Looking for somewhere to ride nearby, whilst staying in Coylumbridge, and with a moderate amount of experience thus looking for more adventurous as opposed to a plod, I arrived at Alvie, somewhat nervous having probably been over ambitious as regards my skills during my telephone call to the stables for fear of ending up on a bomb proof hack.
The two, professionally equipped and immaculately turned out Belgian gentlemen who were waiting when I arrived, disturbingly, to enjoy the same ride as myself, did nothing to allay my fears with their whiter than white jodhpurs and lengthy riding crops.
The friendliness of the staff however provided a welcome contrast as they sized me up and introduced me to George, my equine friend, at least for the next ninety minutes of “medium to fast riding” over gorse covered countryside and through dense forest “pathways”.
Excitement took over however as we set off (four of us) at pace and my hopes for a challenging ride looked like they would be well and truly met. Concentration was paramount as the exhausting ride took us through some of the most densely covered hillsides with random branches and streams and other obstacles to negotiate. Complete trust was placed in our verbal abilities and provided a very welcome and refreshing change from some past experiences and, I am delighted to report, my two Belgian compadres, did not ride as well as they dressed making me feel less like a cowboy and more like one of a team of adventurers with a common goal (staying on).
Superb riding in unbelievably beautiful countryside, when the short periods of trotting and walking allowed time to enjoy the extensive wildlife; deer, red squirrels, rabbits, buzzards and osprey and the views from the peaks of the Cairngorm National Park were too breathtaking for words.
Arriving sore but safe back at the yard, was not only a relief but a reassuring validation that my abilities hadn’t all been forgotten – an invigorating experience and definitely one to remember for a return visit when a burst of adrenalin is required.