karakachan_horses
Photo Credit: Frans Schepers/Rewilding Europe

Horse whispering in Velingrad

Horses symbolise strength, speed, and durability and are often associated with freedom. In Europe, there are a handful of regions where free-roaming horses live. The Rhodope hills around Velingrad are home to one of the last free-roaming wild horse breeds, the Karakachan horse (feral Konik). They represent an ancient horse breed that is related to the Mongol horse. These horses were used by Karakachans, who lived nomadic lifestyles and used the horses to carry their life-sustaining cargo from pasture to pasture.

The horses are a smaller breed, well-accustomed to the local environment, undemanding to feed and groom, resilient to diseases and durable. Today, the horses are included in the European Wildlife Bank and live in two protected areas in the Rhodopes. The region is home to four herds that count more than 80 horses. According to experts, horses significantly contribute to biodiversity, most notably by sustaining pastures.

karakachan_horses
Photo Credit: Equestrian Centre Sivek

In addition to horses, the nomadic Karakachan tribe lived in harmony with dogs and sheep. That led to the inception of domestic species – the Karakachan dog and Karakachan sheep. Today, the friendly dog breed is predominantly a guard dog for livestock and was officially declared a Bulgarian indigenous dog breed in 2005.

Free-roaming horses

It seems unreal that you can encounter horses that roam the region’s endless pastures just a stone’s throw away from Velingrad. A short walk to the church above Kamenitza will reward you with unparalleled views of picturesque meadows surrounded by pine trees. Here, the wild horses graze freely, sometimes in the company of friendly donkeys. The scene is something out of a black-and-white film that one cannot stop watching.

karakachan_horses
Photo Credit: Frans Schepers/Rewilding Europe

If you wish to enjoy an organised experience, the Equestrian Center Sivek is the right address. Here, you will learn all about the indigenous horse breed. A visit to their centre will enable your team to experience beginner riding in the arena or horse-riding in nature for advanced riders. The centre has fourteen horses and a pony. In addition, your incentive group can try their hand at archery which is a popular team activity among companies.

Wow factorOne of the last free-roaming wild horse breeds
Incentive type  Active experience
Number of participants  Up to 15
Best time of the yearApril – October
DurationFrom 2 to 3 hours
Location Velingrad

Get in touch

Equestrian Center Sivek
Borislav 3A
Velingrad, Bulgaria

T: +359 885 380 704
E: info@bghorses.com
W: https://bghorses.com/?lang=en