Horses have been at home in Simmental for a very long time. Until the 18th century, the Simmental was even a real stronghold of horse-breeding. After the victory of the Swiss at Grandson (1476), the Simmental people received 100 stallions as the spoils of war. On the «grasige Matten» (green meadows), a tough breed emerged which was sold throughout the world. The breed was named after its market town, Erlenbach, and is called the ‘Erlenbacher’.
In the Agensteinhaus Museum in Erlenbach, the history of horse-breeding in the Simmental is documented. The Erlenbacher was a half-blood, a horse that was very good for riding and for pulling. The Bernese patricians valued the breed for pulling their carriages. At around 1780, Erlenbach alone boasted 22 stallion-breeders.
The last Swiss horse breed still being bred today is the Freiberger, which comes from the Jura. In Simmental in the 18th century, breeders started to focus on breeding Fleckvieh cattle – with incredible success – after the breeding of horses became ever less important. The Simmental Fleckvieh cattle have become world-famous.
Horse-riding is one of the most popular pastimes in Switzerland. Approximately 140,000 female equestrians (well over 80% of riders are women) get in the saddle at least occasionally. The Simmental and Lenk are both wonderful places for this. The flat valley floor is ideal for horse-riding and, behind every knoll and every turn, beautiful views wait to be discovered.
It is as comfortable as it sounds: In the aperitif or fondue carriage, you will be transported through the wonderful landscape to the rhythmic sound of the horses’ harnesses.
Short rides along the Simme are doable for the less sporty, too. Ambitious equestrian enthusiasts can, however, also tackle the slopes to the right and left and experience day tours with more demanding rides
For beginners, a holiday stay is perhaps the ideal time to sample the special smells of horses and stables for the first time. For example, at the equestrian centre at the Hotel Simmenhof at Lenk, or the Merlin Pony Club in Erlenbach. With personal supervision, you will learn not only how to deal with horses, but will also get to experience the special friendliness of the valley. Especially for children, holidays featuring a daily visit to the stables and riding lessons is a great way to make the time even more fun and interesting while, at the same time, offering them a quick introduction to the equestrian sport.