The Mediteranean Equestrian Tour (or MET) in Oliva Nova is the stuff horsey girls’ dreams. For me, it’s three weeks of Spanish sunshine, palm trees, beach rides and temperatures in the 20s. Not to mention elite competition, excellent prize money and experience that said prize money can’t buy.
I have, however, come with four horses and no groom.
Look, call me certifiable. I probably could have made things a tiny bit easier on myself. But like so many of us, I really like to be hands-on with my horses. Between the hand-walking and lungeing and mucking out and riding and feeding and grooming, it’s really full-on.
Going on a trip to Spain doesn’t really start the day you leave. The planning and the packing involved is epic. I’m only taking four, but some people take their whole yard! This trip went pretty smoothly, bar the last-minute decision to leave early and avoid Storm Ciara. There are many things to think about when travelling horses internationally, but what might as well have been a full-scale tornado wasn’t on the list, funnily enough.
But what is on the list? Well, it looks less like a list and more like my brain exploded onto a page.
Let’s start with the journey itself. You’ll need international insurance and breakdown coverage for your lorry. I also tend to get mine serviced before a big trip to (in theory) avoid any surprises along the way. The three-day drive has to be planned and we use a company to help us book the ferry and our overnight stabling on the way there and back. When we had to abruptly change plans and leave early because of the weather, they were able to take care of rearranging the ferry crossing and stop-over bookings, which was a huge weight off my mind.
I had a second driver, which made the trip quicker and less painful. Our first day was really long. We were delayed at the ferry port in the UK because of the wind and this is something that has to be factored in.
Packing the lorry is a huge undertaking for a big trip. You’ll need enough hay and bedding for the journey because it’s not so easy to find at the stopovers. I ram my lorry with as much as this kind of thing as possible, because while there is a facility to buy hay and bedding and feed in Oliva, it can be more cost-effective to take some, if not all, of your own. I know roughly how many scoops are in each bag of the Allen & Page formulas I use, so I figure out how many bags I need for the duration of the show that way. Then I take a bit extra, just in case.
Health papers for the horses as well as up-to-date passports and vaccinations are crucial, because you won’t be able to travel without them. Apart from any essential vet visits, I also plan to have my farrier visit as close as possible to departure and hope they don’t pull a shoe off while I’m there. But if anything comes up, there is a farrier and vet clinic on-site.
The show itself offers three “tours”, bronze, silver and gold. Bronze classes start at 1.10m and go up to 1.25m and gold classes start at 1.30m and go all the way up to a grand prix ranking class. Once you enter into either bronze, silver or gold, you have to stay within that tour, but you are able to move up the heights, if what you are trying to do is advance your riding or your horse’s experience.
There are also young horse classes, they run from Tuesday to Thursday, with the older horses taking their turn from Thursday to Sunday. And of course Mondays are for beach rides, but I’m obsessed and go most down most mornings to let the horses play in the sea (pictured top).
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Apart from the fact that it appears I have escaped the worst of England’s weather, I can really see the appeal in coming to a show like this. It is wonderfully user-friendly — you are in one place for three weeks and there’s a variety of classes to play around in. The courses are great, there are three rings which the classes alternate through and the courses are changed for each class. There are three restaurants serving yummy food overlooking the rings and the show utilises an app that helps everyone keep up-to-date with times, results and starting orders. But the best bit is, there’s live streaming of all classes, so friends and family can tune in to watch.
Showjumpers aren’t short of choice when it comes to kicking off the season. There are many tours to choose from, starting as early as January and going all the way through until April. But this one definitely gets my vote.
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