ©rens an at-risk breed.

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

There are now MĂ©rens 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 MĂ©rens as horses rather than ponies.

 

Our MĂ©rens 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.