Over the past eight years this series has ‘Explored’ Paleochora and nearby areas mainly on foot, occasionally by kayak and cycle rides, but never on horseback.  So here’s a first  – a morning’s pony riding from the Deres Horse Riding Centre.

Publicity poster for the centre

Publicity poster for the centre

Deres is around an hour’s drive from Paleochora (but see footnote) –  over to Voukolies, then on 3.5km towards the National Road, before turning right to Sirili, from where the Riding Centre is well-signposted, situated in the green hills south of Platanias, in a private wooded area of 200 hectares.

Follow this sign

Follow this sign

Established over twenty years ago, the centre provides trail rides suitable for all ages, from complete beginners to experienced riders.  It’s open daily (10am to sunset) from April – October, and at weekends during the winter months.  A restaurant/cafe offers traditional Cretan dishes using organic products from their farm and other local producers.

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The centre has qualified and experienced instructors, but we took our own  –  friend Janna from Paleochora who occasionally works there leading tours, and helps with stabling and grooming.  And there we met my old friends John and Avril, together with their grand-daughters Molly (11) and Megan (9), in Chania on holiday, and who, having their own pony in the UK, were experienced enough to try a long 2-hour+ ride, taking along Avril and a less-than-enthusiastic Dad Ben.

Megan with the ponies

Megan with the ponies

I had ridden twice before, most recently 24 years ago, and persuaded John to join me on a less demanding 1-hour-or-so stroll (with occasional trotting, as we found out later.)  A latter-day Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, we joked about Starting Prices before setting off : odds of 9-2 on John (to stay on), and 10-1 on me (to fall off.)

Under starters orders

Under starters orders

I have no idea how we got there, just concentrating hard on staying in the saddle, but we climbed through olive groves, with occasional glimpses into deep valleys far below us, then came to a high plateau where Janna called a halt.  What a view! From 600m we could see the north coast stretching along from Kastelli, the Rodopou peninsula, Ag. Theodorii islands, to Chania and the Akrotiri, but sadly the White Mountains were indistinct, hidden by low cloud.

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance kid

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid Ride Again!

Descent seemed easier, or maybe I was more confident and relaxed  ….  Back at the centre we congratulated each other on remaining aloft, rewarded our horses (‘Aris’ and ‘Ellie’) with apples and carrots, and relaxed in the cafe with fresh orange ‘ximos’ until the others returned, trotting smiling and nonchalantly (both horses and riders) into the stable yard.

Coming home

Coming home

Although I probably (almost certainly …) won’t take up riding seriously, I thoroughly recommend a visit here, and to quote from the Centre’s publicity leaflet :
“ Enjoy Crete’s beautiful nature on the back of a horse, and you will have a memory
of your holiday you won’t forget easily.”

Saddle cam

Saddle cam

Footnotes : 
The centre offers free (mini-bus) transfer from/to Paleochora for groups of 4-6 visitors.
Deres itself, just 3 km away, has a quite superb taverna/restaurant, 1st on right as you reach the village.   More information about the Deres Riding Centre at  http://chaniahorseriding.com

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