Monthly Archives: June 2013

Tales from this weeks Trails

Things are full steam ahead here at Castellare this month. We have had plenty of interesting rides, fun guests, and even a few VIPS to keep us busy. The weather looks like it has finally started to pick up for good, and this week the forecast promises sun every day (this comes after a rotten Sunday and Monday, and fairly average morning today).

Yesterday we managed to perfectly time a three and a half hour ride to up to Barbialla farm and then home through the pretty meadows behind Alberi. Normally this would be a four hour full day ride, but since the weather was not on our side we took three very fit horses, and did a full morning with lunch on our return. We left the minute the morning storm passed and returned just as it started to rain again. Great luck on our side! In between we were lucky to experience some wonderful sunny weather, so much so that the riders with me were down to singlet tops and had to stop to apply sunblock.

Today the morning was a little cool and overcast, and our morning ride through the forest of Camporena was a tad damp. The horses were little troopers as always, and in the open areas there was some lovely stretches to let the horses surge ahead into canter. Many of our canters are winding and sometimes a little  challenging (since the rider needs to watch for low branches, and keep the best path for the horse). Fun for clients, since there is a mix of excitement and challenge.

I  like to always warn our riders that there is a fair bit of walk on our rides , since the trails can be quite mountainous in sections – but in between there is always ample opportunity for a change of pace; and some of the canters are very long, requiring a good level of fitness to really enjoy them.

Today on our return from San Vivaldo we spotted a buck fallow deer, and a sweet baby fawn (sitting in the middle of a bunch of pink wildflowers..just like something out of a postcard). At Castelfalfi we tied the horses up to a couple of olive trees, and enjoyed a fresh homemade gelato from the cafe on the grass.

The horses charged home after this break (where they managed a snack on the lush grass too), and were rewarded with a nice shower and a relaxing evening in the turnout field.

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Riding the Pisan Florentine territories border

These pictures were taken when we rode out around the Vald’Egola a river that connects Montaione and San Miniato.  The gorgeous model here is Chloe – an English rider out for a week at the start of May.

This valley is best known as an area where the White truffle grows well, and the truffles collected here are demonstrated at the National White Truffle fair in San Miniato in November.

Barbialla and Barbialla Nuova were originally one farm, but were divided between two sisters thirty years ago. Both farms are huge, with many beautiful old country villas now used for eco-tourism (Barbialla Nuova has a completely bio-farm) and runs a large herd of Tuscan Chinina cattle that eat only completely organic material and live outside almost all year round in large pastures.

We rode past the Collegalli farm, a historical estate that breeds pheasants for hunting. This farm has a magical panoramic view over Montaione and San Miniato, and would have been a bustling hub of activity 100 years ago. Today it seems almost frozen in time, and the inhabitants of the farm still keep geese, chickens and pigs much like they would have in the past.

We rode up the old road, which in some parts has suffered big landslides, which makes it unusable for vehicles but fine for walkers and riders. The Whole trail takes around 8 hours to ride, so we only do a part of it on our day trips; usually we stop at an abandoned ruin amongst the olive groves – but today we rode up to the chapel of Collegalli. This tiny Church is located in the middle of the forest, and is unmarked by signage. The Church is open, so we could look around inside too. As it was, the weather was nice and sunny – so we sat outside and let the horses free to graze while we enjoyed a picnic.

On the ride home we stopped at Barbialla Nuova to let the horses drink, and then rode up via Riccardo Niggi’s workshop on our way back to Castellare. The weather was good the Whole day, and the horses were just fantastic. A lovely day all round.

Now to finish – an old Italian poem about Barbialla and horses 🙂

Oh Maresco, a indovinalla
chi morì senza assaggialla
dalle parti di Barbialla…
Tu rimani sempre a galla
hai la barba pure gialla…
hai la barba e pure i calli
per le corse a Collegalli
coi puledri e coi cavalli
alla sfida del cavillo
senza slip e tacchi a spillo…

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