Liana is a bay coloured mare who stands 16 hands. She is 11 years old and has an ‘interesting’ personality, not always the friendliest of creatures. She seems to have an inbuilt sullen streak and will often give the impression that she intends to bite, although in the five years that she has been with us she has never actually made contact with her teeth. She was passed from pillar to post before we bought her, and at the age of six she already had six registered owners, and I imagine she was not treated very kindly. She is not a pure bred Spanish horse and the vet thinks that she has some thoroughbred blood, and so for the most part she is very calm and patient from her Spanish blood, but the thoroughbred in her gives her a love of speed so she is very keen to take off at a gallop as soon as I give her the go-ahead. Although there are not many tracks where we can gallop in this area – they are mostly too rocky and uneven – no green fields here! Having initially kept her at a friend’s stable for three years, we finally constructed our own stable almost two years ago, and she is now living in the lap of luxury within sight of the house and gets all the attention that she deserves.
For quite a while I have been looking longingly at a green track which rises to the right of the Fabrica de la Luz. I asked my some-time spanish riding companion about it and he indicated that it was rideable. Having looked down on it during my walk with Lyn I decided that I would investigate when I next rode. So on Thursday Liana, Roly and I set off for a new adventure.
The weather was being quite kind with sunshine and a little wind and the road was totally empty. We live just above a road that was built probably ten years ago to service the traffic to a stone quarry that is situated about 4km away, within the natural park. There are four houses on our track and these are the last properties reached from the quarry road, so there is very little traffic that passes below us, except for the occasional farmer and the six lorries that pass by on their way to and from the quarry. There have been rumours for years that the quarry is about to close, it is a very ugly blot on the landscape and no-one can understand how it ever received permission to operate in the first place as regulations within the protected park area are very strict and it is impossible to build anything.
Sometimes I seem to pass all six lorries on my rides and sometimes none. The road is very narrow and it is usually necessary to pass at close quarters. Liana will sometimes pay no attention to them at all and at other times will become very agitated and jump up and down. The lorry drivers are, for the most part, very considerate and patient.
So, on this day we didn’t see traffic of any description and reached the Fabrica de la Luz (literal translation ‘light factory’), which is a lovely recreation area where the ruin of the old fabrica still stands and a fast flowing stream runs alongside with picnic and BBQ areas. It is well used all year by all nationalities. We often visit with a group of friends for a shared picnic.
Liana fords the stream. She does this without any hesitation, although I have never yet managed to get her to walk through a puddle that she can circumnavigate. We soon come to the green track and within 100m we have to negotiate a landslip which leaves a very narrow strip to pick our way over. The next obstacle is a fallen tree over the track. Again there is a narrow strip between the end of the tree and a steep drop which I judge will be tight but passable. I was wrong! The pointed end of the longest branch catches my knee as we pass, at exactly the place I have recently received a severe bruising. It is very painful. We carry on and the track is very wide and there are many signs of horses having been in the vicinity recently, and I start to worry that I will come across the semi wild horses that roam in the park. However we continue up the track, the first time in the five years that I have owned Liana that we have ridden over grass and Liana seems to really be enjoying it. After about 2km of winding uphill, the track comes to a stop. I felt sure it would link up to a stone track that I know well, but it just stops. I can see a narrow trail and follow this for a while, but it becomes so overgrown and rocky and narrow that I have to dismount to consider the situation – which does not seem good. By the time I turn around I cannot trace the track that we used and become completely disorientated.
My horse is an absolute star, patiently waiting for me to decide what to do and then following me without question over land that is really quite dangerous. I trip over at one point and luckily she avoids stepping on me. It is now that I realise how stupid I have been, it would be so easy for me or the horse to get injured and I had not told anyone where I was going. I finally see the green track below and we manage to scramble down onto it. I remount and we head back down to known territory. What seemed like a big adventure on the way up, now seems a bit spooky as we pass a couple of ruins and I notice many animal trails leading from the track, and I start singing and whistling so that if there are any wild animals about hopefully they will run away before Liana sees them and spooks. I dismount to pass the fallen tree and am very happy when we finally reach the main track back to the Fabrica. No harm done, but an important lesson learned. During this recounting of our adventure I haven’t mentioned poor little Roly, who is also a very special animal, just following where I lead and never making a fuss. By the time we get home we have covered 14km.