It is a glorious day here in Montaione, wildflowers are everywhere now, and the sun is shining brightly. Since todau is the final calm before the long weekend ‘storm’ (we are at full capacity all weekend) I escaped the office on my lunch break with Shakir to ride a new route that I had scoped out by foot last week.
The ride uses part of the old medieval road that took farmers, merchants and soldiers between the fortressed castle of Castelfalfi and the village of Montaione. Parts of the road still have old stone cobbles, and there are dramatic views in each direction.
The grass is so long right now that it covers some hidden dangers, such as a deep ditch that we almost walked right into. Luckily since he arrived Shakir has become much better, and as soon as saw the ditch underfoot and asked him to back up, he reinbacked perfectly, and performed a very good rollback to turn literally on his heels on the narrow trail. Franco often uses the example of trail ride hazzards to explain why the rollback is so important and this morning was a classic example of a technical movements practicality outside of the arena.
We rode down through the olive groves and crossed the river at the bottom of the canyon between Montaione and Castellares land. I had a brief chat with an elderly man cutting wood, and we carried on to the old water mill and finally Casa Cheta,a beautiful holiday home hidden in the middle of romantic olive groves and wild woods.
As we rode back up to base a fallen tree blocked our path, and I was so glad to have this nimble mountain goat of a horse with me. I took off his bridle and we literally had to negotiate a steep metre high climb followed by twenty meters of pushing through thick forest and low brambles to get around the said obstacle. He acted like a little dog: quietly, patiently picking his way through all that blocked his path, and then popped a wee jump at the end to get back down from the ledge.
It was a lovely ride, and when he got home he enjoyed a long shower and when cool, some grain and hay in his box as thanks for a lovely ride.
Shakir now is ready to be used for clients out on the trails, and I hope they enjoy riding him as much as I have over the past couple of months.
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