The horses are scattered in neighbours’ fields or are able to wander several kilometres north of the village, and descend with a greater or lesser degree of willingness in front of their “master”. Denis is a Californian by birth, very French by adoption and manages his troupe with vigour and enthusiasm.
The low lying hills around Saint-Agnès are ideal for horse riding and are laced with forestry tracks and pathways including the Grande Randonnée (GR) 51.
We joined Denis for a half-day ride over the Easter weekend. This is an absolutely magical time of year thanks to the idiosyncrasies of the coastal weather which blows sea mist up to about 1000m. The coastal A8 run may be clear but start to gain height and “plouf” – you are suddenly surrounded by thick mist. This is not your typical cold London pea-souper however, but a moist atmosphere created as the mist billows over the hills.
Turning away from the Mediterranean, the horses take a narrow section of the GR51 before the route opens out to a forestry track. Your mount knows instinctively that this is the moment for some speed. Denis’s horses are very well trained and alert, the saddles comfortable but beware if you're a novice or nervous rider as, if the group is confident – you will be cantering! The path up through the Forêt de Menton is steep and makes you grateful that you are on four legs rather than two, the air filled with the smell of fresh horse sweat, pine needles, and sounds straight out of Blazing Saddles. Facing North the massif of the Mercantour Park dominates the horizon.
Lunch is taken on a delightful isolated grassy plain where horses and riders alike can fill their faces and take a well deserved afternoon siesta and a welcome break. A hearty gallop takes you past the lucky owners of a dreamy home before the troupe heads back down to the coast and the welcome view of the Mediterranean once again. The mist has lifted, and the prospect of a chilled glass of rosé with Georges Tibert in the Hotel Saint Yves is very inviting.
Information & Contact Details
Denis is in Sainte Agnès from the end of September each year to the middle of June. In the summer months he stays in Le Boréon valley above Saint Martin Vésubie. From early summer a gîte d’etape is available for local accommodation. In addition to day rides, and the must do bi-annual Transhumance between the two sites, riding courses and tailor made trips are organised throughout the year.
Dennis and guests on Easter Sunday
Tel: 0622 295 886
Le Saint-Yves Hotel
76 rue des Sarrasins
06500 Sainte Agnès
Tel: 04 93 35 91 45
Other Mercantour accommodation and activities
Berthmont les Bains
Tel: 04 93 03 48 57