Horse whispering in Ibiza

IBIZA horse valley

We’ve said it before and it’s our pleasure to repeat it time and time again: Ibiza is so much more than just pristine beaches, dazzling dancefloors and glitzy restaurants. It is all those things and more, of course, but what makes the island really magic is the people who live here. From the pure spirited and the community minded to those who simply put others before themselves, Ibiza has long attracted tribes of people with the purest of intentions. Once settled, they begin to spread goodness far and wide, which means you don’t need to look hard to find them.

Head north to the outskirts of the charming town of San Juan, for instance, and you will soon stumble upon David Capdevielle and Monique Tjon, who run Ibiza Horse Valley, a sanctuary set up back in 2010 to rehabilitate abandoned and mistreated horses. Designed to encourage horses to eventually re-enter the riding world, it’s a slow and considered process that begins when the animals rediscover their place among the herd. It involves acceptance, guidance and a deep understanding of the animal’s personality and previous trauma to get to this point. “Every horse deserves a second chance,” explains Monique. And at Ibiza Horse Valley, they have a better likelihood than anywhere of realising it.

a sanctuary set up back in 2010 to rehabilitate abandoned and mistreated horses

Every one of the horses that has arrived at Es Murta Nature Reserve, the 40-acre space where Ibiza Horse Valley is situated, has had its own unique journey. Some have been clearly, and very sadly, neglected, while others have simply been handed over because the current owners aren’t able to look after them anymore. Regardless of the condition they arrive in, they’re all met with the same welcoming, open attitude and a commitment that things will get better from hereon in. “We promise each horse a new, pleasant life, forever,” says Monique with sincerity. That bond is built on foundations of both dedication and passion.

It was David who initially returned to Ibiza to work with horses. Born on the island, he came back to manage a stable with more than 60 liveries, but it was at this point that he had an epiphany of sorts: horses shouldn’t live like this – he wanted something better for these beautiful creatures. As fate would have it, he met Monique some months later and together they bonded over a shared vision to create a space where horses could feel at home. Almost a decade later and the couple are still creating and learning, while also providing a safe space for countless horses to recover.

ibiza Horse Valley is able to help each horse back on the track to recovery.

The process of rehabilitation is a complex one that takes immense skill and also a deeply innate understanding of the horses. Using natural horsemanship techniques (which take years to hone) the couple are able to observe the horse’s natural behaviour, rejecting abusive or aggressive training methods in favour of listening to the horse and what it’s telling them. “If the horse is physically capable, it doesn’t take long for them to explain to us what has happened to them,” David explains. With this invaluable knowledge plus a whole lot of love, Ibiza Horse Valley is able to help each horse back on the track to recovery.

A fundamental pillar of healing comes when the horse is reintroduced to a herd. At Ibiza Horse Valley, every horse lives in semi-liberty, free to roam among the stunning landscape of the canyon. This allows them re-establish their natural behaviours and discover their own rank among their peers. The length of time this takes varies depending on the horse, but it’s only when this milestone has been achieved that David and Monique even consider re-introducing the horse to the riding world. “They have to regain full confidence,” says Monique. “First in themselves, and then in humans. Some of the horses will never be ridden again. They live a ‘happy horse life’ with us, but never become a ‘riding horse’ again.”

At Ibiza Horse Valley, every horse lives in semi-liberty, free to roam among the stunning landscape of the canyon.

Needless to say, as a non-profit organisation, this is an expensive promise to keep. But it’s one that David and Monique uphold rigidly – their only desire being to give the horses a happy home. Consequently, the majority of costs have to be covered by donations and sponsorship. If you’re keen to help, there are a few ways to contribute to Ibiza Horse Valley. The first is to donate an up front, one-off sum; the second is to pledge a specified amount each and every month – as little as 3€ can make a huge difference; and the third is to make a contribution in return for an encounter with the horses – an experience our Guest Relations department can arrange for those staying at 7Pines Resort Ibiza.

Naturally, Ibiza Horse Valley experiences differ from the norm. The horses won’t be waiting to meet you at the gate, for example (they’ll be too busy running wild and free), however David or Monique will be on hand to inform riders about the importance of rehabilitation, not to mention each of the horses’ particular traits and rank among the herd, and a brief education on the journey that brought them here in the first place. After this, riders are introduced to the horses and each one chooses a partner for the day – a magical meeting of minds. Then, before setting off on a four to five-hour expedition to explore the island’s rugged northern landscape, everyone preps their own horse for the ride.

EMBARK ON A four to five-hour expedition to explore the island’s rugged northern landscape.

During some months of the year, full day experiences are available. These rides pass through beaches and depending on the weather and tide conditions, can include swimming with the horses – a once in a lifetime experience for riders of all abilities – and sunset rides. The only restrictions are that participants must be at least 14 years old and weigh no more than 84 kg (enforced because Spanish horses are slightly smaller than Northern European horses). However you choose to help, you’re making a huge difference to these mistreated horses’ lives. “We do not relocate or sell our horses," concludes Monique. “We promise they can stay with us till the end of their lives.” Ordinary people doing extraordinary things – it’s all par for the course on Ibiza.

Ibiza Horse Valley is a private property, and can be visited by appointment only. Contact our Guest Relations Team to arrange a riding experience, and if you’d also like to donate, visit ibizahorsevalley.com to support the horses’ rehabilitation and homing.

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