Horses rescued from garbage dump – a happy story from Sundance Ranch in Portugal

Horses rescued from garbage dump

This summer Sandra, who runs Sundance Ranch in Portugal, found out about a couple of young Lusitano mares who lived in horrible conditions at a garbage dump. She decided to go and have a look. What she found was two mares, 3 and 5 years old, hungry, full of eczema and open wounds. She couldn’t leave them there, so she went back to her ranch immediately to get her trailer and take them home.

The mares, Imelda and Luana, came from a breeder who wasn’t able to take care of the horses any longer.  She sold them to her farrier who never paid for them, nor took care of them. It ended up with a Facebook ad that got picked up by Sandra.

Freedom Based Training

At Sundance Ranch, the horses are trained by the principles of Elsa Sinclair, “Freedom Based Training”. In practice, this means to establish and develop the communication between horse and human by only using body language. This form of training should be without any kind of physical tools or bribes, so the setting is as natural as possible for the horse and it is free to leave the game at any time.

I have previously written a blog post on Elsa Sinclair and her methods. You can find it here; Elsa Sinclair and her ways of Freedom Based Training.

Basic training and care

As these were youngsters they hadn’t been handled a lot, so Sandra and her team had some work ahead of them, not only taking care of their physical needs as forage and medical care, but they had to get started on the training. The plan was to make them feel safe and confident enough to be able to put them up for adoption. The process was documented in a series of 5 short videos. You can find these here.

Practically, it is hard to follow the principles completely, and in the daily routine, it was necessary to use some physical tools as a halter and lead rope. As these horses needed to be followed up closely on hoof care, vaccines and other medical care, it was important to work on this in the beginning. They would do this step by step out in the field by building trust and confidence.

Sundance Ranch groundwork

Groundwork and preparations for trailer loading

As they progressed they started some basic groundwork by halter and lead rope to establish confidence and boundaries together with the leader. Another exercise that was introduced was to step up on a ramp on the ground as a preparation for trailer loading. They also had to practice on separating the two mares as they were very dependent on each other. Everything was introduced slowly to avoid stress and negative experience for the horses.

Adoptive home in Denmark

Imelda and Luana turned out to be a couple of calm and willing horses, and it didn’t take long before they had found new homes. Two Danish women wanted to adopt them, so in October they are moving to Denmark. I’ll try to follow up on the story after they have arrived in their new home.

We wish them good luck and are happy that these horses get a new chance in life.

Well done Sandra!

New riding holiday destination coming up; Cortijo Los Lobos, Spain

Riding Holiday Spain

When I found Cortijo Los Lobos in my search for horse-friendly riding holidays, there was no doubt that it fit into the concept of

The place is run by the British couple June and Clive and is located in the Malaga area in Spain. Here they offer trail rides for day visitors and overnight guests.

You can visit their website here; Cortijo Los Lobos.

Rescue horses

June and Clive have saved several horses from bad living conditions and given them a new start and a better life. On their website, you can read the story of each horse, and it is not hard to understand that they are genuinely dedicated to the horses’ welfare;

«In the September of our first year in Spain, we went to a horse fair in a town about an hour away. A stupid thing to do really – it was pretty obvious we were going to want to ‘save’ all the poor horses being paraded about.”


Bitless and barefoot

All the horses are barefoot and ridden bitless, something they tried out as a result of one of the horses being terrified of the farrier and extremely cautious of its head. They decided to try her barefoot and bitless, and they got such good results that they transferred it to the rest of the horses as well. The horses are ridden according to the principle “less is more”, and they teach their guests to ride with “smiling reins” (long reins) and to be relaxed. This makes the horses more relaxed as well as you can transfer a lot of tension to the horse through tight reins. They can also teach you to ride without a bridle completely – only by using a neck rope (cordeo)


The trail rides vary from day to day and depend on the time of year and which riders they have in the group. During the warmest months they ride out for a maximum of 2-3 hours, but in the cooler months, they may go on longer rides. They welcome all ages and ability levels and can lead or walk alongside beginners if needed.

Riding Holiday Spain


Cortjo Los Lobos has two traditional Spanish style cottages for rent in addition to one apartment and two rooms. There is also a heated swimming pool and jacuzzi. You can stay on a self-catering basis, halfboard or full board – whichever you prefer.

I haven’t visited this place myself yet, but based on the correspondence I have had with June, there is no doubt that this place is on my list of places I want to try out. I am looking forward to getting to know them better!

More details about Cortijo Los Lobos will be published on my website shortly.


Hello world!

Have you ever felt that burning feeling inside to do something so strongly that you just HAVE to act on it one way or the other? That gutted feeling by the thought of giving it up? In that case, you know where I am coming from.


Welcome to This is my thing – this is my passion!


Riding Holidays – on the horse’s terms

It is very exciting to finally be able to publish this website, focusing on a subject that I have been passionate about for many years; Riding Holidays – on the horses’ terms. Riding Holidays is a small niche, and by limiting it even more to only include the best in class makes it even narrower. That doesn’t mean it is less important.

The ones that go above and beyond

There are several tour operators out there offering riding holidays, and even though there are some bad apples among them, I am sure that most of them have good intentions and control of the quality of the destinations they sell. I, on the other hand, want to take it one step further and promote those places who go above and beyond – that extra passion and respect for these great animals we are so lucky to spend time with. The ones who stand out by giving good quality living conditions for the horses have responsible values and who burn to communicate these to others. Meeting these people is incredibly inspiring, and I want to share those experiences with you!

A portal for horse-friendly holidays is not a tour operator, and I don’t have any income for what I am doing with this website. The thought is that this is going to be a portal where horse-enthusiasts can go to find horse-friendly and inspiring travel destinations no matter which level they are at. I have established a few criteria as a basis for what I would consider being horse-friendly, and I am using these for reference when I am looking for establishments to promote. You can find these criteria on «About»
I am not saying that the riding establishments that don’t fulfill all the criteria are irresponsible and that they are neglecting their horses, but I think that many have the potential to improve, both suppliers of riding holidays, and riding centers in general.

It is time to challenge the established

I have an open mind, and I try to always look at an issue from more angles than one. My starting point is that it is usually a sensible explanation for most things and that most people you meet have good intentions – until proven otherwise. Some may think that is a little naïve, but that is how I choose to meet the world.

Another part of me is very critical and curious, and I often raise questions about things that are presented to me. When it comes to horses I am questioning a lot of things about the established and widely accepted pattern. Why are we doing what we do? Is it ok to use whips, spurs, tight nosebands and other physical tools? What gives us the right to do that? In my opinion, the old “show the horse who is the boss” attitude must be challenged. Shake it up and get some new perspective.

Blog posts and selected destinations on this site will probably be influenced by critical views, but I aim to have a positive focus and to promote horse-friendly values. You are welcome to comment and share your views on the topic!

What will you find on this website?

In addition to building the portfolio of destinations worldwide (yes, it may take some time), I will write blog posts on a regular basis. These will be about riding holidays, events and news from the holiday destinations, presentation of new destinations and thoughts about horses in general. I hope you want to join me on my journey!

If the blog isn’t crowded with readers and comments at the beginning that is also ok.
I have taken the first steps!

Elsa Sinclair and her ways of Freedom Based Training

In May 2018 me and my family went to Portugal for a riding holiday – to Sundance Ranch. I had already had e-mail communication with Sandra, who owns the place, for a few months. We had discussed our thoughts around keeping and training horses – both in general and in connection with riding holidays.

I felt that I really had found the place that was aligned with my ideas and values, and this trip was a step in the right direction for me and for what I want to accomplish with this blog.

A couple of days before arrival she sent me an e-mail saying that I should check out Elsa Sinclair and her Freedom Based Training. She told me that they have implemented her methods of communication with the horses at Sundance Ranch, and that this is something we will go through. I must admit that I had never heard of Elsa before, so I started to search for information. I became very fascinated by this woman!

The Taming Wild project

It all started with a question; What if the horses were given a choice? Would they let us ride them? Without force or tools to control and without bribes to lure them? These questions were burning inside of her for an answer, so she initiated a project called “Taming Wild”.

The idea was to start with a wild horse with no previous experiences with humans and try to develop a method of communication based on body language. Would the horse allow her to ride without using any physical tools? She gave the project one year and documented the process. The result was an inspiring documentary that I recommend for you to see. It can be found here.

The adoption of a wild Mustang

To find a suitable horse without previous experiences with humans, she chose to adopt a wild Mustang. The Bureau of Land Management manages the number of wild horses in the US, and due to overpopulation, they gather a large number of horses each year and put them up for adoption. Elsa picked out a mare that had just arrived, and that was fresh and inexperienced. She was given the name Myrnah. Along with Myrnah they also brought a second mare, so they had company in each other.

Patience and self discipline without physical tools

In the documentary we are following Elsa and Myrnah through ups and downs through the year, and it is fascinating to see the kind of self-discipline and patience she possesses, how persistence she is and what results can come of that. As she writes in her blog;

“This is the slowest possible way to train a horse, and this is the most important piece of Freedom Based Training for me. Taming that wild streak inside myself that wants what I want when I want it”

This is so true! I can recognize myself in this together with my horse quite often. I want a relationship with my horse based on mutual respect and trust, but when he wants something else than me, and when he is not motivated for the tasks I give him, it is easy to just demand him to do it. I want what I want when I want it!

Elsa worked slowly step by step, only by using bodylanguage, patience and presence with a horse that is free to leave at any time. No physical tools were used, no fences to push her against, and no treats. She reached her goal, and in the end, she got permission to get up and ride.

In my opinion this can be achieved by all of us, but we have to think outside of the box and accept that it takes time – a lot of time! We may not have this time available, or we might not want to give it the time it takes? Even though it is not realistic or necessary for everyone to follow this method, I’d wish that we at least could implement some of it in our daily routine with the horses.  Spend more time together without making any demands and give the horse time to think and react when asking for anything.


Elsa Sinclair has clinics around the world, have on several occasions been to Sundance Ranch where her principles are practiced. If you don’t have the opportunity to take part in her clinics, you can learn it there. I just got a little taste of it when I visited Sundance Ranch as I only had a couple of days available, but I got a lot of inspiration and want to learn more!

I recommend that you take a look at her blog;

What is a horse-friendly riding holiday?



Many have had their first horse riding experience ever when on holiday, often along sandy beaches in exotic destinations. Unfortunately, there are many providers of these activities out there that don’t look quite as good behind the scenes, and you should be aware of what you are supporting when participating in such activity.

Do some research before you book

A couple of years ago we went to Thailand for our summer holiday and found that there was a riding center nearby. Here they offered beach rides at a really nice and secluded beach. We considered to make a booking, but before doing that we decided to take a closer look to at horses and their living conditions. We were very disappointed. The horses were small, skinny and were tied to trees eating dry stubs of grass. Now, I don’t know what kind of feeding routines they had, and neither if they were tied up temporarily, but these were not horses we could ride with a good conscience. The following day we saw them walk by at the beach carrying large and heavy riders in the summer heat.

We need to make demands

I understand that this is a complex problem and that the local community in poor areas does what is necessary to create an income for themselves and their families. This can’t be an excuse for neglect. We rather have to work on raising awareness around horse care and support initiatives that can help improve the conditions for both locals and animals. We as tourists have the power to decide what we want to pay for, and maybe we may also be willing to accept a higher price if that is what it takes?
If you plan to ride when you are on holiday, there are some things I think must be in place to be able to call it horse-friendly;

Living conditions

Horses are herd animals, and their natural behaviour is to wander over large areas and graze the largest part of the day. Sandra at Sundance Ranch introduced me to the 3 F’s, which I think is a good reference to use when judging the quality of the horses living conditions; «Forage, Freedom and Friends» It may not be realistic to expect that all have the possibility to have their horses in one herd on endless pastures, but it should be covered to a certain extent. At a minimum, the horses should be outside the  largest part of the day with enough room to move freely in all gates. They should also have company by other horses and be given forage at least 3 times a day. The closer to the ideal the better. I would not consider a riding establishment that keeps their horses stabled most of the day as being horse-friendly.

Physical condition

The horses should be of normal weight, injury-free and be fit enough to handle the workload that is given to them.


The equipment must be in good condition and fitted to the horse. This is both for safety and comfort for the horse and rider. If the horse is ridden with a bit, there should be a clear emphasis on riding with a light hand. Ideally, the horses are ridden with bitless bridles.

Values and beliefs

The staff and their attitude towards horses is very important. A horse-friendly riding establishment will be genuinely interested in the welfare of the horses and respect each one as an individual. Pay attention to how the staff talk to the horses and also the horses’ body language when they are handled. This can reveal a lot!

What are your experiences? Do you have any good examples of horse-friendly riding holiday destination?