The Tale of Two Sarahs

Updated: Feb 27

You can see the four episodes of my time at Caballo Blanco here


If I’d have looked down last year whilst riding the section of the Sierra Nevada from Nigϋelas to Pampaneira, I’d have seen Caballo Blanco which is situated mid-way up the sierra above Lanjarón.

A street with buildings, cars and mountains in the distance
The lovely mountain town of Lanjaron


After getting two buses, from Malaga to Granada, then Granada to Lanjaron, I waited at a bar. Sarah #1 soon arrived at the bar to pick me up, we had a quick drink and a chat. An attractive, blond, English lady, she had an air of being calmly competent, living a very hectic life. I liked her and felt safe in her hands. Even though it’s possible to read the blurb on a Helpx hosts establishment and the reviews of other helpers, one never really knows what to expect, or the true personality of the host.


Sarah filling the horses water buckets
Sarah, filling the horses water. Quite a job, water is scarce, each horse gets through 2-3 buckets a day

After going to a supermarket to do my food shopping, we made our way up to her ranch, Caballo Blanco. Being mid-summer, the land was parched, there was a nice-looking stable block, an oasis of greenery around the cortijo, horse paddocks up and down the valley, horses, dogs and cats everywhere. How would I ever learn all their names was the first thing going through my head!


Terraced land, with horses in paddocks
Looking from the middle paddocks, up to the top paddocks

Green trees and shrubs around the house, some Mulberries I'd picked in the foreground
The greenery around the house, some Mulberries I'd picked in the foreground


Sarah left me in the hands of her lovely son Charlie, he whizzed me around the various buildings; the outdoor compost toilet, my quarters, the helper’s kitchen, the shower etc, then left me too it.


My sleeping quarters, a stone cabin, hadn’t been lived in for around six months, so needed a good clean. It was around 4pm, the sun hadn’t soaked through the stone walls by then, so it was the coolest place around, alas that didn’t last. By midnight the stone walls had started releasing the heat they had soaked up during the day, Charlie had said it’s best to leave the door shut, but I couldn’t remember why, so I did. It was like an oven. There were mosquitoes. I couldn’t sleep. I put my tent up inside the cabin, but it was like a sauna. I couldn’t get the tent outside without taking it apart, so I got what sleep I could with the tent inside the cabin. I barely slept that first night. And I’ll be honest, I thought about leaving that day, but I told myself I must give it a couple of days at least. And I’m so glad I did.


Stone building where I slept
My sleeping quarters

Tables and chairs outside the helpers kitchen, a place to chill and eat
The helpers outside eating area

A kitchen for the helpers to make their food
The helpers kitchen

Inside my bedroom, the door open, a log burner, straw and leaves all over the floor
My bedroom needed a clean

My bed, before cleaning
My bedroom, before cleaning



When I left the UK, my friends Van and Kim had given me a mozzie net as a present, Sarah arranged for it to be fitted over my bed in time for my second night there. How it transformed my experience, I could sleep with the door open for cooling and be protected not only against the mozzies but also all the other insects that were around. I slept so well that second night, and from then on this bedroom was my happy little refuge.

My bed with a mosquito net over it
My bed after the game-changing mosquito net was fitted


I slowly learnt all the dogs names, I never did learn all the cats names, quite a few of them were very similar in colour, I didn’t stand a chance with my memory! The horses names were difficult to learn, most had summer fly rugs and hoods on, you could barely see their unique colouring or form so I learnt their names by which paddock they were in!


A black cat
Diesel, a friend and stable mate to Fluffy

A German Shepherd dog
Azlam

A white dog
Diddly

A brown dog in her kennel doorway
Amber

Sarah with a few of the dogs
Sarah with a few of the dogs

Shelves inside the stable block , a cat on each shelf
Some of the mouse-catcher cats in the stables

It was very hot the whole time I was there which made working in the relentless sun harder work than it would ordinarily be.


My first job of the day was to let the chickens out of their shelter and to feed them, I forgot once but luckily Sarah had spotted my mistake. It amazed me that they have a finely tuned body clock, each night just as the sun was going down, they would all go back into the coop without prompting, adjusting the time as the sundown time changed week by week. I would then lock them in, to protect them against predators. Again, I had forgotten once, I was terribly upset that I’d forgotten but luckily none were harmed.


8 brown chickens feeding
The chooks I looked after, 9 in total

I was to work at least five hours a day, six days a week, in return for food and accommodation. I was happy to pay for my own food, Sarah took me shopping in town once a week, to me it was my way of contributing to the ranch. I didn’t stick strictly to the hours and tried to work as much as I could, within reason. I wasn’t sleeping well, waking at around 2am for a few hours, at least giving me the chance to go out and watch the wonderful Sierra Nevada night sky. But it did leave me tired, as did the heat and moreover, the punishing sun. My jobs were varied; from cleaning the semi-outdoor shower, barbecue, and outdoor cooker to tacking up horses and building fences.


For three weeks, after letting the chickens out, I’d spend a couple of hours a day, before the sun got too hot, repairing the fence around Tequila’s paddock, which was located ‘over the river’, basically down and up a valley. I’d be greeted each morning by Fluffy, a beautiful fluffy grey puss cat. She was banished over the river because Porcini, another cat, didn’t like her. He was a bully, poor Fluffy. I got quite attached to her, she would come in my bedroom for cuddles and sleep under the table in our kitchen, I’d try to protect her as much as I could. I was so very sad to leave her, I hope she is happy and healthy.


A horse paddock, a gate and fence I repaired, Tequila the horse, in the background
Fence and Gate repaired, Tequila in the background

Fluffy the long haired grey puss cat, that I love
Fluffy, the one I love!

A fence post, repaired with bail string
A repaired fence

The wooden poles needed fixing to the metal posts, some of the poles weren’t quite long enough, so fixing them with bail string was quite difficult but I did my best! No two poles were fixed the same, but it looked quite tidy by the time I’d finished.

Tequila's paddock, showing the repaired fence
Tequila's fence repaired

Me and Fluffy the cat
Me and Fluff Fluff, it was hard to work with her on my lap!

Sarah's partner, Miguel, grows many vegetables in the three vegetable gardens at Caballo Blanco, luckily I didn't have to weed them!! But most days I would pick vegetables: tomatoes, courgettes, peppers, chillis and French beans, for Sarah's household and for me and Linda. It was lovely to eat fresh veg, along with the fresh eggs. Me and Linda took turns in making a soup, usually tomato or courgette, which would last us a few days.


A large pan of courgette soup
Courgette Soup

Some lettuces growing, shielded from the sun with an umbrella
Miguel's lettuce, cleverly shielded from the sun

I could have ridden the horses more than I did, I found a two hour ride in the blistering sun drained my energy for the rest of the day but I enjoyed the rides I was taken on by either Linda or Elle. They have some fabulous routes up or down the sierra, along the caminos and along some steep and rocky singletrack that would have also been fun on a mountain bike. It was scarier riding steeply downhill, over rocks, on a horse than it is on a mountain bike, being so high up, and totally dependent on the horse’s sure-footedness.

Me riding a grey horse, Piper, out on the sierra
Me riding Piper
A horses head and neck, I'm riding Tequila, mountains in the background
Out for a ride on Tequila on the beautiful sierra

When I was a kid, I had a fascination with Percheron horses, a French working horse. I'd never actually seen one until I arrived at Caballo Blanco. Malibu stood out from all the other horses, I noticed her as soon as I took a look around the paddocks, she is so big, around 17 hands high. I was very lucky as I'd always wanted to ride a Percheron, and Elle arranged with Sarah for me to ride Malibu! Elle rode Ciel and I rode Malibu, out on the sierra, it was wonderful. She was such a good girl, very well behaved and a comfortable ride. This was one of the many memorable times of my time at Caballo Blanco.


Me hugging Malibu the Percheron horse
Me and Malibu