During your stay at La Volée we can offer you various opportunities to interact with our eleven horses. Apart from the intial introductory session, these activities are available to guests as an optional extra.
We ask that if you wish to have contact with our herd, you ensure that you have health insurance which covers interaction with horses.
Our horses are friendly and people-orientated, but there are always some risks involved in a herd of different ages and sexes because of their changing dominance hierarchy – therefore we ask all guests to attend a short introductory session with one of us, to learn how to keep yourself as safe as posssible. We can teach you how to minimise risk – for example of being taken by surprise if a horse pushes away another horse. (We do keep some areas of the farm horse-free.)
Once you have been introduced to the herd and some essential safety rules, we would like you to enjoy their company and get to know them. A lovely way to bond with a horse is to have a grooming session – therapeutic for both of you! We can help you to take a horse out and show you how they like to be groomed. Many guests feel drawn to a particular horse and like to build a relationship with them during the course of the visit.
Spending time with an established, interrelated herd of horses is an unusual opportunity. “Horse watching” can be an interesting experience if you learn what to look for in terms of behaviour. Horses have their own body language with which they communicate with each other, and a good horse handler learns how to interpret and use this language themselves. Erica has a particular interest in herd dynamics, having learned from watching them in conjunction with reading Marthe Kiley-Worthington’s ethological study Horsewatch, and she would be happy to organise a session to share what she knows.
If you want to build your confidence handling horses, bespoke sessions can be offered, or you could sign up for one of our courses.
Natural horsemanship means different things to different people. We don’t subscribe to a particular method but practice the basic principle of teaching horses to yield to pressure. Our aim is to use the least pressure possible, so that the horse becomes sensitive to the slightest cue. We can give you a demonstration of this in both groundwork and ridden work (what they learn on the ground translates to ridden work). Again, we can share what we know – we aren’t clinicians, and we believe that everyone is on a journey to improvement, however expert they are or profess to be.
Please note – we are not licensed as a riding establishment and so we don’t formally teach riding lessons or take professionally escorted rides. If you are looking for that it might be best to look elsewhere. We don’t guarantee that anyone can ride with us because we put our horses’ welfare first, and if we don’t feel you are able to ride them the way they are accustomed to being ridden, or are too heavy for them (they are medium-sized horses) then we try to meet your desire to relate to the horses in another way. We hope you understand, and appreciate that this is how we keep our horses alert and happy and keen to get to know you!
Our horses are rare-breed mountain horses that can do a four-beat gait, which often brings a smile to those who have never seen it before or experienced it on horse-back. We can demonstrate and maybe help you to experience this.
We ride western-style with bitless bridles, and often find that riders are inclined to use too much pressure with insufficient release. The timing of release is all important in rewarding the horse and helping it to understand what we want. Some people pick this up quickly and others need more time. We will work at your pace! We have found that some people who have learned harsher and more conventional ways of riding are quite amazed at how ‘light’ a horse can be, and occasionally we’ve seen someone moved to tears to witness a kinder and more liberating way of building a relationship with your horse. It’s always moving for us too when we can share this with guests.
Off-road riding is plentiful in the area along local chemins or in the woods, and Erica also occasionally takes guided long-distance rides with friends of the farm.
“I have always loved riding from a young age, but it wasn’t until I rode the lovely Rocky Mountain horses with Erica that I experienced the true, natural, happy and uplifting experience of feeling properly connected as horse and rider. The horses are so responsive and willing it is a real joy and in my first ride with Erica I learnt more than I ever previously accumulated in my lifetime. Riding as I always instinctively knew it should be.”
Photography and Art
You might also want to learn how to photograph horses to advantage and Erica can provide advice about that, with some practice sessions. A cameraphone is fine for this purpose. We can also set you up for sessions of drawing or painting horses, but we don’t have skills to impart!