Are family riding holidays an option at La Luz ?
Yes absolutely, we love to have families here and we have horses and ponies to suit everyone.
There are 2 children in our family, now 9 and 15 years old so they are always up for helping out with some babysitting when required or just following their natural aptitude for making friends.
Our accommodation is perfect for families with 2 double bedrooms and a sitting room where you can eat and relax. We can put extra beds into 1 room to sleep 4 children. There is also a caravan which has been used by older children here with their families. There are also cooking facilities or you can order meals in advance to suit the dietary requirements of you and your children.
We have a full sized trampoline which keep them entertained for hours, plenty space for them to roam safely on adventures of their own making and mountain bikes for rent. During warm weather there is use of the swimming pool for part of the day. Our head groom Fern is great with kids so she can entertain or teach them while you can relax into your own horse experience. She is also available for babysitting so you can enjoy a romantic meal out, a relaxing trip to the local spa or just some quality couple time in the lovely countryside or this area.
You can also combine your riding / horsemanship with other activities in the area or sightseeing.
Do contact us with your ideas or questions and we can prepare you ideal family riding holiday or equestrian adventure.
We offer generous discounts for children.
Are horses good for personal development ?
“ there is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man “ Winston Churchill
Susan Harden has spent most of her life with horses. They have helped her meet the challenges life has thrown at her, especially through turbulent times. She has, over time, developed a sensitive, non -violent and caring approach to both riders and horses.
She has found again and again that the issues that people encounter in their work with horses mirrors those they find in their daily life, making it extremely effective personal development.
So we have developed the Touching Nature program to help humans find their way home, to nature, to their own truth and essence of being. In our high tech high speed world it is important to find a space where we can be at peace with ourselves and in harmony with surroundings.
Why use horses ?
Many people may be resistant to therapy and stuck in unhelpful patterns of behavior that are hard to identify honestly. .Studies show that working with horses can produce effective and long term change where often conventional therapy has been unsuccessful.
Horses can't talk, and don't need us to. Instead, they provide an honest reflection of human emotions. Their power, beauty and natural disposition to create bonds with humans help breakdown communication barriers and to build relationships based on trust, mutual respect and love.
Horses are totally authentic and intuitive. They live in the present, are non-judgmental and retain their connection with nature. Their communication is based on body language and their energy is clear, concise and straightforward.
What can we learn from them ?
The basis of training horses is about saying 'yes' or saying 'no', being real in each extreme and not holding grudges. So we learn to be open and loving with our 'yes' to be strong and grounded in our ' no' and not to let past experiences mess up the present moment.
On the physical level – we need to become aware of our body language and its influence. When we are angry our body tenses up and a horse will respond and feel threatened. When we are relaxed and present they will feel safe with us and us with them. This helps to teach people how to use all their muscles and organs in a healthy way, have a heightened awareness of themselves and their environment, helping them to become more grounded.
On the mental level – we learn skills to cope with relationships and frame emotions in language. We develop a sense of the consequences of our actions and our reactions, and experience how what you put in is what you get back out.
On an emotional level – we gain an improved sense of self, self esteem and self worth. We learn to trust and so develop the confidence needed for growth and healing old wounds. We can experience directly an openness to love and respect. We gain a sense of personal responsibility.
Horses respond to love more than anything and they do relight that flame which is in all of us. After all is said and done the one thing that heals pain more than all others is love. Horse help us to feel that we are loveable beings and once we learn to love ourselves we can then give and receive love in a healthy natural way.
“Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation “. - Rabindranath Tagore
The touching nature program is open to everyone, please contact us if you have any questions
Are there discounts for longer stays ? Any other discounts ?
Yes there is discounts for more than 1 week or short break.
If you take concurrent weeks the discount is 10% on the 2nd week and 15% on the 3rd.
If you like to make a package of 3 or more week courses or short break courses taken within a one year period every course will have 15% discount.
We also have a bring a friend discount which gives you 10% off your course when you bring a friend to join you on the course.
At certain times we have a special offer of free airport transfers, contact us to see if it coincides with your dates
Do I need previous experience to participate in courses or lessons ?
No previous experience is needed to take part in any of our courses or holidays. All the programs are designed to be experienced by each student on the level they are at that time.
We pride ourselves in our ability to give you the learning experience you need by being aware of where you are coming from. In this way everyone has an illuminating experience whatever their level.
We have horses suitable for all levels including some very laid back equines for beginners or those wanting to build confidence.
Initiating beginners into the wonderful world of horses is a pleasure which the horses enjoy as much as we do.
Some of our guests have riding experience but no official training or are self taught. Their experiences here tend to be like fitting lots of pieces of a puzzle together. A variety of personalities among their horses helps this happen.
For rides out in the countryside ( hacking ) some experience is needed but this is possible with complete beginners at the end of a 3 or 5 day course.
We have riding hats you can borrow and a limited selection of boots and jodphurs.
If you have any concerns or questions please contact Susan by e mail, skype or telephone.
How long does it take to learn to ride a horse ?
This is a question with many answers or perhaps no answer !
It is obvious that it depends on many factors including age, level of fitness, body awareness, flexibility, posture, trust and courage. Also the time and effort we are prepared to invest in our learning have a huge influence in the outcome.
Go for it !
The one who has the ability to trust in the horse and the teacher and go for it with an open heart will learn quickly. A person of normal physical fitness and a decent sense of balance can learn the basics to be able to ride out on a quiet horse in 2 lessons. ( I take that from my personal experience with students ). The one biggest stumbling block is fear. However, this is not to say that fear should stop anyone from trying. Here at centro ecuestre La Luz we specialize in gently working through the fears. In fact for those who are up for the challenge it is a great way to allow yourself to live your life more fully. That fear of horses is not the only fear holding you back. So we provide a safe and tranquil environment where you can gentle gain confidence with the horses on the ground before getting on board. By doing so you can increase your self-esteem dramatically. Learning new ways to make friends with the fear and practicing these with horses opens new possibilities in other areas of life as well.
Horsemanship is for everyone
I believe that we all have the inherent natural ability to be able to connect with horses and to ride well. It is not some magical thing of the chosen few. It is what we all have inside, sometimes we just need to “ redefine our potential “. If you could go back to being a small child you would sit perfectly balanced on a horse and be able to allow your body to move with the horse.( assuming the child’s development has been normal up till then). Over a lifetime we collect emotional baggage which is held in the body, have physical problems due to illness or accidents and get stiffer just because we are getting older. All of this means we have lost that ability just to go with the flow while maintaining a balanced posture. Therefore learning to ride is more a process of letting go and returning to nature than of acquiring new skills. This is one of the reasons we are attracted to horses – in their company we find the stillness and wholeness which we lack in our hi tech hi speed world.
A journey taken for its own sake
And what do we mean by ride a horse? To learn to sit on a horse doesn’t take long but to learn to ride so that we can influence the horse in a positive way takes much longer. Surely we owe it to these wonderful beings to learn to ride as well as we can so that we disturb them as little as possible.
How long ? Perhaps the answer to this question is infinite – the more learn the more you realize there is to learn. Once discovered, the finer point of equitation are an inspiring reason to go on with the journey. I believe we can always learn more. Endless possibilities ! It does sadden me to have owners asking me to train their horse while insisting that they can learn no more. I challenge them to redefine their potential, in being able to train your own horse you open a whole world of new possibilities .
Of course those who were lucky enough to ride as children have that feel for it and that is forever, only the confidence goes when we don’t ride often or suffer an accident. Many adults come to a time in their life where they have the time, money, space to fulfil a lifelong dream. I have taught many riders in their 50’s who never had the opportunity to ride as children. They have gone on to spend many pleasurable hours in the saddle and in the company of horses.
What is Classical Equitation, Riding, Dressage or Horsemanship ?
Here at Centro Ecuestre La Luz we are training horses and riders in the classical tradition.
Horsemanship which comes from centuries of study by great masters which has been handed down in literature, by word of mouth and by example in the fine equestrian schools of the world. It is based on love and respect for the horse and awareness of the importance of preparing him mentally and physically to carry a rider without impairing his natural movement and flow of energy. In fact an appropriate gymnastic training can even improve on nature.
Alongside the training of the horse the rider must strive to attain a classical seat, which is simply a correctly balanced natural posture. As only from this position can the rider guide the horse with sensitivity and timing while feeling the horses’ response.
In classical equitation there is no need for gadgets which force the horse into a position so creating tension and confusion. A tight noseband causes tension and pain, the mobility of the jaw is of utmost importance, for the horse to be light, relaxed, attentive and keep the energy flowing. Also a tight jaw means a tight back which will cause physical damage to the horse when ridden , the mobility of the hindquarters is directly linked to that of the jaw.
Of course we must remember that the same goes for the rider – tension held in the jaw blocks the seat’s ability to accompany , prevents the legs from hanging loosely out of the hip joint which disables their effectiveness as aids and leads to stiff arms, hands and fingers preventing the delicate feel on the reins.
Alongside the ridden work we do lots of groundwork which is an invaluable aid in training horses and riders, and especially in retraining.
For the rider it gives a chance to observe how the horse moves, how the back works, the head carriage, freedom of shoulder, engagement, rhythm and sensitivity. Also to develop equestrian tact and knowledge of the gymnastics.
The horse learns relaxation, rhythm, flexibility, acceptance of the aids, to collect and round himself, to carry himself forward in balance, to bend and move latterly, to rein back and to mobilize himself without being affected by the weight of the rider.
Both learn to work in lightness and harmony.
Groundwork includes - Loose schooling, lunging, long reining, work in hand and flexions
Warning – groundwork, especially work in hand and flexions , is very delicate work which should be learnt from an experience person. When badly done it can put the horse on the forehand and at worst make him over excited and fearful of the whip.
There are many excellent books on Classical Equitation so no need to go into depth here, suffice to say that study of these works is essential coupled with a long practical experience . There are no short cuts, it is a path for life, a journey to be enjoyed and experienced in its totality, done for its own sake, for the love of the horse and the art.
What is Equienergetics ?
Equienergetics is our own inovative training which we use throughout all our work here at La Luz.
It has been developed by Susan to help students be more aware how their energy and posture affect the horses from the ground and in the saddle. Then to learn how to use this new information to create a deeper , authentic and natural connection with horses. Practicing this work help us to reconnect with our intuition, aliveness and live in the present moment – of course horses are excellent role models for all of these !
The exercises of deep breathing, grounding , stretching, centering and feeling the vibrations in the body can be done by everyone and are also helpful to general wellbeing because we increase our energy, spontaneity , unity and integrity. We do exercises on the ground, with the horse at liberty and when appropriate mounted.
Horses are authentic and total in all they do and will respond positively to humans who are harmonious in their being . This gives us a unique opportunity to be more attentive, mindful and conscious in all that we do. Through this work we can increases our energy and aliveness. Horses also inspire us to connect with our own power , grace and beauty, qualities which we admire in them. They also help us to awaken all of our senses.
When we are riding we can help our horse tremendously by being aware of the flow of energy and feel of our core as there is where we join the horse when mounted. Being fluid and vibrant in our mind and body allows the horse to move in a graceful way unhindered by the rider and guided with the subtlest of signals.
The bodywork part of the training is based on Bioenergetics ( as defined by Alexander Lowen ) helping us be more in touch with our body and aware of tensions so we can begin to release them . Bioenergetis is a dynamic form of therapy combining work with the body and mind to help people resolve their emotional difficulties and realize their full potential for pleasure and joy in living. Body and mind function identically – what we think affects how we feel and visa versa but on a deeper level both thinking and feeling are conditioned by energy factors. To have more energy makes us feel more alive which in turn ups our energy and so the circle goes on increasing. It is also a way of understanding the personality in terms of the body and it’s energetic processes.
What is natural horsemanship ?
For our horsemanship to be natural our humanness should be natural , then we can make a connection which is authentic and total.
Through horses we can be more in touch with our own intuitive nature, grounded and centered as human beings which will also enhance our whole experience of life.
If we are not aware of ourselves we cannot expect the horse to understand us or feel good being in our company.
While learning to connect with a horse, who is a purely intuitive being, we will learn to be quiet and still in the present moment and authentic in our communication. Luckily for us horses are extremely tolerant of our human clumsiness which allows us to learn from him along the way if we pay attention to the feedback. He has no hidden agenda so it is back to us to take total responsibility
Connections can be seen in all aspects of horsemanship, sometimes you see a combination who are totally connected, harmoniously moving as one, with a communication so subtle it is invisible to the observer and that is natural horsemanship. So, much more important than the equipment we use or don’t use is the connection we create with the horse, it is not so much WHAT we do as HOW we do it.
To make this natural connection with the horse it is obvious that we need to communicate with him on his level. For this to be possible we need to raise our awareness especially of our unconscious actions as we are continually giving him signals whether we mean to or not. The horse reads our body language and emotions which of course are both related to our thoughts. As we become more in touch with all our senses we can react with appropriate sensitivity and timing, so often problems arise in training horses just because we are doing much too much.
The ability to connect with horses is not some magical thing, we all have the inborn ability to connect with nature, after all we are a part of it, were born out of it, which is in turn part of why being around horses feels so good. So it is more a process of unlearning all the bad habits we pick up over our life, working through the physical stiffness and blocks in fluidity and harmony within ourselves to get back, energetically, to the fluid natural being we were at birth.
What is the area around La Luz like ?
Centro Ecuestre La Luz, home of live and breathe horses is set in farmland 7km from the Andalucian town of Álora on the province of Málaga in southern spain.
The main crop is wheat , chickpeas and sunflowers are also planted later in the year. The orchards are mainly olive but there is also oranges, lemons, pomegranates and avocados . The land is also used to graze cows, sheep and goats.
To the north is the Sierra de Agua ( mountains of water ) which has pine forest and many species of wild animals and birds including mountain goats, eagles and wild boar. We often ride in these mountains as it is a short 20 mins on horseback from our center. Beyond that is the area of El Chorro and Ardales Natrual Park, famous for climbing, caving and its beautiful lakes and walks. The highest point is 780meters
To the south lies the Guadalhorce Valley with its river of the same name meeting the sea in Malaga some 35 km away. The valley is fertile land full of orange and lemon orchards. This was traditionally the main income of the area. There is a beautiful film on youtube from 1964 all about Álora, really charming and worth a look. It is called The Children of Álora - if only life still moved at that pace !
To the west is the Sierra de las Nieves ( mountains of the snows ) national park with it’s highest peaks reaching over 1,900meters. It is an area of outstanding natural beauty, silence and tranquility. Beyond that is the town of Ronda famous for it,s old bullring and spectacular dramatic gorge.
To the east is the town of Álora and beyond that a mountainous area known as Los Lagares due to the vineyards that once doted it’s hillsides. Today it is mostly growing Almonds, olives and grazing sheep. There are many mountain villages in the area including Almogia, Valle de Abdalajis, La Hoja as well as the famous landmark “ ermita de las 3 cruces “.
In general the land is dry and some years when little rain falls in consecutive winters we can have water shortages. Recently however we have had an abundance of water.
Our land is bordered by two adjoining streams and there are lovely nature walk to do all around.
What is the weather like at La Luz ?
Statistically Málaga has over 300days of sunshine a year.
We are in Álora, a small mountain towm 35km to the north of Málaga where we offer riding holidays, horsemanship training, natural and classical and all in all amazing equestrian adventures.
Temperatures go from an average low of 7 to high of 18 in the coldest months , December and January to a low of 21 and high of 35 at the hottest time of july and august. As we are inland the temperatures in august can go to 40 so we have this month to give ourselves and the horses some time off. For most of the year the temperature is very pleasant, even in the depth of winter when the sun shines and there is no wind it can easily go over 20.
Rainfall is most likely in November and December, unlikely in may and September and very rare in june, july and august. In general the climate is very dry and it is unusual that it rains all day or that we go more than a couple of days without seeing the sun.
Seasons - Here in Alora it seems we have just summer then spring. It gets very hot for 4-6 weeks mid summer and the land takes on the look of a desert. The trees around here are olive, pine and eucalyptus so we miss the typical signs of autumn. We have the first rain usually by the end of October bringing the dormant seeds back to life so that by Christmas the grass and the wildflowers have started to grow again. There is no winter season where nature shuts down to rest.
Daylight hours – the shortest days at midwinter we have daylight from 8am till 6:30pm and the longest days in late june from 6am till 10pm. In the hottest time of the year we take advantage of the cool in the early morning to ride. The summer evenings are balmy and tranquil with full moons being perfect for night riding to really escape the heat of the day.
Light – Andalucia is famous for it’s luminous light which really will light up your life and lighten your life.
Each month the countryside has its own unique beauty so anytime is a good time for a riding holiday or training course at La Luz Probably the best months for warm but not too hot and little chance of rain are april / may and September / October. Of course in april and may there is still some signs of spring around whereas later in the year the land is dried out from the summer heat.