How is it to spend four days at Gleneagles, a “Glorious Playground” for equestrians as well as sporting estate and luxury destination in Perthshire, Scotland? Flyinghorse has landed in the Riviera of the Highlands in order to try out some of the excellent equestrian services offered to horse aficionados. Here, in between one ride and another I had a chance to taste fantastic food, serious cocktails, sleep in an elegant room and get pampered at the SPA. As background, the sensational scenery of the marvelous Georgian-style brick building with views across the rolling Ochil Hills.
The Gleneagles Equestrian School
26 beautiful and characteristic horses turn their curious faces towards us, as Sharon Burriss and myself enter the internal stables of the Gleneagles Equestrian School, situated on the estates’ property. Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal opened the School in June 1988. It was designed by Captain Mark Phillips to be a centre of excellence, feature that is today diligently carried on by the fully qualified instructors and Sharon herself, as Arena Operational Manager. The excellent facilities allow all abilities of rider from novice to advanced, to participate in horsemanship disciplines including cross country, dressage and show jumping. The horses are selected and acquired for the school by the Arena Operational Manager herself and have to be multitasking and adapt to different levels of riders and disciplines. Sharon and her team are warm-hearted and immediately make me feel at home. All horses are introduced by name and peculiarity and infinite passion and sympathetic horsemanship transpire behind the luxurious gates of the Gleneagles Equestrian School.
Show Jumping Lesson
I start opening up about the difficulties my grey Rheinlander gelding Chuck and I are currently encountering and immediately get reassured by show jumping coach Kirsty: my perfectly groomed mount for the day, Alfie, a chestnut Irish sport horse gelding, will help me to overcome the anxiety provoked by a horse refusing the jump. Also he easily jumps up to 1.20 m so he will for sure cover the little 1.10 m training parcours, which has been set up for me in the beautiful outdoor arena. Each training is indeed made to measure to the guest, whether the aim is to have a first jumping lesson or to improve competition skills.
We all know how much riding actually says about ourselves and showing our abilities to strangers is not always easy. Nevertheless, having a fresh eye on you may help discover new visions or simply confirm inner doubts. This is why I strongly belief in jumping clinics and lessons with well trained coaches, other than mine. Whenever I have the chance I try to get a second opinion and at the Gleneagles Equestrian School I encountered a great team of expert coaches ready to help me out.
What I learned from my showjumping lesson:
Let the fence come towards you
My fear of Chuck stopping if I won’t approach a fence with the perfect distance, made me become a very defensive rider. As a result I chase poor Alfie towards the fences. Kirsty reassures me and gives me this precious advice I will surely bring back home: It’s not us going towards the fence, but the fence coming towards us. A regular rhythm, of course, helps a lot – and a horse like Alfie, who shows me he always jumps: “Common girl, I’ll get you over there”. Finally, flying over our last Oxer I get that incredible and fun feeling I had lost, back again. And isn’t it true that with our sport, just a little success lets you get over big time failure?
Confirmation of my doubts, that will help to focus on dedicated training:
- A hard hand and rein contact that is not always steady.
- When opening gallop in stead of getting wider strides I become faster, which is of course related to the unsteady rein contact.
- Not being smooth enough in my back.
- Not holding my outer leg and rein in the turns makes my horse break out with his hind legs. Strides to the jumps get imprecise.
I’m super enthusiastic about my Show Jumping lesson and decide to fix a Trail Ride for the following day. Indeed, at Gleneagles, the surrounding heather-clad mountains form a perfect backdrop for a relaxing ride in the beautiful Perthshire countryside. Call time at 10 am and drop dead gorgeous Brenda is waiting for me all tacked up. Brenda is a VIP. She has been posing for Vogue and is Gleneagles’ most photographed employee. We’re a sympathetic group of 4 and the Scottish weather graces us with the most adorable white puffy clouds, a light blue sky and sunshine. Deer’s show us how to jump the fences in the countryside, but we limit ourselves to canter through the green expanses speckled with purple heather. I promise myself to improve my jumping, in order to try the over 60 cross-country fences (ranging from 20cm high to over 1m) next time I’ll come and visit this equestrian heaven on earth.
Up Hill, Down Dale or Own a Pony
Ever wanted to have your own pony; to groom it, ride it and look after it? I remember this being my childhood dream and I would have loved an experience as Gleneagles offers to the most little ones. “Own a Pony” teaches children how to take care and groom a pony in two hours under expert supervision. At the end of the experience a certificate and a very special show ribbon is handled out the participants.
If, like myself, anything good in life gets even better with horses on your side, the Hill Walking Experience is made for you. Indeed the stark beauty of the Highlands draws walkers and climbers from around the world to test their skills, reconnect with nature and enjoy the area’s wildlife. Guided by one of Gleneagles ghillies and a stunning white garron pony the Highlands will seem even more beautiful. Garron Ponies where originally bred for hard labour on hill farms and crofts and are therefor perfectly evolved for the Highland landscape, full of character and just the best walking companion you could ever wish for.
Don’t worry; for those who simply want to relax and have a very romantic experience, Duke & Barron the Gleneagles carriage horses will take care of you.
The Gleneagles Hotel
Since opening its doors in June 1924 Gleneagles has been one of Scotland’s most iconic hotels and sporting estates. Confirming itself as the must-go destination for travelers for nearly a century. Beginning its life in the glamorous age of travel when guests arrived in great style at Gleneagles’ very own train station, the 850-acre estate epitomizes the natural beauty for which Scotland is famed. With its glorious playground of country pursuits and activities, the hotel is reclaiming its position on the social calendar.
Gleneagles is a place that does not stop at the experience itself. It’s able to teach you something assuring to bring a piece of that experience back home with you.
I suggest you to follow the highly entertaining Gleneagles social media channels to discover all the fantastic activities the hotel is offering:
All images copyright of Flyinghorse Magazine.
Hill Walking Experience image courtesy of Gleneagles hotel.