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.
Finally most important of all, is temperament.
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?