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Join Odysseia Stables for a week-long horse riding holiday in Greece on the island of Crete! This intensive program teaches the new rider the English riding style in a very direct approach. At the end of the course, the rider is able to walk and trot independently (feeling secure on and around the horse), make an easy outside trip, tack the horse independently, and make a start with the canter. From experience, Odysseia Stables knows that sportive riders even learn to canter independently.
Airport transfer available:
Heraklion International Nikos Kazantzakis Airport (US$58 per person)
You will be accommodated at Odysseia Stables' equestrian hotel, Country Hotel Velani. Every day, there is a service of room cleaning and towel change at the Country Hotel Velani. Every once a week, the sheets are changed as well. You can also have a free use of sunbeds. Reception, café, and restaurant have opening hours. The moment you arrive on the hillside, you will experience the serene quietness and the tremendous panoramic view. Under the hotel, stretches the Langada Valley with the Apposelemis River crossing through.
Above Country Hotel Velani, rises the red-colored peaks of the Dikti mountains. Birds of prey, like the griffon vulture, glide along these peaks. The estate is surrounded by protected kermes oak forest and olive groves stretching down to the valley. On the estate, many protected trees and flowers can be found, such as a different type of beautiful orchids. The hotel suits its surrounding as it is built with real natural stones collected from the land it stands on, giving it a robust and natural look. The hotel has a neo-classic style creating a romantic atmosphere for long summer nights.
The main building houses the reception and a café with a large balcony on which you can drink your Greek coffee or rakí. In the main building, you can also find Restaurant Veláni with its large terrace overlooking the riding place and the valley. Next to the main building lays the naturally formed large swimming pool that is 100 square meters in size (130 to 160 meters deep) with a separate and lower situated children’s pool of 11 square meters (40 centimeters deep).
The 12 hotel rooms are grouped into two bungalows, each housing six rooms. The bungalows lay quietly separate from the main activities. The rooms are large and comfortable and all have a tremendous view over the valley. Each room has a large bathroom with bathtub. The rooms have central heating and air conditioning (both included in the price), a fridge, a flat screen TV with international channels, a hairdryer, a large glass door of two meters, and a private balcony or terrace. Most rooms are equipped with a wood stove (the wood is not included in the price). There are three types of rooms including Grand Comfort room, Panorama VIP room, and Family Luxury room.
The Grand Comfort room is a two-person room that sleeps one to three persons. The total room surface is 23 square meters. The room has a terrace with private garden and a bathroom with toilet and bathtub.
The Panorama VIP room is a three-person room that sleeps two to four persons. The total room surface is 29 square meters with a balcony. The bathroom has a bathtub and a separate shower cabin. The toilet is housed in a separate room.
The Family Luxury room is a four-person room that sleeps two to five persons. This room actually comprises two Grant Comfort rooms that are connected with a connecting door.
This beginner course holiday is for riders who have never ridden before or have ridden horse occasionally before.
Upon arrival, you will be welcomed at Country Hotel Velani. You can take a dive in the pool and then have an evening dinner at Restaurant Velani. There will be a briefing about the trail route.
You will start with a private horse riding lesson in which the teacher holds the horse on a lunge line. The horse is not wearing a saddle but a vaulting surcingle and pad on which the new the rider can hold. The lesson focuses on finding balance, rider position, leg aids, and sitting the trot without hands. If the rider has a good balance, a few strides of canter are practiced. This lesson will take 30 minutes.
There will be a 30-minute private lesson and 30-minute theory group lesson. This is a private lesson in which the instructor holds the horse on a lunge line. The horse is wearing a saddle. You will learn the basic body position with stir-ups, sitting trot with and without holding the saddle, and you will also focus on riding the rising trot. All the riders will have a group lesson in the stables on handling, grooming, tacking, and brushing the horse.
You will have an hour of group lesson with the other starters. This is your first time of independent riding in a small group. You will learn how to hold the rains, steer and stop the horse. You will practice the use of the lags aid as learned before on the lunge. You will also learn how to make the horse listen to the rider. Before the group lesson, you will learn how to brush and tack the horse. Each rider prepares their own horse with the help of the instructor.
You will enjoy an hour of group lesson confirming the learned skills of the last day. This lesson will increase the time of riding in trot and also make turns or stops in the trot. In this lesson, you will do some games, like slalom race, mounting race, etc, to improve the learned skills and make the pushing lacks more effective. Today, everybody takes their own horse out of the stable, brush it, and tack it independently while the teacher corrects the mistakes.
Today is the first easy outside hack into nature with walks and some short trots, sometimes even already a small canter. You will enjoy the scenery from the back of the horse. This hacking out will take about 1.5 hours.
Today, you will take another outside trip. This time, you will make a longer hack out with some longer trots. You will ride through Cretan nature and countryside full of olive groves. This will take two hours.
After having breakfast, you will depart from the hotel.
Odysseia Stables is a small friendly stable giving home to 18 horses. Due to the small character of Odysseia with a maximum of 10 horse riders a week, they are able to maintain a close and personal contact with the guests. The stables are designed in a way to be as close as possible to the physical needs of horses. The facilities include:
Odysseia Stables has high standards for their horses, facilities, and equipment. They use English saddles. Space, outside air, and contact with other horses are what give the horses joy, health, and peace. That is why not only the horses enjoy a large stable with an open turnout paddock, but they also have the possibility for social contact. Most of the horses are stabled in pairs in one large stable of 6.2 x 3.2 meters and the separations in between the stables are half open. The roof all around is openly giving the horses a constant flow of fresh air. Also, the top of the roof has an open construction leaving hot air to travel out.
You will ride on Arabic, thoroughbreds, and warmblood horses. These breeds have long breaths and never tires in a long distance riding. They are beautiful and well-trained holiday horses that are always eager to go and have a very relaxed mind. The horses are also sure-footed in the mountains and human-orientated. Especially for a novice rider, you will use reliable and easy horses to give them the trust and safety that you need. For the children, Odysseia Stables has a Welsh B pony - a real children’s pony. It is very sweet, safe, and with speed. All of the horses are friendly, well-cared, well-fed, and regularly trained and they all have an excellent condition for the long distance riding. The horses are ridden in English riding style but are easily handled with long rains.
This riding holiday will take place at the Odysseia Stables of Country Velani Hotel in Greece, in the middle of the island of Crete. The stable location is 40 kilometers east of the city of Heraklion. The stable is situated on a rural road, two kilometers outside of the village of Avdou, in the municipality of Hersonissos.
There is an 18-hole golf course located seven kilometers away from the hotel. The traditional Greek village of Avdou lies one kilometer from the hotel and has 250 inhabitants. Here, the time has stood still. The wide sandy beach of Anissaras lies 15 kilometers away while Heraklion International Airport (HER) is 40 kilometers from the hotel.
Crete, a Greek island in the sun surrounded by a clear blue sea and with mountains rising to 2.5 kilometers (8,000 feet) and a coastline with 1000 kilometers (650 miles) in length, makes a rough and wild landscape. The island is blessed with a warm Mediterranean climate, gorges and fertile plains. Here, there is still unlimited space to ride a horse in the peace and quietness of nature.
You can ride among a land dotted with olive groves and ancient sites holding timeless myths, take amazing paths way up into the rough mountains enjoying breathtaking views, swim in the clear blue waters, and dry at an abandoned beach. The visitor should be prepared for numerous nice surprises and a strong sense of daily life, as well as honest and warm hospitality. These characteristics need to be discovered not in the urban centers, but mainly in the remote seaside and mountain villages.
Situated in between three continents (Europe, Africa, and Asia) and conquered by many invaders have created an island rich in history with influences in the food and culture. In Heraklion, there is the ancient site of Knossos and the Minoan culture, the cradle of the European continent. Together with the pleasant Cretans and the Greek filotimo (hospitality), it is an island worth a visit.
The stay is on a full board basis at Restaurant Velani, starting with dinner on the first day until breakfast on the last day. Breakfast and lunch are served in between standard hours. Dinner includes a free choice from the menu and includes a starter, main dish, and salad. Please note that drinks and desserts are not included.
Restaurant Velani welcomes everybody who wants to experience the local healthy Cretan diet or Greek cuisine. The Cretan diet is famous for being healthy and the use of olive oil. The olive oil is Restaurant Velani's own produce by the olive grove of the estate. The restaurant serves all fresh home cooking with organically grown vegetables and fruit from their own gardens and makes use of local products from nearby farmers. You can enjoy a refreshing drink or Greek dinner after the ride at the terrace with a view of the riding arena.
Every Sunday afternoon, chef Manolis heats up the outdoor oven by burning wood from the restaurant's olive trees. When the oven reaches the right temperature, the wood is removed and the food trays are placed inside, then the door is closed with a paste of ash and water. The food is slowly cooked for hours, making them soft and juicy. For vegetarians, the Cretan kitchen offers a wide range of possibilities.
The Restaurant Velani opens all year from spring to autumn and on a daily basis when they have guests staying in the hotel. In winter, the restaurant opens on Saturdays and Sundays. If you follow a special diet, please inform Odysseia Stables with your reservation so Restaurant Velani can cater for you. Moreover, for groups, it is possible to make arrangements outside normal opening hours.
Please book your flight to arrive at Heraklion International Airport (HER). Transfer from and to this airport is available upon request. %The transfer is not included in the price and costs 50 EUR per trip (one way) with a maximum of four guests. If possible, you will share the transfer (and the costs) with other guests.
In case more guests can share a transfer, Odysseia Stables will inform you and you will share the price. Odysseia Stables' driver will be waiting in the arrival hall, near the exit door, opposite the desk 28, and holding a paper with your name written on it. In case of any delays or flight changes, please inform Odysseia Stables.
Avdou is not easily reachable by bus so if you want to arrive by public bus to Avdou, you need to be aware that bus only goes twice a week (Monday and Friday) between Heraklion and Lassithi Plateau. Departure from Heraklion is at 14:15 while the departure from Lasithi Plateau is at 5:45. Your bus stop is in Avdou, you can make a phone call from the village and Odysseia Stables will pick you up from the bus stop for free.
There is also a regular bus service in between Heraklion and Hersonissos. In the summertime, it goes every half hour. Odysseia Stables can organize a transfer from Hersonissos (the bus station at SPAR Supermarket) for 25 EUR one way. Also for traveling by bus from Agios Nikolaos to Hersonissos (regular bus service), Odysseia Stables can meet you at the bus station at the SPAR supermarket.
The transfer from the port in Heraklion can be organized. The transfer is not included in the price and costs 50 EUR per trip (one way) with a maximum of four guests. If possible, you will share the transfer (and the costs) with other guests. In case more guests can share a transfer, Odysseia Stables will inform you and you will share the price.
If you organize your own transfer, you have to be aware that most taxi drivers don’t want to drive the last two kilometers over the unpaved road to the hotel or they will count extra money for this. However, please make sure that the driver is willing to drive the last two kilometers of the rural dirt road and he / she does not charge you extra 10 EUR for the last two kilometers from Avdou to the hotel.