Daylight saving starts at the end of next week, marking the end of summer.
Some people love the summer, others love the cold of the winter. Can I make a confession? More than anything, I love the changing of the seasons.
I love the fact that there’s a certainty that we can count on.The seasons will change no matter what happens. Each moment of the year has its own particular beauty. Seasons put life into perspective.
October marks the end of our riding season. On the 1st of November, the last clients for 2015 will leave the resort, and our team of wonderful trail horses will be turned out for a well deserved rest over the winter months.
Most of our trail horses will be turned out in our hilly 25 hectare circa paddock, where they can run, roll and enjoy a few months of almost wild-horse life.
We manage the herd very simply. The horses are unrugged, but have a large shelter. They have hay 24/7 and automatic water troughs. Daily we check that everyones ok – but they are unridden, and basically unhandled for at least two months.
A horse in the wild will travel ten to fifteen miles a day, foraging, looking for water, keeping ahead of predators. This is how they were genetically designed to live. After a busy season, turning out our horses as part of a herd keeps their emotional stress down. Our trail horses become more familiar with strange sights and sounds having spent time outside all winter, they are more balanced when negotiating uneven ground having encountered hills, slopes, and other natural terrain in the field, and thus require less work getting fit than the boxed horses at the start of the season.
The young horses, stallions and reining horses kept in the stable do however remain in light work.
They are ridden twice a week at least, in short but effective training sessions. Time is spent grooming and handling them on the ground, and working on basic respect (as a good horse on the ground, makes for a good horse in the saddle). They are also excercized in the covered round pen every other day, to keep them fit and to use excess energy from being stabled.
Then at the end of January, we start bringing everyone back into slow work in preperation for the 2016 season, which starts at the end of March.
Three years back this colt was a suprise foal, born a little early, he arrived one night unassisted in our stables.
Cute as they come, he was a unique sight, as he was born with crooked legs, and had what is called “windswept” legs, with both fronts legs curved in the same direction (forwards).This is thought to be due to the way he was lying in the uterus.
Luckily little Rebel straightened up on his own, and this is how he looks today! He is a unique horse with a fabulous golden bronze coat. These photos were taken two weeks ago, and demonstrate how handsome this Spooks gotta Gun offspring has become!
Come see him in action down in the arena with Franco and Marco, our trainers!
A famous Ghandi quote is ” The enemy is fear. We think it is hate;but it is fear.”
Riding anxiety affects many of us in varying degrees, but for some riders this problem takes almost all of the joy out of what was once their favorite sport.
Anxiety is not a word that you want to associate with riding, but there is no doubt that these feelings come up for most of us at some point in our riding lives, and there is no doubt that tense, anxious riders cause tense, anxious horses too.
Anxiety is something we see a lot of our riders struggling with, and I can relate well to the feeling.
Fear stems from negative feelings, about things we know can happen based on past experience and anxiety stems from what our minds speculate could or might happen.
For riders that have recently had an accident, experiencing fearful thoughts about that accident happening again is a normal response.
The psychological recovery from an accident can often take much longer than the physical recovery. Much of this depends on how confident the rider was before the accident as well as their understanding and acceptance of how and why the incident occured.
Many riders are deeply ashamed and embarrassed of their fears. Suffering in silence, while secretly wishing to experience the joy they once felt outside on a trail ride, or in the arena.
Ways to combat rider anxiety:
1. Ride quiet and dependable horses. Sometimes simply changing horse is enough to combat anxiety, and combined with this – change the way you ride. If riding out on the trail terrifies you, stick to the arena for a while. If fast sports fill you with dread, try a different discipline( pleasure, trail etc).
2. Get help – friends and fellow horse owners can be incredible. Fellow horse riders or instructors that understand fear, because they have overcome it are the best.
3. Get professional help – therapists, physiologists, physiatrists etc, etc.
4. Stop riding – which may sound strange, but if your fear is so strong that you are in tears before you ride, maybe its better just to enjoy horses from the ground.
The Castellare di Tonda crew specialise in working with nervous riders.
If you are looking to get back in the saddle after some time off, an accident or simply wish to try riding a calm schoolmaster in an amazing location, get in touch with us.
We can organize private lessons and private trail rides to suit the rider. http://www.castellareditonda.com
Saddle sores can quickly cut short a riding holiday.
We have witnessed many a sore rider struggling after a long day in the saddle.
Everyone’s bottom hurts when they start riding. But the more you ride, the less it will hurt, as your muscles and tissues get used to it.
When you choose jeans for riding, they should have reduced friction against your skin, a higher rise to provide coverage of your lower back in the seated position, and a longer inseam, to cover the shaft of your boots while in the saddle.
If you are going on a riding holiday, and are not used to riding in jeans do not just wear your fashion jeans because you WILL BE sore afterwards, and why wreck a holiday just because you didnt buy riding jeans before you left. Wrangler, Ariat, Cruel Girl and many other brands have excellent jeans made for riding, and if in doubt – pantyhose or bicycle shorts under your jeans also work wonders!
At Castellare di Tonda we are often complimented on our great horses.
Our horses have in most cases been bred onsite, or hand picked as trail horses. The horses bred onsite that didnt have the right attributes to become a trail mount were sold on for other disciplines, whereas the calmer, more solid types will stay on for life.
Unfortunately in many equestrian establishments all over the world, the horses utilized for trail riding are horses that have been ‘recycled’ from previous lives, often unsuitable for trail work just as they were unsuitable for competition because of either confirmation or personality flaws.
Just about any horse can handle the minimal demands of carrying a rider a short distance (one hour max) across flat terrain. The challenge escalates as the rides become longer and the landscape becomes steeper.
The terrain in most of Tuscany is challenging. Forget the dream of softly rolling hills : At Castellare di Tonda, we have some big hills, difficult river crossings, narrow forest paths, and rocky mountain trails. Proper conformation is important to allow our horses to be balanced, powerful and maneuverable over the difficult terrainas well as to maintain soundness over its lifespan.There are exceptions to every rule and we definitely have horses at CT with poor conformation that are excellent trail mounts, and so far have never taken a lame step. However,the below points of conformation are things we definately take into consideration when purchasing new horses for our string.
When we consider a trail horse, we look for traits such as temperament & personality,confirmation, physical build, athletic condition training and more.
A good trail horse, is a well put together horse. Cosmetic problems such as scars dont usually cause any problems with a good horse, whereas confirmation issues do.
A sturdy build is a must, we like a horse with a deep chest and well-sprung ribs. To carry the rider over long miles, he also needs good strong legs!
The bigger the bone, the bigger the joints and the more the horse can sustain impact, hence why we love our Fjord horses and Criollo horses.
The finer-boned horses dont hold up as well as the horses with larger bone.
Not all horses are suitable for the long rides, and our finer Quarter horses are used more for the reining and western school, whilst the hardier types do more of the long distance work.
A good sound trail horse also often has short cannon bones, long forearms, and pasterns of a medium length and slope. Horses with high angulations tend to be more animated, but tend to break down faster too.
Feet play a large role in the trail horse too due to the fact that they bare all the weight. Sound feet are crucial. A triangle-shaped hoof ,with the base of the hoof larger than the coronary band is a good thing to look out for. A big, strong foot is important, as it needs to be tough enough to withstand the sometimes tough, rocky ground around us. A horse without good hooves isn’t suited for the continual concussion of long distance riding. Its an old phrase, but a valid one. No foot, No Horse.
A good horse looks balanced. He should carry equal weight on his front end and back end and on his topline and underline.
The slope of the horse’s shoulder is one of the most crucial aspects to consider. The slope of the shoulder directly influences his stride length and smoothness. Too straight of a shoulder causes him to not be able to easily extend his front legs and therefore he will have a very short, jarring stride. Horses with a nicely sloped shoulder have a free flowing, smooth, long stride since they are able to reach farther with their front legs.
A horse with a short broad back will have less problems from pressure points (although extremelly short backs, such as arabian horses can present saddle fitting problems too).
We use a barrel racing saddle on our little Shakir.
A horse with a longer topline indicates that it has a long, weak back. This can cause problems over long distance as longer back length makes it difficult for the horse to bring its hind legs up under its body when it moves. The hind legs reaching under the body are the source of power for the horse to move forward and also allow the horse to maneuver and adjust easily. If a horse is unable to bring its hind legs well underneath its body, more weight must be carried on its front end, thereby reducing its power and maneuverability as well as leading to a more jarring impact on the legs.
Manners are essential for our horses, and clients often comment us on how well behaved the horses are when out on the trail, or even just whilst being prepared.
We allow them to experience everything even whilst at rest. They get used to dogs, tractors, children and noise from the day they arrive at Castellare (for those not born and bred here).
If for an emergency we need to tie three horses to the same ring on a post – we can do it. Our horses have been so well socialised that they will stand through almost anything, are not worried by traffic, and will not kick the horses behind them.
Our horses tie, walk on a lead, stand for grooming and saddling, dont bite, load into trailers easily and allow vets and staff to treat wounds while standing quietly.
They dont worry about noisy lorries, can be ridden as below, bareback and ponied by another horse – and are very much a joy to deal with. :)
Want to come meet them yourselves?
Our gorgeous, cheeky mascot Balu sadly passed away last Friday.
Balu was well over 30 when he died, and no longer had any teeth. We let him live free the past few years, since in this way he could find fresh grass (since he could no longer use his teeth to munch up hay), and he lived happily in this way.
He was a cheeky pony, as so many of the shetland breed are. He knew when to ‘disapear’ ..generally when their were kids pony rides scheduled, and when to ‘appear’ which was generally just after grain had been fed out (he would kindly clean up all the left overs in the stable).
He liked to hang out at the bar, especially at aperitivo time – and was unpopular for a few weeks after offloading a nice steamy pile of manure (right inside the bar).
We will miss this little guy. RIP Balu.