Verdict: Such a luxurious, laid-back way to spend some outdoorsy quality family holiday time; with drop-dead gorgeous accommodation, responsive horses and lots of thoughtful touches, this well-run place is one of a kind.
We loved: just kicking back cowboy-style, playing cards in the posh safari tent, learning about Western-style riding, getting to know the gentle horses, sending the kids to the honesty shop, watching the cheeky goats, Butch and Sundance….
Hints and tips: Book early, especially the riding!
What we loved
1. The accommodation
As an ex-rider I’d been seeking somewhere so lovely it would persuade the rest of the family to love horse-riding for years (truth be told, after struggling way too many times with skiing and canoeing I was keen on any holiday activity I might actually be able to do better than Garry!) so when a friend told me about Loose Reins I hit Google immediately to seek a space in one of their 3 safari tents. Luckily, I was able to squeeze us in for what turned out be a glorious August bank holiday weekend.
THIS was our view the first evening, from possibly the loveliest stoop ever. No wonder we were instantly smitten.
I do have a soft spot for glamping, in fact I think I’d go so far as to say it’s my favourite type of
camping accommodation. You get all the advantages of camping — fresh air, simple living and stunning locations, but without the uncomfortable beds, the noisy fellow campers, or the schlep to the loo. These safari tents are astonishingly thoughtful, from the fluffy bedding, designer wood-burner and drench shower right through to the quirky additions, like the ‘Uh Oh, We’ve Got a Bleeder!’ tin of plasters.
The 3 tents and 3 smaller cabins are spaced out around the horses’ field, so we went to sleep and woke up to Yogi, Cookie, Chica, Tommi, Pickles, Ace, Red and Scout doing their quiet horsey (or, in Scout’s case, pony) thing. Of course, we all had our favourites, and one of the best things about our stay was the sense of closeness that we quickly developed with our favourite horse / pony. From our tent we could see the stable, and had a good view of the arena too, so felt properly embedded in the riding and horses — all useful for my cunning plan to get the family hooked!
2. The horses and the riding
We booked the Western riding experience, which demonstrates how these amazing quarter horses are trained in the round pen just through body language and voice. Michelle the wrangler showed us how it’s done and then the kids had a turn. Watching these big beasts being controlled by small people simply twitching a rope or shifting their body was pretty impressive!
The mission to learn to love riding continued with some time in the arena learning how to steer (pretty sure that’s not the right word), turn, trot and all sorts of other challenges. Happy to report more success here — a fun and positive approach and obliging mounts meant the kids really wanted to have a go.
3. Cycling (and blackberry picking) in the nearby countryside
With the help of a map and some guidance from the friendly Loose Reins gang we managed a couple of fabulous bike rides. And, like all the best bike rides, both ended in a nice pub for a meal and game of cards 🙂
3. The ‘other stuff’ (including 2 goats, one shetland pony, one delightful honesty shop, one cowboy cookout and several horseshoes)
We really enjoyed the laid-back vibe of Loose Reins, where mostly you’re left to make your own entertainment, with the help of good kit, efficient organisation and plenty of guidance and support if you need it. The kids loved playing a bit of horse-shoes, visiting the goat and horses, pootling off to the quite decadent honesty shop (I’m pretty sure we broke all previous records for amount spent on cold drinks / bacon / beer / ice creams / biscuits) and the main event — the cowboy cookout and campfire —was a lovely way to finish our ranchers’ weekend.
I suppose the best way to judge the success of this trip is against its initial aim. Was the mission to get everyone riding a success? Yep. Were we all taken with riding cowboy-style? Most definitely! Has it led to more family riding? It has. In fact, three of us have already been back, and I’m hoping for another whole family trip in the coming months, too. Yee hah!