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This is a seven-night dressage program that culminates with four private dressage lessons with Olympic Silver Medalist, Rafael Soto. Guests will be immersed in the day-to-day riding and training that goes on at Epona. It’s a great chance to get a real feel for the sensitive Andalusians and Iberian horses and to learn more about them. Depending on your ability, you will get the chance to feel many of the advanced dressage movements such as Passage, Piaffe, Pirouettes, Flying Changes, and, of course, Spanish Walk.
Your accommodation is in a four-star hotel, complete with a swimming pool, nestled in the nearby medieval town of Carmona, one of the famous white villages of Andalucia.
Epona's excellent bespoke training facilities include irrigated indoor and outdoor schools and exercise track, which help lessons be dust free and more enjoyable, especially through the heat of a Seville summer. The indoor arena is 20 meters by 60 meters and boasts a top-level competition standard sand and fiber surface to further enhance the quality of your riding experience.
The stabled horses are housed in a purpose-built American barn, with generously sized stables, complemented by a wash down and farrier areas, tie-up stalls, tack, and feed rooms, etc. The barn is surrounded by paddocks accommodating the trail ride and retired horses as well as stallion turnout pens and staff accommodation. Everything is to hand which helps to create a professional and yet very positive environment for both the horses and staff.
Guests enjoy a welcoming and spacious guest lounge and dining area. The adjoining terraces are centrally located, meaning it is possible to watch lessons in both the indoor and outdoor arenas, whilst sitting on the terrace, if you so wish. There are guest lockers and shower rooms which are especially welcome during the warmer months. There is also an outdoor unheated swimming pool and patio area, where you are welcome to spend time relaxing between lessons if you wish.
As the famous saying goes "Mi casa es su casa" ("My home is your home"), and that is how Epona hopes you will view Hacienda Blanca Paloma during your stay with them.
The accommodation for all the Epona programs, and full buffet breakfast, will be included at the Alcazar de la Reina, a beautiful four-star Superior category hotel in the heart of the historic and monumental center of the old part of the city of Carmona, just a few minutes' drive away from the Hacienda.
The hotel is full of history, charm, and elegance while at the same time comfortable and modern, and is located at only 20 minutes' distance from Seville International Airport, with breathtaking views over the fertile valley, the Vega de Carmona, all the way to the great river, Guadalquivir, 30 kilometers distant, 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 prisoner in the palace until her death. He also favored 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 2018, boasts spacious and elegant lounge areas and patios, an outdoor solarium with a salt-water 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 and feature:
It is possible to upgrade the room status to a superior or deluxe double room, junior suite, or suite. Please contact Epona for details if this is of interest to you. Please note that a credit card number will be requested by the hotel at check-in, to cover additional expenses.
Epona is sure that guests will feel at home in the comfortable and elegant, relaxed atmosphere of this warm and welcoming hotel, with its friendly and multi-lingual staff, who are available at all times, ready to make your stay within these ancient walls, a truly unforgettable experience.
This program includes six group lessons (group lessons are typically made up of two to three riders of a similar level) and two lunge lessons, all designed to help you get the most out of your four private lessons with Rafael Soto.
During your stay, Epona also includes cultural excursions to the heart of Seville, to view a flamenco show, and the world-famous horse show in Jerez entitled "How the Andalusian Horses Dance", all whilst staying in one of the most beautiful medieval towns in the world.
This program offers an unrivaled combination of six shared dressage lessons, on highly trained Spanish horses, two lunge lessons, and four private lessons with the world-esteemed Olympic silver medalist, Rafael Soto, all alongside the culture and heritage that makes the Andalusian region of Spain so special.
This is a unique program that will not be found anywhere else. This program is only run over pre-set dates and has a maximum number of five riders per clinic, as a result, early booking is highly recommended.
The "Dressage Clinic with Rafael Soto Program" is ideal for riders who have an elementary understanding of dressage to advanced dressage riders. Rafael is not only a superb rider and trainer of horses, but he is also a highly skilled teacher of riders. Rafael has a great eye for detail, he knows all the Epona horses extremely well, and his positive teaching style brings out the best in all his riders, regardless of their current abilities.
This program is designed for those who have a great passion for Dressage and who want to progress their ability and understanding in a safe and supportive environment. Typically, the "Dressage Clinic with Rafael Soto Programme" riders are adults with no upper age restriction who are passionate about learning more about Classical Dressage.
Many participants have visited before, often on the "Trail and Training" or "Intensive Dressage" programs. Many others are first time guests to Epona, who want an unrivaled dressage experience and who have a desire to take their pleasure or competition riding and knowledge to the next level.
Who in the dressage world has not heard of the Spanish Olympic Team Silver Medallist Rafael Soto? His charisma has earned him the respect and popularity of Dressage enthusiasts and fellow riders alike, the world over. That final gesture and enthusiastic "There you have it", followed by the flamboyant Spanish Walk performed by his partner "Invasor" as they left the competition ring became their trademark and provoked uproars of applause and attracted audiences, wherever they went.
What most people don’t know is that the spectacular "Invasor" was a difficult horse in his youth and was rejected by other riders as "impossible to train" due to his immense size, strength, and laid-back disposition.
After winning his first National Championship in 1994, with "Flamenco", he was chosen to form part of the National Dressage Team, representing Spain in the 1995 European Championships. From that date on, he has continued on the Spanish Team, going from strength to strength with his two partners, first "Flamenco", then "Invasor", both Pure Bred Andalusian stallions.
Rafael’s most important successes in Dressage competitions are:
The Garcia family feels privileged to count Rafael as one of their dearest friends. His talent around horses is well documented but what many possibly don’t know is that he is a man full of humor, integrity, and empathy.
"We feel honored that he chose to collaborate with us here, at Epona, many years ago now, and so many clinics later, he has confirmed our impressions that he is a truly gifted trainer, mentor, and clinician." - Fernando Garcia Carvajal
The establishment is world-renowned for its depth and quality of classically trained, yet kind and generous, Spanish horses. At Epona, they enjoy the luxury of having both horses and instructors, who between them, are capable of training guests of all levels, from advanced competition riders to beginners.
As a result, you will enjoy the group and private dressage and lunge lessons, that are both informative and safe, in purpose-built training facilities, alongside like-minded people, from around the world.
The excellent bespoke facilities include irrigated indoor and outdoor schools and exercise track, which helps make your lessons dust free and more enjoyable, especially through the heat of a Seville summer. The indoor arena is 20 meters by 60 meters and boasts a top-level competition standard sand and fiber surface to further enhance the quality of your riding experience.
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 as the main priority, as well as safety and the horse’s wellbeing.
They aim to pass on this knowledge, keeping in mind the principles and objectives of Classical Dressage, regardless of whether to a pleasure rider or a professional rider.
Guests arrive in the afternoon and settle into their hotel, a former palace, once the residence of a medieval queen, which is nestled in the heart of the breathtakingly beautiful medieval town of Carmona. In the evening, you will be joined at the hotel by one of the Epona hosts, for a welcome dinner, where you will meet the rest of the week’s riding members.
After some friendly introductions and 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. Welcome to Epona!
After breakfast at the hotel and a quick transfer to Epona, you will have a short guided tour and a chat with the instructors. Your first group lesson will be an assessment for your instructor, who will note your good points and the areas which need to be worked upon. It is also the first chance for you to get used to your horse and the more sensitive style of riding required for the Andalusian and Iberian horses.
Today, you will also have the first of your lunge lessons which offer a wonderful opportunity to improve your seat, balance, and posture. Once the morning lessons are over, relax with a book on the terrace or in the comfortable guest lounge. You are also more than welcome to stay and sit by the arenas and watch the daily training of the horses.
Meet the rest of the group for lunch in the beautiful dining room and enjoy your first experience of typical Andalusian home cooking and sample the excellent local house wine.
Early breakfast and pick up at the hotel at 8:30 a.m. for the drive to Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz. Jerez is internationally renowned for its production of sherry and brandy. However, the main attraction of this day will be the visit to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, and to see an equestrian performance titled "How the Andalusian Horses Dance".
Here, you will have the privilege 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.
Vivi Garcia trained at the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre for four years and frequently performed in the show. Her mentor and trainer for the final two years is Rafael Soto.) Please note, the additional cost for the Jerez trip and the "How the Andalusian Horses Dance" performance is 29 EUR. Return for a late lunch at Epona.
Group dressage lesson.
As the week progresses so will your dressage, performing more advanced movements and to a higher standard. Today, you will have two group lessons (morning and afternoon) and you will be working on some of the exercises you will encounter during your Rafael Soto sessions. This is so you are fully prepared to get the very best out of all four of your private lessons with him.
Once your lessons are over, feel free to stay and continue observing the daily training of the geldings, mares, and stallions, from young and green to very advanced. Epona also trains the schoolmasters regularly to keep them sensitive and in good shape so that guests can enjoy and get the most out of their lessons with them. Lunch at Epona.
Group dressage lesson. Today, you will also have your second lunge lesson. By now, you will have a good understanding of the importance of a secure and balanced position. This second lunge lesson will allow you to work on any areas that need improving and will set you up nicely for your final two days of dressage training with Rafael Soto. Lunch at Epona.
After a relaxing afternoon back in Carmona, get ready to visit the historical heart of Seville. Here you can visit the tack shop, always a highlight and after a quick walk around it is then time for a classical Flamenco Show. The show features dancers of national and international fame, traditional singers, and wonderful flamenco guitar. This Flamenco show is optional and has an additional cost of 35 EUR.
Alternatively, stroll the streets around the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the palaces and mansions that are a part of this world-famous city. The photo opportunities are endless and you will be spoiled for choice. There are also many shops and cafes in the city center, so there’s a lot to do before it’s time to meet up with the others for dinner.
After the show, it is a short walk to the typical Spanish night market where you can choose your own meal, from a range of Spanish and International cuisine, accompanied, of course, by some superb Spanish wine.
Two private dressage lessons with Olympic silver medalist, Rafael Soto. Depending on your ability, you will be performing the more advanced movements with improved confidence, knowledge, and technique today. You will be able to watch the other lessons, which gives you yet another learning opportunity, all helping to make this a very informative and enjoyable day, all the while alongside like-minded and supportive fellow riders. Lunch at Epona.
Two private lessons with Rafael Soto. This is the day you will be able to consolidate everything you have worked on during the week, under the ever-watchful eye of Rafael Soto. As Rafael knows the Epona horses so well, his four lessons will be progressive and relevant to your individual needs. Today, he will help you get the best out of your horse and, most importantly, yourself.
You will then be presented with the Epona "Intensive Training and Dressage Clinic with Rafael Soto Diploma" while you toast with delicious Spanish cava. You will then view the video of one of Rafael’s most legendary rides, aboard his impressive PRE Invasor on his way to winning his Olympic medal.
Rafael’s commentary during the projection of this video is an experience in itself! Afterward, it’s time for goodbyes and last minute pictures of your new Epona friends, animal, and human. Lunch at Epona. Enjoy at your leisure the last relaxing evening in Carmona.
Epona offers complimentary transport to the airport and train station. The first trip is at 8 a.m. and the second will be at 11 a.m. If you require a different departure time or day from the hotel to the airport or train station, please let them know, and they can organize a taxi for you. You will pay the driver in person and the transfer time is usually less than 25 minutes to both the airport and the station. Have a safe onward journey and we look forward to welcoming you back!
A large number of highly trained horses and well thought out programs, enable to accommodate beginners through to advanced riders.
The qualified instructors bring a wealth of riding and training experience to the lessons.
Personal and close attention from the García family will make you feel like a valued guest and friend.
Top class facilities (including a covered arena) and ancient trail riding routes are complemented by luxury accommodation in the medieval town of Carmona.
The programs combine riding with the historical, cultural, and scenic experiences the unique location offers.
They enjoy an average of 300 days of sunshine.
The only riding holiday center in Spain officially approved by the British Horse Society.
They offer 35 years of uninterrupted experience in hosting and training riding holiday guests from around the world.
Epona is world-renowned for its depth and quality of classically trained, yet kind and generous, Spanish horses. Epona owns a large number of horses to offer to guests. They have around 30+ horses presently in work with guests, this number contrasts with the small groups they host at Epona, which normally, on average, are of six to eight riders.
They find that this large number is necessary not only to cover the needs of the variety of riders that come to Epona, from beginners to advanced dressage riders but also that this large number will ensure the horses are well-rested and never overworked. This, they find, is key in keeping them happy in their work and consequently, willing and light.
In addition to these 30+ horses working in the programs, they always keep a small number of younger horses in training who will join the team in the future. At Epona, they retire all horses once their working days are over. As a part of the family, to them, they must live their last years in an environment they know feeling safe, cared for, and valued. It is the least they can do after a life service.
Rafael was born in Jerez de la Frontera, where horse tradition is very strong, in 1957. He is a dedicated horseman who has been training horses and riders all his life. He becoming a Balearic Regional Champion in that discipline in 1982. In 1987, he obtained his Spanish Instructor’s Qualification and returned to his native city to pursue his equestrian career. Rafael is the Director of the Royal School of Equestrian Art in Jerez and trained the international Spanish dressage team.
Carmona is the oldest continually inhabited town 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, Moors), in the innumerable examples of their architectural influence in the churches, towers, palaces, and mansions, as well as in the inherited customs.
Carmona is one of Europe’s hidden gems and is a destination in its own right. You will never tire of wandering the streets and will discover that its timeless beauty changes from sunrise to sunset, and then at night. Carmona takes on a magical glow that will leave you spellbound. With at least 56 small cafes and bars, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
All breakfasts and lunches are included in the price of your Epona program. They also will be offering a welcome dinner on the first evening (Sunday), so the only meals not included are dinners from Monday to Friday (and Saturday if you are participating in the Rafael Soto clinic).
Lunches will be served at Epona and will consist of freshly prepared homecooked, combining mainly traditional Spanish, dishes, which 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 fruit are always available.
Epona can cater to most diets including vegetarian and gluten and lactose-free, etc. The evening meals from Monday to Friday are not included in the price. From 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 a quiet night resting. About two blocks walk 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).
Yes, the wonderful cook can cater for the normal diets of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, low sodium, etc. However, they do not cater to special diets like Halal or Kosher.
Flamenco dancing lessons with a professional dancer
Flamenco guitar lessons
Flamenco singing lessons
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 masseur will help with your back and bones after a hard day of riding. You must book in advance.
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.
There are several cycling companies that hire bikes and organize bike tours in the area.
Doñana and the village of El Rocío with its famous Basilica is only one hour away.
Transfer not provided
Epona offers complimentary transfers to and from the Seville train station at pre-set times.
If you prefer to travel straight to your hotel from the airport, please let Epona know and they can organize a taxi for you. You will pay the driver in person and the transfer time is usually less than 20 minutes.
8 a.m. first transfer and 11 a.m. last transfer. If you require a different departure time or day from the hotel to the airport or train station, please let Epona know and they can organize a taxi for you. You will pay the driver in person and the transfer time is usually less than 25 minutes to both the airport and the station.
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