Madeira is known for its hiking trails and gorgeous landscapes, and of course, the wine. One of our favorite ways to explore on vacation is by horseback and it’s a great way to check out both the trails and views (save the wine for after the ride!). There aren’t a lot of options if you want to go horseback riding in Madeira, but that’s okay because Quinta do Riacho has you covered! During the planning stages of our trip to Madeira I emailed the stables and talked with the owner, Paula, about our riding options. After discussing our riding skills (pretty basic) we decided on ride #6, a two and a half hour ride. What I liked about that option was the chance to ride along part of a levada walkway and the two different viewpoints – to the southeast and to the northeast.
We woke up the morning of the ride and it was cold and windy but for once it wasn’t raining so we took that as a good sign. Paula had offered to pick us up at our hotel but since we had a car we just layered up for the weather and drove to the stables. To be honest, when we arrived we weren’t sure we were in the right place. The stables were on a dirt road that was fenced off, with a few dogs running around. I think I was expecting more of a posh riding stable and office but it was a working barn/stable. We didn’t see any signs or a formal parking area so we pulled over by the gate and hoped we were in the right place! We also weren’t sure if we should go into the fenced area and walk down to the barn but decided to wait in the car instead. Paula arrived soon and we were introduced to the resident dogs, several of many as Paula and Paulo rescue dogs on Madeira and add them to their pack.
This is not your typical horseback tour with horses that practically do the route in their sleep, with ten to twenty people in a row. Paula matched us with our horses and explained that they each have their own personality and “quirks”. Mine liked to eat if he ever got the chance, and Kevin’s needed to be at the end of the line. Who knew that horses had their own hierarchy! After getting our helmets fitted we rode around the paddock for a bit, getting used to our horses, and then we left for the ride.
The first part of the ride took us through the Laurisilva forest and along the levada path. It had warmed up by now and the sun even peeked out for us. We had a great time talking with Paula and since it was just the three of us it was easy to do. At one point she asked why we had come to Madeira and when I said we were there on vacation she asked, “so you came on purpose?”. She was so surprised that it made me laugh, but it also shows how undiscovered this island paradise is! It was fascinating to hear about the horses, too. Paula explained that because there aren’t very many horses on the island there aren’t any veterinarians to treat the horses. So Paula has worked with vets to learn how to do some of the maintenance care herself, or they have to fly a vet in from mainland Portugal. I know how much we pay in vet bills for our dogs, I can’t even imagine what that would cost! But both she and her husband, Paulo, definitely love their animals, my kind of people.
Tip: Read my blog post on how to get epic photographs from your horseback ride here
The second part of the ride had the best views over the north side of the island. We had come out of the forest on a more open path. We stopped at the viewpoint for a while to take some pictures and drink it all in. It was fun to experience both parts of the ride and the time flew by. If we’re ever back in Madeira I would definitely go for another horseback ride with Quinta do Riacho!
Tip: Bring cash or pay online before your ride, I don’t believe that they can accept credit cards on site. There is a cash machine in the small grocery store in the closest town if you need it.
For more information check out their website at http://quintadoriacho.com/
And you can help save animals by donating to their cause to help the homeless dogs of Madeira https://www.gofundme.com/help-us-to-help-animals-in-need
More posts from our trip to the Azores and Madeira coming soon (including how to get the most out of the Funchal farmers market), sign up for the email newsletter so you don’t miss any!