The first time I rode a horse through the Camargue I was a complete novice. For someone who hadn’t ridden before the name ‘Barracuda’ was a little disconcerting, but I’d heard about the calm temperaments of the Camargue horses so I heaved myself on anyway. Over breakfast that morning my five-year-old daughter and I had decided to try a ‘promenade du Cheval’, so we called one of the many ranches in the Petite Camargue, booked ourselves a slot and drove over.
There really are loads of places offering horse riding excursions in the Camargue, most of them lined up along the roads that lead into the main towns; Aigues Mortes, Le Grau-du-Roi and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. There are rides to suit every level lasting any time from half an hour to a full day. We chose a ranch along Route de l’Espiguette, near Le Grau-du-Roi and our ride took us on an hour’s slow trot through the Camargue’s marshes.
This region is like no other in France. The landscape is a flat and wild expanse of salt lagoons, reed-covered marshes and pastures where wildlife, including flamingos make their home. In the fields you’ll see the Camargue’s famous black bulls grazing next to the ghostly white horses that have traditionally been used for herding. The riders of these horses, the gardians, are decked out in large-brimmed hats, spurs and cowboy boots.
We, on the other hand just wore a riding helmet and were led by one of the ranch hands out to the countryside where we spotted herons and flamingos. Experienced riders have the option of a longer ride and many stables will take you to the beach for a canter through the water.
Our excursion was booked at the last minute in early spring, but perhaps if you’re planning to go during the peak summer months it would be wise to reserve further in advance. Try to time your ride for the morning however, as it gets very hot in the afternoon and the mosquitoes will be out in force. A morning ride, followed by lunch and a visit to the nearby town would make a good day trip.
Here’s some websites with lists of horse ranches offering excursions: