Category Archives: horse riding holiday tuscany

2016 season comes to an end.

Some great pics of one of our October weeks riding last month.

This year we have had some truly international clients. American, Brazillian, English, Norwegian, Finnish and German just to mention a few.

The horses are now on their 5 month winter rest in preperation for next season.

 

 

 

Maremmani Horses

Last year we made a photo excursion down to the south of Tuscany, to photograph some very special horses. The Maremmani. The group of riders we photographed were passionate Tuscan riders, who kept alive the Butteri style of riding, and the love of the hardy and strong minded Tuscan cowhorse, the Maremmano (and one adorable rare Tolfetano mare).

Below are some of the photos. It was an amazing day, with really wonderful people, and the horses were something out of this world.

If you ever have the chance to ride one of these horses (there are many trekking centers in the south of Tuscany) and try the fantastic traditional tack, you should jump at the chance.

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Through the eye of the horse

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Winter in Tuscany brings rain. Lots of rain. Driving to work daily, I find myself noting how the ground looks in sections where I normally pass on horseback. Its something I do unconciously, even though right now I am not riding at all.Weather is such an important factor to working outside with horses, and the softness of the ground, slipperyness of hill sections, or obstacles caused by heavy wind or rain, really can make a huge difference to the safety of the horses or riders I accompany out during the season.

Working as a guide means in an area where the weather can change quickly during the wet months, means having alternative routes in the case of emergency is a must.

Early spring makes for challenging riding, the weeks leading up to our seasonal opening (end of March) make for a lot of maintenance runs in the truck, tractor or horseback. Annually in the spring we need to clear the trails of fallen trees, rebuild the bridge that runs between Castelfalfi and Castellare, over the river (which swells considerably during the winter due to heavy rainfall), and fill in any of the dangerous sink holes that open up due to flooding.  All of the trails need to be checked before we ride them, as any obstacle could bring about lengthy extensions to our rides.

Riding on these trails in slippery, often unstable terrain during the early spring weeks requires an immense amount of trust in my horse. Here at Castellare we dont use any type of fixed martingales or tie-downs with our trail horses, and we ride them ‘on the buckle’ in english terminology. Basically, we dont have any contact unless there is a reason for it.The horses are incredibly sure footed, as many of our past clients can attest too, and know their jobs so well, that they need no rider assistance to show them where to put their feet.

When clients ride out with me down steep and sometimes muddy banks, I always remind them to let the horse have his head completely. It amazes me how many people find this idea difficult, often because they have been taught to keep a contact on the horse. One client that travelled out here a few years back had learnt the hard way the importance of this rule. While riding in Portugal, the group was taken down a steep slope. Her horse slipped, and she tried to correct him, but instead with the head pulled up, the horse lost his balance and fell- rolling down the hill and nearly crushing the rider.

This week I was reading an article in the Horsemanship Journal, by Maddy Butcher Grey that talked about the dangers of restricting a horses head when he is required to work over uneven terrain on trails or negotiate obstacles. One comment jumped out at me.

 “All true horsemen are going to say the same thing as far as head restriction of any kind.Stay off the face. The horse knows where his feet are coming down better than you do” (Ross Knoxx)

Horses are so vulnerable when they cant move their heads as they would naturally, and this is especially valid for trail horses moving over uneven terrain.

A client that was visiting a couple of years back told how on a ride horse back in her homeland, a horse in a tie down tripped on a rock, couldn’t use his head to regain his balance and fell off the trail down a fairly steep hill. Without the tie down it would have been an innocent, quickly forgotten stumble; with it, it was a disaster for both horse and rider.

To understand why the concept of fixed martingales on trail horses is so wrong, one needs to look at how the horse is physically made up, especially of note in this post – the horses vision.

Horses have the largest eyes of all land mammals. The eye of the horse is roughly eight times the size of a human eye. The placement and structure of the horse’s eyes is very different from ours. Horses are unable to focus their eyes the way humans and most animals can. When a wild horse raises and lowers his head as it looks at an object, it does so to adjust the focal length, moving until the object comes into focus on its retina. And, since the horse’s field of vision doesn’t overlap—the right eye sees what’s happening on the right side of its body, and the left side sees it on the left.(Monocular vision).

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The visual streak of the eye structure of the horse, means they see in an ultra panoramic format.

We know that horses do see some colors, but with limitations. Horses much like pigs, goats, cows, sheep and deer,  have only two different cone types on their retina, providing them with what scientists call dichromatic vision .

Reducing the number to two greatly reduces the number of colors horses see. They have no intermediate hues, but grays and pastels. They see mostly in the yellow, brown, and gray ranges.

A horse’s vision is its primary detector of danger. Even though horses have poor color vision, they can differentiate blue and red hues from gray ones. They have trouble differentiating yellow and green from gray and also poor depth perception when only using one eye.

Horses have an acute ability to detect movement. This is why a horse is much flightier on windy days; things that are normally stationary are now moving and perceived as a potential threat -and for this reason, especially in racehorses, trainers often use blinkers to bring their attention on the race ahead.

Our horses don’t see as sharply as humans – their average vision is around at 20/60 rather than 20/20,  but the eyes protruding from the side of their head offer them amazing peripheral vision with only two blind spots—one directly in front of the nose extending around four feet in front of it, and the other behind the tail, about ten feet long. This peripheral vision allows them to things in a panormaic format, spotting movement on either side of the faces, as well as in front of them.

Pulling a horses head down in a tie down not only comprimises his balance in the case of a fall or stumble, but also compromises his sight. For me, this means the horse is working at a disadvantage, and I need him to be 100% physically able to deal with anything that comes our way. He should have the liberty to move his head to see the landscape in different angles, so to assist him in how he moves over it.

My favorite guiding horse Shamal (below), who is now close to retirement age, has the peculiar habit of moving his head side to side as we ride out. At the walk he will literally turn his head to get better views of the area we are moving through. Its not always super comfortable, but the fact that this horse has on numerous occassions spotted obstacles or dangers that I hadnt noticed (holes in the ground, wild boar coming out of a clearing, hunters crouching in bushes etc) that has then given me the time to warn riders following us, means I will happily allow him the liberty of his head since it is what guarantees our safety, and those behind us. It is also worth pointing out that this is a horse that strongly resists any bit contact, and it has taken us the past two years to really understand each other. Since Shamal has a very strong, dominant character, letting him ‘take the reins’ for most of the rides we lead, has in turn developed our partnership into one of trust and understanding, something I could have never achieved by riding him on a contact, or with a forced short head carriage.

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Special Rates for Holidays at Castellare di Tonda for 2015

The reason why Tuscany is so eternally popular  is simply because it has the best of everything – fantastic weather, spectacular natural beauty, top wines, world famous cuisine, and in every direction, pretty medieval hill towns surrounded by ancient stone walls. 

This summer we have another reason to visit Tuscany. 20% off your holiday’s price.

If you book your Castellare di Tonda apartment before the 1st of March, you will recieve a 20% discount on the stay. This discount applies to holidays taken between our opening date of 28 March right through to the end of season closure on the 4th November.

Yes that includes high season too! This is the first time we have offered an early booking discount to our busy summer period, so dont miss the boat. Book early and save £ € $!!!

Nothing helps to cure the winter blues more than the excitement of an upcoming holiday, and we require only a 30% deposit on the apartment to guarantee the booking.

So start imagining your Tuscan holiday. Here are a few images to inspire you. If you have a non horsey friend or family member, remember we are located right in the middle of all the top Tuscan art cities. Florence, Pisa, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano are within an hours drive. San Miniato with its medieval tower is only 20 mins drive, and Montaione; our own medieval walled town, should not be missed. Especially for a sunset aperitivo in the piazza!!

Get in touch with us info@castellareditonda.com and we will send you a proposal within 24 hours (Monday to Friday) or alternatively check out the booking link on our website for an idea of pricing http://www.castellareditonda.com

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Recent Press in France and Italy

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Cheval magazine (France) this month, in a special feature on western riding (if only they had seen how Brownie behaved just after this photo was taken…)

Here is a double page feature on the riding at Castellare di Tonda in Cavallo Magazine Ed. September(Antonella Montalti) Italy

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Here is a multi page feature published in the American Paint Horse publication ‘Chrome Magazine’ last year.

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Our horses have also featured in various calendars for both 2015 and 2016!! The nicest thing about our supermodel ponies, is that they are real horses. Turned out in all seasons, living in herds, and working during the season.

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Christiane Slawik Workshop June 2014

Apologies for the long break in posts. I finally have a moment to put up some of the great photographs taken during the June Christiane Slawik workshop.

The whole week was a real experience. Highlights were for me, the visit down to the Val d’Chiana to photograph Maremmani horses, and the lake liberty shoot (with all the participants piled into the back of Francos pickup).

We have the next course in one month (6 September) and we still have three spots left. If you are interested, get in touch and we will book you in!

Below some comments from the last participants:

To say it the italian way: Bravo! Fantastico! Wonderful shootings, unforgetable trails and a wonderful team! Now I know what’s dolce vita! Grazie!! K.H.

i’ve had a wonderful week, with beautiful horses and an amazing scenery. The shoots were informative and Christiane takes time to explain the things you don’t understand. Thank you! R.S

We traveled from New Zealand to experience this workshop.  It was an amazing week filled with beautiful horses, lovely people and the amazing Christiane.  She was full of talent, energy and enthusiasm which inspired us all.   Many thanks, we hope to see Christiane in New Zealand soon!! ES

Diese Reise war eine sehr gute Entscheidung. Die richtige Mischung aus lehrreichem Workshop, Entpannung und vor allem extrem viel Spaß. Christiane Slawik muss man einfach in Aktion erleben. Die Leidenschaft die sie für die Pferde und ihre Arbeit hat überträgt sich sofort auf die Kursteilnehmer. Die Ausritte mit Jessica und die Reining Stunde bei Franco waren einfach super.
Die wunderschöne Landschaft der Toscana und das gute Essen runden das Bild ab.
Vielen Dank dass ich dabei sein konnte! C.B.

Die Tage mit Christiane Slawik und den anderen Workshopteilnehmern waren spannend und sehr lehrreich.  Eine tolle Erfahrung – selten hat man Gelegenheit so viele nette Menschen kennenzulernen und so beeindruckend schöne Pferde zu fotografieren. DANKE!  M.F

Um es auf Italienisch zu sagen: „Bravo!!! Fantastico!!!  Einzigartige Fotoshootings, unvergessliche Ausritte durch die toskanischen Weinberge und ein wundervolles Team. So funktioniert also das „dolce vita“! Grazie!! K.H.

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Spring happenings at Castellare di Tonda

We have been busy busy at the stables this past couple of months, with some lovely riding groups and interesting trail adventures. We had a new arrival (pic below) who is just as gorgeous as her daddy the sadly deceased Gemini Pine who we had to put to sleep last year. This little filly’s mum is Snapper, the fabulous reining school horse so many of our clients have enjoyed riding. With a mum as nice as Snapper, and a famous father (Gemini was one of the best reining horses in the world in his prime) this little filly is set to be a great prospect. Shes super cheeky too, and already loves to do sliding stops in the sand!

Last month I managed to get over to the Badminton horse trials to meet visitors old and new on the In the saddle stand. It was great fun meeting so many interesting people, discussing western riding, and watching some of that fantastic horsemanship at the event. Tonight I will be picking up our favorite equine photographer Christiane Slawik for next weeks photoworkshop.

Here are a few picks taken the past couple of months, and as soon as we have some new picks of the workshop I will load them up too!

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