Monthly Archives: June 2012

Western Dressage – an interesting concept

Classical dressage and classical Western Riding have a great deal in common. Not really surprising since they both come from the same Renaissance European philosophies maintained and evolved through the practicalities of use and when the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the Americas in the early 1500’s.

These conquistadors brought with them cattle-working and warfare practices that stemmed from the classical schools of Europe and now form the basis of Western Riding today.

Dressage, was originally equestrian military training and once had a practical value when men fought with swords from horseback. Since its original purpose has become completely obsolete, modern dressage has taken a less practical and more refine form which to many classical riders is distorted.

Extremes such as an excessive contact and roll kur/hyper flexion have sadly become accepted norms in many yards. Also, with the popularity of German warmbloods, and the desire for extreme gaits – many breeds of horse have been virtually eliminated from the dressage competition scene due to their physical limitations.

In Western riding, the same has happened in competitions such as western pleasure (where an exageratedly low head carriage and slow gaits have become the norm).

The nicer aspects of Western riding, such as the looser rein, relaxed performance, and classical dressage (higher) hand position mixed with classical dressage theory is an interesting concept, and has already gained international interest.

According to the Western Dressage websitem the Western Dressage horse will have a shorter stride than a Dressage horse and the Western Dressage horse will be asked to walk, jog and lope as opposed to walk, trot and canter. 

Sports such as western dressage, and working equitation are expressing the modern horsemans desire to ride correctly without causing pain to the horse, and these sports are bringing working breeds (western in the Western dressage, and baroque horses in working equitation) back into the spotlight!


Some views of the accommodation at Castellare di Tonda


Horse Riding Weekend in Tuscany


Revitalize your spirit with a weekend horse riding in the Chianti countryside of Tuscany in the spring.

Discover a world of contrasts – where shadows merge with sunlight, thermal waters spring from the ground, wild flowers burst with perfume around you and red evening skies meet rolling hills of wheat on the horizon.

This is the perfect mini break for the romantic traveller looking to reconnect with nature on horseback.


 This weekend is a perfect introduction to western riding. The package includes a one hour lesson in our indoor arena with an expert instructor on a well trained school horse.

After the lesson you will enjoy an evening two hour ride into the Tuscan countryside. The riding around Castellare di Tonda is some of the best inItaly, with hundreds of hectares of cultivated farmland and forest trails to delight all riders. Our trail horses have been chosen to provide riders safe and responsive mounts. We have a selection of attractive Fjord horses fromGermany, as well as Criollo (Argentinian) horses, and American Quarter and Paint horses available for clients.

The package includes:

  • 2 nights accommodation in a standard one bedroom apartment (with its own kitchen/living room)
  • 2 wonderful buffet breakfasts at the restaurant
  • 1 2 course Dinner at the restaurant  (drinks not included)
  • One Hydro SPA circuit entrance  90 minutes to utilize the sauna, turkish bath, whirlpool, ice grotto, aromatic showers, and panoramic Jacuzzi
  • Courtesy kit to be used in the spa (bathrobe, towel, slippers)
  • One Hour Western Riding lesson
  • 2 hours of horseback riding with an English speaking guide

More details

The Yearlings

Our yearlings are now all turned out permanently for the spring, summer and Autumn months. After a long winter they now have the possibility to eat the freshest spring grass, run, mature and enjoy sunshine and spring rain storms in our wonderful turnout paddocks.

They have three attentive Babysitters with them. Two sweet broodmares, and Scooter one of the retired school horses. We are currently finishing off the huge job of fencing the entire top fields of the estate, providing an exceptional turnout for the rest of our horses – where they can muscle up on the hills, and enjoy long gallops in company.

Enjoy some pics of the yearlings a week ago.





The wonderful wild animals of Castellare di Tonda

Tuscany generally summons up images of honey colored fields of wheat, pretty roads lined with cyprus tree, and perfect rows of San Giovanni grapes. Lesser known, is the wild side of Tuscany. The dense woods, deep rivers, spectacular canyons and rock faces, and wonderful array of fauna and flora. Tuscany is also the most thickly wooded region in Italy with approximately 1 million hectares of forests.

Over the last decade, their has been a controversial return of Tuscany’s biggest predator – the wolf. These wonderful animals have been spotted on the hills around Florence, and recently in Montaione. The local shepherds and cattle farmers have reported losses, and out on rides I have come across animal carcasses more than once. Sheep and deer that have been polished off in a manner that seems very wolf-like.

The Castellare estate was also home to a herd of Mouflon. A sub species of the wild sheep that is commonly spotted in Sardinia and Corsica. These wild sheep were released by the Scotti family decades ago, and now run free in the area. I spotted a small group in Castelfalfi a month back, and I am unsure if these stem from the original Mouflon too….

Riding at Castellare you will often come across deer. At night, if you take a wander into the countryside, you will often come across porcupines, badgers, foxes, martens and weasels and it is very likely you will see or hear a family of wild boar searching for food or having a mud bath. Birdlife is everywhere, from the pheasants to the woodpeckers, right through to the rare golden eagle.

The horses take these animals in their stride. They live in fields that border the forest, and are used to meeting wild animals after the sun goes down.

Horse riding in the wild countryside around Castellare allows visitors the chance to discover the animals habitat in a non destructive way. The perspective is different on the back of a horse, and this form of travel is an environmentally friendly way to cover land, view scenery and experience nature and wildlife without disturbing them.




Castellare di Tonda evocative charming Tuscany

Hills of Castellare di Tonda

In a secluded corner of Italy’s wildest countryside  Castellare di Tonda Quarter Horses combines the Italian ancient contadina lifestyle with that of a working western equestrian center and quarter horse stud. Below is the medieval village of Tonda, located on the Castellare property. In fact this photo as taken on one of our horse riding trails to Castelfalfi castle (located on the opposite hill). Look closely and you will see the soft tufo horse tracks reserved for our clients only that lead around the village confines.

medieval village Tonda tuscany