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This one-week riding holiday is designed for those who share Epona's passion for horses. The combination of "trail and training" is ideal for riders who believe that trail riding is one of the best ways to have fun, make new friends, and see Spain from another angle. During your stay, you can relax from the stress of modern-day lifestyles while devoting some time to improving your horse riding skills so that your confidence and enjoyment of horses will increase greatly over the week!
The Epona programs include accommodation in standard twin rooms for two people, sharing. For single occupancy, there is an additional supplement fee. You are ensured that you will feel at home in the comfortable and elegant, relaxed atmosphere of this warm and welcoming hotel, with its friendly and multilingual staff, who are available at all times, ready to make your stay within these ancient walls, a truly unforgettable experience.
The hotel is full of history, charm, and elegance while at the same time, comfortable and modern; and is located only 20 minutes from Sevilla Airport (SVQ), with breathtaking views over the fertile valley, the Vega de Carmona, all the way to the great river Guadalquivir 30 kilometers away, and the Sierra Morena mountain range behind. The name of the hotel comes from the Moorish term Alcazar, meaning "a fortified palace", and the Spanish, "reina", or queen; therefore, it is the queen's palace.
The building was originally erected by the Moors in the 13th century as a fortress adjunct to the Puerta de Cordoba, in an era when the town was one of the most important caliphates of Andalucia. After the Moors were pushed back to their last strongholds in Granada and Málaga, in Medieval times, the Christian kings of Castille also favored Carmona to fix their royal residence in the region.
Specifically, King Alfonso XI showed a fondness for the town and while the royal residence in Andalusia was the Royal Alcazar in Sevilla, he housed his favorite concubine, Leonor de Guzman, in the comfortable and impregnable Alcazar de la Puerta de Cordoba.
When he died of the Black Plague in Gibraltar, his only legitimate child, Pedro I inherited the throne but due to the constant disputes for the crown, that he had to suffer from his nine illegitimate half-brothers, he maintained Leonor as a prisoner in the palace until her death. He also favoured Carmona and built the Alcazar del Rey Don Pedro (now the Parador) as his royal residence.
However, as legend has it, during the 15th century, another King of Castile, Juan II, embarking on another war with the Sultans of Malaga and Granada, sought the safest town in the province to house his beloved queen and his heir and keep them nearby. He chose Carmona as the most impregnable town and the Alcazar de la Puerta de Cordoba as the safest and most comfortable residence for his family. From that time on, it became known as the Alcazar de la Reina.
The palace, totally restored in the 1990s in the original Mudejar style and refurbished in 2007, boasts spacious and elegant lounge areas and patios, an outdoor solarium with saltwater swimming pool, and a total of four different options for wining and dining, The Tabanco Restaurant, the Terrace Bar, the Tabanco Tapas Bar, and the official Guinness Irish Pub.
The rooms are ample, airy, comfortable, and very tastefully furnished. They all feature:
The center has an Olympic-size dressage arena (60x20 meters), a 42x22-meter covered floodlit school with sprinklers, one additional floodlit dressage arena (30x15 meters), one multi-purpose large arena (50x50 meters), and a lunging ring (20-meter diameter). There is unlimited "hacking" in the beautiful countryside. You can ride days and weeks without stepping on a single inch of pavement and
without finding a single fence or gate.
All Epona programs are based in an impressive 16th-century hacienda where the García family will make you feel totally at home. This program includes visits to Jerez de la Frontera (to see the famous Andalucian Stallions performing the show "Those Amazing Dancing Andalusian Stallions"), riding in Doñana Natural Park and the beach, and a visit to Seville on the last evening for a typical Flamenco dancing show.
Guests will arrive in the afternoon either using the complimentary pick-up service from Santa Justa train station at 4:30 p.m., by means of your own transport, or Epona can book a pick-up taxi service for you upon your arrival at either the airport or the train station. This has to be arranged well in advance and the fare paid in cash directly to the driver. The drive from the airport to the hotel is approximately 20 minutes and from the station, approximately 30 minutes.
You will then be escorted to your hotel in the nearby town of Carmona, one of the famous white villages of Andalucia. Carmona is the oldest, continually inhabited village in Europe, and as you stroll through the narrow streets of the old town, you will feel and breathe the spirits of ancient cultures (Iberians, Visigoths, Phoenicians, Romans, and Moors) in the innumerable examples of their architectural influence in the churches, towers, palaces, and mansions, as well as in the inherited customs.
After you are settled in, you may appreciate a dip in the pool, or perhaps discover the pleasures of the Spanish afternoon "siesta" after a tiring journey. In the evening, you will be joined at your hotel by one of the hosts, for a welcome dinner, where you will meet the rest of the members of the week's group and where you may clarify any last minute questions about the weekly program. After some friendly conversation, you are free to spend the rest of the evening at your leisure and to relax before the beginning of what Epona hopes will be an unforgettable week.
Mount up for the Old Hacienda Ride (now completely renovated), a relaxed hack around the immediate countryside through olive groves and eucalyptus trees. Depending on the season, you could see fields of sunflowers, wheat, and cotton, as well as melons and watermelons in late summer.
The ride takes you past impressive 16th and 17th-century Haciendas and Cortijos, which have stood there since the days when Cervantes rode these same trails, collecting olive oil taxes. After, return to Epona for lunch. In the afternoon, equitation lessons will take place when life is a little cooler. It's a great chance to improve your school work or dressage.
Have an early breakfast and pick up at the hotel at 8:30 a.m. for Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz, one and a half hour away by car. Jerez is internationally renowned for its production of sherry and brandy. However, the main attraction of the day will be the visit to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, an equestrian performance titled, "How the Andalusian Horses Dance"; there you will have the priviledge of seeing the magnificent Andalusian stallions at their best, at home in the breathtaking setting of their 18th-century palace and the riding hall.
They will be performing piaffe, passage, and the airs above the ground (courbette, capriole, etc,) in a spectacle of light, music, and color; comparable only with the famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Fernando is well known at the school and is good friends with many of the world famous riders. Vivi trained at this school for four years and frequently performed in the show. After, return for lunch at Epona, followed by lessons in the afternoon.
After breakfast and a quick transfer to the hacienda, mount up and set off across the country for the Roman Bridge. Depending on the time of the year, you could be riding through fields of sunflowers, wheat, cotton, oranges, or peaches, through olive groves with ancient trees still carefully tended and nurtured. It is a countryside where there are very few fences. A landscape rich with a patchwork of different crops, still rotated year by year as they have always been, with wide headlands of uncultivated land separating one field from another and providing a natural bridleway across the country with a variety of wildflowers, butterflies, and birds.
Along the way, you may come across the river, full and flowing in spring, cool and shallow in summer, a natural haven for wildlife with abundant vegetation all year round. Splashing through the shallows, terns, and grebes, you'll emerge at an old Roman Bridge and shady eucalyptus grove. After a break and a few photographs, ride back home for a late lunch and a lesson in the afternoon.
Today, you will set off early to the seaside village, where sturdy Spanish horses, all in Spanish-Andalusian cowboy tack (montura vaquera), will be waiting to take you on the beach ride. The ride takes you on an unforgettable route through the Donaña Natural Park bordering the national park of the same name, one of Europe's last true wilderness regions and one of the largest wildlife reservations in Spain.
The ride will take you over the golden dunes, brushing through fragrant wild lavender, rosemary, and thyme. The area is home to many species (some protected), such as fallow deer, boar, fox, lynx, imperial eagles, kites, vultures, storks, flamingos, and herons. You will ride down to the beach and then it will be time for the horses to get their legs wet and for those who want to, a canter through the surf. After the ride, head back to Epona for lunch and a lesson in the afternoon.
Set off across the open country for your last hack of the week, through olive and orange groves, past farmers working the land. How strange, in a region where there are no bridle paths that a horse can wander anywhere as long as you have respect for the crop? In all of Epona's years there, they have never had a farmer object to riders crossing his land; on the contrary, they are always pleased to see riders.
In Andalucia, everyone understands and loves horses. Eventually, you will arrive at the fields and then return to Epona for lunch. In the afternoon, after a well deserved "siesta", get changed into your city finery and get ready to hit Seville for a classical Flamenco show. The show features over 12 dancers of national and international fame, traditional singers, and wonderful flamenco guitars. After a short walk, arrive at an excellent restaurant providing both Spanish and international cuisine for the last dinner of the holiday and some superb Spanish wine.
Epona offers complimentary transport to the airport and train station. The first trip is at 8 a.m. and the last will be at 11 a.m.
Epona welcomes families as they have some ponies and small horses, however, you must be reminded that the program is essentially designed for adults and there are a few points that you should be aware of before you book in with children. Epona primarily takes into consideration the other adults taking part in the program. Also, the children’s program will vary slightly from the adults’.
Young children spend more time in classes and take shorter trail rides, according to their ability. It is also encouraged for them to take part in the practical care of their pony. The beach ride is not suitable for children under the age of 12 and participation in this ride will be decided after Epona have assessed the riding ability of older children. They do not have specific entertainment facilities for children, only those provided for the adults.
They cannot guarantee a child minding service while parents are off riding, though they do their best that they can and if children are left in their care, parents can be sure that they will be well supervised.
The immediate countryside allows for miles of open, slightly rolling land in which frequent trots and canters will be possible. Fast gallops are not possible, as Epona does not have a turf. You will be riding through fields of wheat, sunflowers and olive groves, and orchards of orange and peach trees.
This peaceful sight, where the only sound you will hear will be the horses' hooves, the birds, and the breeze rushing through the wheat will let your mind roll back to when the Romans cultivated this land 22 centuries ago and when Cervantes rode these same tracks, when collecting olive oil taxes; you will be riding in a different direction every day so the rides are varied.
One of the rides will be in the Doñana Natural Park, one of the largest natural reservations in Europe. Here the terrain is very different to the land around Epona as you'll be riding through sandy dunes where the air will be scented by lavender, thyme, rosemary, and the nearby ocean. You will be walking through the dunes and then you'll reach the virgin beach of "El Asperillo", the best spot for a trot and a long canter.
However if you don't know how to trot or canter or you don't wish to do so, you will be taken on a separate ride where you'll go at the pace in which you're comfortable. All ride leaders are fully qualified and speak fluent Spanish and English.
From it's origins in Ancient Greece with Xenophon, until the present times embodied in the four European Schools of Equestrian Art, Classical Dressage has evolved into different styles but always maintaining the same goals, to achieve beauty and perfection in the performance of dressage and High School movements, only possible through harmony, balance, and complete communication with the horse.
Classical Dressage went beyond admiring the rider for his courage and skill as a soldier and gradually started to appreciate other talents such as feeling and sensitivity; elevating horsemanship to a new level, horses began to "dance" and Dressage gained the status of a new form of Art. Comparable to Ballet, it requires the technique and strength of an athlete but also the sense of feeling and aesthetics which, when performed correctly, will succeed in moving the spectator.
At Epona, there are horses and instructors prepared to cater for guests of all levels, from complete beginners to advanced riders. Groups are formed so as to keep the levels similar and usually are of two to four riders.
The excellent facilities, including a largely covered school, will make your lessons more enjoyable. The Epona instructors are qualified by the British Horse Society, the Association of British Riding Schools, and the Spanish Equestrian Federation, which means that they are trained to always have the horse and rider's safety at heart.
Over the years, the knowledge gathered (having trained in Dressage under many masters of various nationalities) has allowed them to form their own training and teaching techniques, which keep the pupils' learning and enjoyment, is the main priority, as well as safety and the horse's wellbeing. Their aim is to pass on the knowledge acquired, keeping in mind the principles and objectives of Classical Dressage.
Beginners will benefit hugely from the lessons because although things are kept simple, you will know that your basic skills will be correct and solid, enabling you to pursue whichever discipline you choose down the road. At a more basic level, lessons will focus on the rider's balance, seat, position, and control, while at the same time gaining confidence in the three basic gaits, walk, trot, and canter.
The horses are the most important thing for Epona; they are the ones who truly make this equestrian vacation something unique. At Epona, threre are over 60 horses of different breeds, shapes, sizes, levels of training, and temperament. With this large number, they can match each guest with the ideal horse for the trail rides, dressage, and flat-work lessons. Please note that although there are many horses, Epona keeps groups of guests small.
Most of the horses are Andalusians or Andalusian crossbreeds but they have lots of other breeds such as Warmbloods (Hannoverian, Holsteiner, and Oldenburg), Anglo-Arabs, Thoroughbreds, different breeds of ponies, and others. Most importantly, they would like to emphasize the good nature and willingness of these horses. There are no kickers or biters and besides their training and work, they think they are all special in their own way; they are all individuals, and so they are treated as such. The horses are a part of the Epona family.
BHSAI and Graduate of the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art in Jerez. She gives the majority of the classes and is responsible for the organization of the rides.
All breakfasts are included in the price of your Epona program; also included is the welcome tapas supper on Sunday evening. Lunches will be served at Epona and will consist of freshly prepared and homecooked meals, combining mainly traditional Spanish dishes, which will give you a taste of the renowned Mediterranean diet; with some international dishes and a selection of delicious homemade desserts. In addition, a variety of fresh salad ingredients and fruits are always available.
Epona can cater to most diets including vegetarian, gluten and lactose-free, etc. The evening meals from Monday to Friday are not included in the price. On Monday to Thursday, you will find innumerable dining options in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, from elegant restaurants to tapas bars with tables in the street.
In the hotel alone, there are five possibilities, including room service, if you just feel like having a quiet night of rest. About two blocks away from the hotel, you can find the city's hub of socializing where families meet in the evening for coffee, tapas, or ice cream. This is the Plaza San Fernando, popularly known as the Plaza de Arriba (the Upper Square) or la Plaza Redonda (the Round Square).
Flamenco Dancing Lessons with a professional dancer.
Epona is located between the beautiful cities of Seville, with many tourist attractions and spectacular monuments, and Carmona with its rustic charm and ancient pedigree. The cities of Cordoba (one hour away), Ronda, and Granada (two hours away) are ideal for day trips.
Epona can arrange grammar or conversation lessons with a qualified teacher.
A professional masseuse will help with your back and bones after a hard day of riding; you must book in advance.
At Sevilla Airport (SVQ), you can hire small planes for an hour. An official pilot must command the plane only for landing and taking off. You can enjoy the rest of the adventure.
Around Seville, there are five golf clubs where you can practice your favorite sport all year round. Epona can arrange reservations and transport. If you have your own car, they can provide directions.
Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport
Transfer not provided
Transfer not provided
Transfer not provided
Take the A-4 Motorway Madrid - Cadiz towards the South. Approximately 10 kilometers after passing Carmona, after "KM 519", take the next exit sign, posted "Los Nietos". Drive up the bridge and turn right when you get to the top and keep going for about 200 meters until the road forks, take the right and you will find the Epona entrance after approximately 100 meters. It's also possible to arrive by regular train, fast train, or bus.
Follow the signs for the A-4 towards Cordoba or the airport. Once you are on the N IV Motorway, drive approximately 20 kilometers out of Seville, then take the exit at KM 519, sign, posted "Los Nietos". Drive up the bridge, turn left at the top and cross over the motorway then drive for about 200 meters until the road forks, then take the right one and in about 100 meters you will arrive at the Epona entrance.
Epona offers complimentary transfers at pre-set times. Arrivals on Sunday, the scheduled pick up is 4:30 p.m. at Santa Justa train station. Departures from the hotel on Saturdays to the train station or airport is scheduled at 8 a.m. and 11 a.m.
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