Adventure vacations in Spain

Classical Dressage and High School Training


This week-long intensive dressage riding holiday in Spain culminates in a private lesson with Raphael Soto, an Olympic silver medalist in dressage. Soto is not only one of the world’s finest dressage riders, but also a gifted and charismatic teacher.

The main instruction will be given by Master Horse Trainer Viviana Garcia Dow.

Guests at the center will stay in the charming four-star Hotel Alcazar de la Reina, in Carmona. The hotel is located in the heart of the old town, surrounded by churches, convents and points of interest.

Food is typical, healthy Spanish cuisine using fresh, local produce, breakfast and lunches are included.

  • Overview:
    The center currently owns 45 well schooled Andalusian (Raza Pura Espanola) and Andalusian crosses. The tack is English. Most horses are ridden in a snaffle and are used to direct rein, some of the higher level horses are ridden in double bridles. They are very amenable and your instructor will always indicate how each horse should be ridden.
  • Horse Breeds:
    Andalusian and Andalusian crosses
  • Trip Pace:
    To suit riders
  • Tack:
    Dressage saddles
  • Weight limit:
    170 lbs
  • Hours of Instruction:
    Generally 3 hour-long lessons per day
  • Instruction and Training:
    This week-long intensive clinic culminates in a private lesson with Raphael Soto, an Olympic silver medallist in dressage. Soto is not only one of the world’s finest dressage riders, but also a gifted and charismatic teacher. The main instruction will be given by Master Horse Trainer Viviana Garcia Dow. Ms. Vivi Dow began riding when she was three, and started competing at the age of ten which has granted her many successes in different levels and disciplines. She is a graduate from the prestigious Royal Andalucian School of Equestrian Art, having completed the four year course which honors her with the title “Jinete” (rider). Two of those years she was under the tutelage of Olympic Medalist Rafael Soto, whom she still trains with. She is a Spanish Equestrian Federation, Association of British Riding schools and British Horse Society certified instructor. Training Facilities: Floodlit covered arena, 22 X 42 meters Two outdoor arenas, one of which is floodlit International Dressage arena, 60 X 20 meters Lunging ring
  • Types of Instruction:
    Clinics and Lessons, Dressage Training

Non-riding partners can have a great time at Epona and at the hotel in Carmona, snoozing by the pool, going for walks and bicycle rides, taking Spanish lessons or sampling the local wines. While your partner is riding there is plenty of time to explore Carmona or nearby Seville. Carmona is the oldest continuously inhabited village in Europe and Seville has got to be one of Europe's most beautiful and enjoyable cities. You'll soon get the hang of cruising the tapas bars in the warm evening air, just like the locals.

Other Activities:
As well as sightseeing in Carmona and Seville, walks in the local countryside or a swim in the Epona pool (from March to October), and a host of other activities can be arranged to keep non-riding guests entertained.

Flamenco Dance Lessons:
If you are a fan of true Flamenco dance, your visit to Epona is also a great chance to book one-to-one coaching with Eli Jara one of the finest solo Flamenco dancers in Seville. If you book in good time Eli is happy to come out to Epona to give private lessons for €90 an hour, or €60 an hour for groups of up to three.

Classical Flamenco Guitar Lessons:
If you are already a guitarist and interested in classical Spanish guitar then you will love the opportunity for a private lesson with virtuoso Juan Manuel Flores. If available, he is happy to bring two guitars to Epona to give you private instruction. Fee €90 an hour.

Land Rover Tours of the Doñana Natural Park:
Nonriders with a hired car have the chance to follow the riders to Matalascañas for the beach ride, and take a tour of the park themselves in a 4 x 4 Land Rover. The price of the 2 hour tour is 30 euro per person for a minimum of 2 people. If you do not have a rental car, a local driver can be hired to bring you to the coast for 90 euro (with up to 4 people in the car).

With two or three golf courses within easy reach by car, there's plenty to keep any non-riding golfing spouse amused. With advance notice, bookings and even a local driver can be hired to drop you off each day.


Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Sunday: Arrival after 4 PM, settle into your accommodations and enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel restaurant in Carmona.

Guests arrive in the afternoon, either using the complimentary pickup from the Santa Justa train station at 4.30PM or by means of their own transport. Carmona, one of the famous white villages of Andalusia, is the oldest continually inhabited village in Europe and as you stroll through the narrow streets of the old town, you will feel and breath the spirits of ancient cultures (Iberians, Visigoths, Phonecians, Romans and Moors) in the innumerable examples of their architectural influence in the churches, towers, palaces and mansions as well as in the inherited customs. After you are settled into your accommodations, you may appreciate a dip in the pool or perhaps discover the pleasures of the Spanish afternoon “siesta” after a tiring journey.

In the evening, you will be joined at your hotel by one of the hosts, for a welcome dinner, where you will meet the rest of the members of the week’s group and where you may clarify any last minute questions about the weekly program. This will be your first opportunity to savor the delights of the local cuisine which still makes full use of ingredients which compose the famous healthy Mediterranean diet, olive oil, garlic, onions and vegetables. After some friendly conversation, you are free to spend the rest of the evening at your leisure, and to relax before the beginning of what we hope will be an unforgettable week.

Day 2

Monday: 1 semi-private lesson (1 hour), 1 private lesson (45min) and 1 lunge session (about 30 min)

After breakfast at the hotel and a quick transfer to the Hacienda, be ready to mount up, after the trail riders leave for their morning ride. Everything is quieter now, ready for the dressage lessons. Your first lesson will be an assessment with your instructor, who will note your good points and the areas which need to be worked on. It is also the first chance for you to get used to your horse and the more sensitive style of riding required for the Andalusian and Iberian horse. The goal at Epona is that you get as much improvement and fun out of your lesson as possible. After this first session, take a short break, then change to your new mount for your private lesson. After you have recovered a little it is time for your first lunge session, great for improving your seat, balance and posture.
Once the lessons are over, relax with a book in the garden or by the pool. You are also more than welcome to stay and sit by the arenas and watch the daily training of the horses. Vivi, the  main horse trainer will be more than happy to answer any questions about the training methods and horses. Meet the rest of the group for lunch in beautiful dining room, where you will have your experience of typical Andalusian home cooking, courtesy of our resident cook and sample our excellent local house wine.

Day 3

Tuesday: Visit to the Royal Spanish Riding School in Jerez to watch their training session, 1 semi-private lesson in the afternoon

Early breakfast and pick up at the hotel at 9.00 a.m. before leaving for Jerez de la Frontera, in the province of Cádiz, one hour and a half away by car. Jerez is internationally renowned for its production of sherry and brandy. However, the main attraction of the day will be the visit to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre, an equestrian performance titled, “Those Amazing Dancing Andalusian Stallions” (Ticket Price: 27 €). Here you will have the privilege of seeing the magnificent Andalusian stallions at their best, at home in the breathtaking setting of their 18th Century palace and the riding hall. They will be performing piaffe, passage and the airs above the ground (courbette, capriole, etc) in a spectacle of light, music and color, comparable only with the famous Spanish Riding School of Vienna. Fernando is well known at the school and is good friend with many of the world famous riders. Vivi trained at this school for four years and frequently performed in the show.
Return for lunch at Epona, followed by lessons in the afternoon.

Day 4

Wednesday:  1 semi-private lesson, 1 private lesson and 1 ground work lesson: training for Piaffe, Passage and/or Spanish Walk

The lessons will take place as soon as the trail ride leaves. As the week progresses so will your dressage, hopefully performing more advanced movements. Today you will begin with the semi private lesson, followed by the private session. After a break, enjoy the unique opportunity to do some ground work. The trainer will demonstrate on a one to one basis, the techniques used for training some of the more advanced movements. Ground work is a very strong part of the Classical Dressage style of training.

Once your lessons are over (or between them) feel free to sit by the arena and continue observing the daily training of the geldings, mares and stallions, from young and green to very advanced. We also school and exercise the schoolmasters periodically to keep them sensitive and in good shape for guests to enjoy and so they may get the most out of their lessons with them.

Day 5

Thursday: 1 semi-private lesson, 1 private lesson and 1 lunge lesson

The same as Monday including your second lunge lesson.

Day 6

Friday: 1 private lesson with Rafael Soto* in the morning and 1 ground work lesson.

The same as Wednesday. By this time you might be performing some of the more advanced movements (this will depend on the rider’s ability). The last lunch at Epona is the famous Paella accompanied by the not less famous and popular Sangría. In the afternoon get changed into your city finery ready to hit Seville for a classical Flamenco Show (ticket price 35€). The show features over 12 dancers of national and international fame, traditional singers and wonderful flamenco guitar.

After a short walk, you will arrive at an excellent restaurant providing both Spanish and International cuisine for the last dinner of the holiday and some superb Spanish wine.

Day 7

Saturday: 1 semi-private lesson in the morning, departure before noon

After breakfast and a quick transfer to the Hacienda, you will mount up for your last lesson where you will be able to confirm everything you have worked on during the week. Afterwards, it’s time for  good-byes and last minute pictures with your new friends, animal and human. Transfers to the train station and the airport are complimentary. Last trip will be running at 11.00 am. Have a nice journey home, we hope you enjoyed your stay at Epona.

Itinerary Addendum

This itinerary is flexible. Changes may occur at the hosts' discretion.

Trip Map

Trip Dates & Pricing

Weekly, year round except for the Christmas holidays and during weeks assigned to the Soto clinics.
Additional Pricing Information:
Ride price is set, guaranteed and final at the time deposit is paid.  

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Preferred Trip Dates

Classical Dressage and High School Training
May 21, 2024
January 1, 1970
January 1, 1970

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Epona November 2018: Super trip! Fernando and team were terrific, accommodations were great, fun riding (dressage lessons and trail rides) and extra activities, excellent food. THANKS

Susan Mercer