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Horses on Ibiza
By Tanya Taylor
When you look around at the dry and dusty Ibiza terrain, it’s hard to imagine any kind of grazing animal being satisfied by the sparse greenery on offer. Nevertheless, one of humanity’s most loyal servants and faithful friends happily endures these arid conditions that are so different from its preferred lush, green pastures. Hidden deep within the countryside, resting under the shade of pine trees, tails twitching occasionally to deter the midday flies, you will find the ‘Nobel Equus’... known to you and me as the horse. These beautiful animals have found a happy home here on Ibiza, and just like in cultures throughout the world, “El Caballo” is held in high esteem on our island.
It’s believed that the Carthaginians first brought horses to Ibiza’s shores as far back as 2300 years ago.
Here they were spared a life of labour in the fields due to the character of the agricultural land that was generally made up of small stony terraces. Donkeys and mules, being more nimble-footed and hardy, were much better suited to Ibizan farm work, and the toil of turning the mills. Horses were used almost exclusively as a means of transport, and for their power in military operations during times of conflict. It’s for this reason that they were seen as a status symbol, and only the wealthier islanders could afford to keep a horse.
“Fiesta days celebrate Ibiza’s colourful history with horses”
For most of Ibiza’s history, horse and donkey carts were a very common form of transport that was perfectly suited to the complex network of dusty caminos. Even today, on lazy Sunday mornings, you may catch a glimpse of a local farmer happily trotting along quiet roads with his prized horse and cart. On special fiesta days, particularly the first Sunday of May in Santa Eulalia, the locals proudly celebrate their horses by decorating them in colourful bells, ribbons and bows, while parading them through the town in a lively fanfare. The traditional breeds that you find here are the strong and sensible Spanish horse along with the only breed specific to the Balearic Islands, the powerful black Menorquin.
However, over the past 50 years, as the island’s human population has diversified, so has the equine community. These days you’ll find thick-coated little ponies from the far-reaching Shetland Islands of Scotland living alongside champion polo horses from Argentina.
The therapeutic values of the horse have naturally been incorporated into Ibiza’s diverse alternative therapy scene. If you’ve ever been around a horse you’ll know why. Their huge presence is grounding, and their wise eyes seem understanding and sympathetic. For some, the simple act of reaching out to touch this powerful animal overcomes feelings of fear and boosts self-confidence. The healing nature of the horse is so profound that the Ibiza charity APNEEF has enlisted it to help their wonderful work with special needs children on Ibiza and Formentera.
Each week the children gather to interact with some friendly horses and ponies, under the supervision of a specialist. This Horse Assisted Therapy has proven to be beneficial for their physical, mental and emotional development. It improves the children’s capacity for independence, which ultimately leads to a better quality of life for them.
“Riding deepens your connection to the beauty of nature”
In Ibiza, you’ll find many options to enjoy the company of these majestic and ethereal animals. There are several riding centres on the island catering to every level of experience. Enjoy the rustic, untouched countryside accompanied by the soothing sound of hoof beats. In the winter months you can fulfil your wildest dreams of galloping freely along unblemished sandy beaches... the wind in your hair and not a care in the world.
Being on horseback deepens your connection to Ibiza’s magnificent natural beauty. This effect is particularly striking in the rolling hills of the north where you’ll find the most breathtaking and spectacular views. North Ride Ibiza offers trekking and sunset tours. They also have “wellness sessions” that encourage guests to explore the enrichment that horses can bring to life, apart from the traditional role of riding. For a little extra romance, Can Curreu offers rides across the valleys of San Carlos, with the option to relax and indulge in their idyllic Rural Spa and Restaurant.
If you’d like to try horse riding under the safety and supervision of a school, then Can Mayans in Santa Gertrudis is the one of the largest on the island, offering group and private lessons. Over at the Horse Country Club Ibiza, children can enjoy many engaging activities with horses including picnics, camping, full moon rides and arts & crafts. For those wishing to enjoy the impressive stamina of the horse from a safe distance, you can watch professional trotting horse races at the hippodrome in San Rafael. They are open on Sunday afternoons in the winter and Saturday evenings in the summer. Another spectator option is attending the exciting polo matches near San Lorenzo. The horse has always been a symbol of freedom… a symbol that encourages us to discover and pursue our wildest passions and desires. So it’s no wonder that these vibrant animals have found a place on this island of dreams, fitting in perfectly with the spirit of freedom that has drawn so many of us to Ibiza.
Even though Ibiza has relatively high standards of animal welfare, there are still some cases of abandonment and abuse. Luckily for mistreated horses, a woman named Svabodhi has been tirelessly providing love and salvation for neglected horses for 22 years. Known simply as “the sanctuary”, this humble operation is hidden away in the heart of the island. It’s a place where rescued horses are allowed to recuperate, and to live out their days in peace and safety. This registered charity relies on the generosity of donations. If you would like to contribute you can contact them on 696 603 847.