Penny and Rio

The Riding Company trip to the magical Quinta da Fe in the heart of Portugal was in November. 4 intrepid ladies managed to squeeze themselves and their baggage into a Fiat Punto for the drive from Lisbon Airport to rural Alentejo. Upon arrival at c.10 pm we were greeted by our host Marc de Wery and ushered into the charming sitting room lit by a blazing log fire. A first night of relaxed chat and laughter set the tone for the week as we were shown to our rooms, each themed and decorated individually with artefacts Marc has picked up over the years. First impressions really count and Marc has made his communal areas warm and inviting.


Adele and Zorba

 The ‘Farm of Faith’ is a place to immerse yourself in the art of dressage, and to Marc, it is an art, rather than a sport. He is a Grand Prix rider, judge and top class instructor who offers not only riding on his Lusitano stallions but also theory lessons where he discusses his philosophy and guidance that complements the riding that he offers. The theory covers all sorts of aspects of body awareness that we never think of, both in our own bodies and our horses. The sessions were fascinating and backed up by watching DVD’s of some of the world’s top riders, many of whom Marc knows personally through his own competing and work with the Portugese National Team.


Marc and his bassets

Our group were rather nervously introduced to our horses the next morning for our first session with the maestro. We all rode rather tensely as one does with a new instructor and new horse and Marc assessed our needs for the week and planned a strategy to improve and relax all of us as individuals. I was paired with beautiful golden, dun Rio and Marc likes to keep you on the same horse whenever possible so you work as a team and develop a bond. Adele from Canada was paired with the stunning and temperamental grey Zorba, Sara with the elegant white Raposo and Anne-Marie with Lusitano cross, well mannered, Kelvin.


Tom on Raposo

With the help of his able British assistant Tom, Marc managed to turn us from dressage ugly ducklings into pirouetting princesses and dressage divas. The team on hand included ‘Super Mario’ responsible for maintenance of not only the gardens but also bodies as he is a sports masseur, and Paulo who cooked great food and ran the kitchen with great humour. Our fellow guests from Germany, Priscilla and Mario, added to the international flavour of the holiday and as a group we could not have enjoyed ourselves more. Meals are taken together in the intimate dining room where we enjoyed traditional meals prepared by Paulo including quail and a range of Portugese seafood amongst the dishes.


Sara on Raposo

On our 2 half days, we drove into the lovely city of Evora in pursuit of traditional Portugese custard tarts to die for (oh, and culture of course). Anne-Marie and Sally shopped till they dropped and on our 2nd visit Anne-Marie acted as our photographer, directing us like a pro! Her ‘3 ladies doing half pass without horses in front of the Roman Temple’ is destined to be a classic image. It probably was the only time I rode it perfectly!


Anne-Marie on Kelvin

At the end of a fabulous week we said farewell to our friends at QDF but have all vowed to return. If anyone would like to experience Marc’s magic contact kat@theridingcompany.com  and ask for availability. T: 01534 745795 or visit us on www.theridingcompany.com

There were so many highlights: riding around the arena to fine classical music, finally doing a decent shoulder in/travers/putting together a series of movements, sharing a room with Sara like a couple of kids at camp, Adele’s final hurrah, cantering on Zorba with her Spanish hat on, hair flowing behind, Anne-Marie doing a successful leg yield for the very first time after just a few months as a rider, Tom’s red slippers, those basset puppies, Marc’s Bach cello concerto which he is practising for a charity concert…oh and the horses, every one of them a delight.


The Maestro and Tom


Riding Holidays for Solo Travellers – from The Riding Company

Going solo! When you mention solo holidays people automatically think ‘singles’ holiday, the two are quite different! Riders who are holidaying on their own can meet and enjoy the companionship of like-minded i.e. ‘horsey’ people, have their own room with no supplement, ride every day together and then have dinner together in the evenings. Riding in Good Company is our motto for these special weeks. 

Join us this Winter in the Alps for a Ride and Ski break or in Spring in Menorca, Sardinia, Portugal or to South Africa on Safari over the Spring Bank Holiday. These trips sell out very quickly as places are limited so get in touch for further details today!


Italy:Lamm Alpine Active 4* hotel in the spectacular Italian Alps:  GET FIT WEEK 14-21st January with a week of ski-ing, riding and then relaxing in the indoor pool and Spa!.Numerous different winter rides out in the snow on haflingers ridden Western style for all ages and abilities, panorama spa, Italian food and sociable bar. Guided snow-shoe walks, cross country and alpine skiing. Free hotel shuttle bus. Also ski touring and off-piste skiing for beginners through to expert with hotel guides. New Date book now for our popular Riding Company Action Week 3-10th March. This promises to be a great fun, sociable week. More details

Italy: Ride & Relax week at the Post Tolderhof: Sunday 18th –Sunday 25th March7 nights Ride and Ski trip : £568 per person (offer includes 7 nights for price of 6!) if happy to share aSuperior Room (30-35m²) with delicious breakfast buffet, afternoon tea with sweet and savoury options, excellent 5 course dinner on ¾ board course, use of the wonderful spa facilities and pool and return transfers from Innsbruck. Winter activity programme includes guided snow-shoe walks, winter hiking tours and ski safari. Riding – add £150 for the flexible 10 hour programme which includes group lessons and rides out.For keen skiers, Plan de Corones has some of the best and most varied facilities to be found and is linked to the huge Dolomiti Superski area.More details


Spain:Menorca: 4* boutique hotel Binigaus Vell with lovely pool, beautiful rides on Menorcan black stallions. Short Riding Break (5 days, 4 nights with 3 horse rides) Monday – Friday 2012 Dates: March: 5th – 9th and October: 1st. PRICE: · Riders: £760 for a single room. Full board with wine and airport transfers included. More details

Andalucian Hills: March 10th or 17th 2012 Gallops for Gourmets Join Karen and chef Neil Armstrong for a special luxury break cooking and riding based at the exclusive El Nobo Villa.
Shepherds and Smugglers: 17-20 April: A special ride geared up to more novice riders, join Karen to explore the ancient trails of Andalucia, There is currently a 10% discount on this week and just 3 places left.
Sweet Chestnut and Wild lavender: 23-26 May: A four day mobile ride for intermediate riders or above. 10% discount on the listed price for this special ‘get together’ tour.
Grazalema Combo Tour: 9-16th April: a 7 night tour new for 2012 featuring a 3 day mobile ride and 4 nights at the fabulous El Nobo Villa.
For More details follow the link.

Italy: new holiday in Sardinia: Mandra Edera May 5-12th (May 7th is a UK bank holiday). Monte e Mare (Country and Sea) riding week based at delightful rural hotel . Ride for 5 days from the hotel in the heart of the countryside towards the coast, returning to the comfort of the hotel each afternoon to enjoy some free time relaxing by the pool or sight seeing. More details

Portugal: March 2012 Dressage at Quinta de Fe. Join other TRC riders and Marc for some top class instruction on his fabulous Lusitano stallions and some spring sunshine. The holiday includes full board and 10 hours of dressage instruction from Prelim level to Advanced dependent on your requirements and prices are just £585 pp if willing to share a twin room or booking a double or £695 for a single room. (prices exclude flights and transfers which are paid locally).This will be a great social week as well as the opportunity of a lifetime to ride amazing horses schooled to the highest level. Read more…

South Africa BIG 5: Riding Company Safari Week Spring bank holiday Saturday 2-9th June 2012 .We have a special offer onAfrican Safaris for 2012, £100 off the listed price if booked by December 15th 2011No single supplement if happy to share a room. Shared transfers. Read a report in Horse & Rider magazine. More details


Jan 14-21st Ride & Ski Lamm Alpine, Italy
March 3-10th Ride & Ski fitness week, Lamm, Italy
March 5th: Menorca short break
March 18th –25th Ride & Ski Post Tolderhof, Italy
March 10th or 17th: Gallops for Gourmets, Andalucia
March: Dressage at Quinta da Fe Portugal
April 17-20: Shepherds and Smugglers Trail, Andalucia
May 5-9th: Sardinia Mandra Edera
May 23-26th: Sweet Chestnut and Wild Lavender, Andalucia
June 2-9: Big 5 Safari in South Africa at Wait A Little


Gallop in the snow in the mornings, swish down the slopes in the afternoon, take the reins of a sleigh!

Fantastic ski-ing in Austria. All sorts of playtime-in-the-snow possibilities for families and accommodation in traditional 3* chalet hotels to 5* pampering luxury. Most of our venues combine lots of different winter sports’ activities, not just riding: snow trekking, ski touring, ice-climbing, ski-joering and free-riding (off piste skiing), even carriage driving in the snow.

Join us this Winter Half Term in the Alps for a Ride and Ski break. These trips sell out very quickly as places are limited so get in touch for further details today!


Atzinger at Fulpmes Stubai

Excellent riding centre offering lessons in an impressive architect-designed indoor sandschool. High altitude skiing at international ski resort Stubai Glacier and at Schlick 2000. Riding Kindergarten with free daily pony rides from 4yrs old, horse-whispering and acrobatics courses for kids from age 6. Teen programme and adult riding. Super spa and pool and a delightful family atmosphere in this top class 4*venue. Amazing In- and Outdoor playing areas, petting zoo, kids’ theatre, puppet theatre.

HALF TERM 11-18 Feb from £1266 in a Premium room to £1809 in a large suite for 2 adults, 2 kids, 7 nights on ‘all inclusive half board’ with return airport transfer from Innsbruck.

The Martinerhof: relaxed 4* traditional family hotel close to Salzburg, making this a great ride and ski venue for the whole family. Sleigh ride excursions (half day with panorama picnic stop), pool and spa. Cross-country skiing taster session for all the family. Free shuttle to ski resort Dachstein West. ski lift next to the hotel. Kids club. Winter rides out on the coloured horses on extensive bridle paths. Horsewhispering courses for kids and adults. Free pony rides. Organic farm produce.

HALF TERM 11-18. Feb £1545 in Landhaus Anna (2 rooms with mountain views) for 2 adults, 2 kids, 7 nights on full board with return airport transfer from Salzburg. Great value for money.
Ellmauhof Family Hotel: Stylish 4* family hotel right on the ski slope of Saalbach Hinterglemm, with riding kindergarten for 3-6 yr olds and lessons for all ages and abilities. Indoor petting zoo, free kids club, indoor pools and spa. Sleigh rides. This manages to work brilliantly as a perfect place for kids (teens too) but also provides a stylish grown-up environment for adults, superb wine bar, cuisine and interiors designed in natural colours with an original flair. Free childcare (2 yrs+) 9am-8.30pm incl. lunch & juices all day. Free use of children’s activity pool and waterslide, entertainment programme, adventure Gypsyland play area. Excellent skiing; ski in-ski out convenience and lots of family-focused ski facilities and services. Next to the hotel, a gentle blue run leads to the bottom of the ski lifts where ski school meets or families can take the hotel’s free mini-train service up or down. 200kms of prepared pistes await you in the Saalbach Hinterglemm ski circus.

HALF TERM for 2 adult and 2 kids: £2793 for 7 nights all inclusive full board in a family suite with use of the extensive hotel spa facilities plus free children’s activities throughout the week.

Visit the website or give us a call. www.theridingcompany.com e: info@theridingcompany.com Tel:            01534 745795      

Achenkirch winter holidays with The Riding Company

What could be more romantic than a ride in a sleigh, wrapped
in fur blankets through the snow in a beautiful Alpine valley, through winter
forests, along the rivers, through villages all lit up with twinkling white lights.
Stop for a warming mulled wine then head back to the roaring fire of your
hotel. Most of our Ride & Ski hotels offer sleigh rides but at some you can
also take the reins and learn how to drive a sleigh yourself. These sleigh
driving courses are for complete beginners (no need to know how to ride) or for
experience drivers who want to learn the special techniques of driving in the

Horse and carriages are still widely used by villagers and
farmers in the Tyrol region of Austria and Northern Italy so this idyllic
picture right out of Dr. Zhivago is once
again a common sight in ski resorts. The Riding Company specialise in all
things riding (particularly Ride &
in Winter) so it is no surprise that they have a wide range of sleigh
ride experiences:

learn to drive your own carriage through the cobbled streets
of Garmisch Partenkirchen, passed the Baroque painted shop fronts, passed the
famous Olympic ski jump, to the foot of the spectacular Zugspitze and back for
a warming Gluhwein with your lederhosen-and-braces-clad host.

Or how about combining German-run efficiency with an Italian
flair at the Alpine Post Hotel in South Tyrol and a horse driving course with three-time
Italian driving champion Hannes Weilaner. There is a large light indoor riding
school here so lessons can take place even in inclement weather. You can also
take riding lessons here and gallop out into the snow if that’s what tickles
your fancy. The extra good news about this 4* village hotel is the spa… with
pampering and soothing treatments and massages especially developed for riders
and drivers.

But the icing on the cake, has to be sleigh pulled through
the snow by two white Lipizzaners – the horse breed associated with Austrian
Emperors and the Spanish Riding School in Vienna – at the luxurious 5* Achenkirch
Reiter’s Resort in the Tyrolean Alps, Austria. The local scenery is a winter
wonderland between the frozen lake Achensee and the dense forests, all
surrounded by stunning snowy peaks. This hotel offers a fantasy-inducing
setting with dream spa, fitness and sporting facilities. A winter holiday
doesn’t get any better than this!

Also throughout the winter, The Riding Company are offering
a new carriage driving holiday in Portugal with carriage driving on the beach
(winter sun) and also in Hungary where you have the opportunity to try a ‘four
in hand’ – driving not a pair of horses but two pairs of horses, or more!

Carriage driving is a perfect activity for all ages, from
pensioners to children – everyone can have a go. It’s a lovely old-fashioned way
to enjoy the countryside


Holiday details:

Germany: The 3* Fiakerhof in the Bavarian Alps. 3 night and 7 night driving courses are offered
in this traditional Alpine chalet-hotel in the famous ski resort of
Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Zugspitze). Courses throughout the year. Winter driving
in the snow. Small groups, complete beginners to advanced.

Italy: Post Hotel in the Italian Dolomites: The 4* Hotel Post lies in the heart of a popular
mountain village in the Dolomites. It has a lovely indoor pool, sauna and steam
grotto in the new 900m2 spa and offers various massages, aromatherapy soaks and
beauty treatments. The restaurant offers delicious gourmet food from the
Alpe-adria region. The stud farm is the largest horse-riding and driving centre
in South Tyrol and it is waiting for you with 30 horses, warmbloods and
Haflingers, a riding arena, a brightly-lit sandschool, professional riding and
driving instructors. Three-time Italian driving champion Hannes Weilaner
skilfully manages the stud farm as well as running the carriage-driving course.
Winter sleigh rides and courses. Combine with skiing at Kronplatz/Dolomiti Superski.

Austria: The Achenkirch 5* Reiter’s Resort in the Tyrolean Alps, Austria. Extensive spa,
fitness and sporting facilities. Beautiful stylish cosy interior. Rides out and
dressage on Lipizzaners. Extensive programme of yoga and spiritual fitness,
downhill and cross country skiing. Romantic sleigh rides in stunning winter
landscape. No children under 14. A winter holiday doesn’t get any better or
more luxurious than this. Nearby skiing at Christlum (free shuttle).

Germany: The 3* Fiakerhof in the Bavarian Alps. 3 night and 7 night driving courses are offered
in this traditional Alpine chalet-hotel in the famous ski resort of
Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Zugsptze). Courses throughout the year. Winter driving
in the snow. Small groups, complete beginners to advanced.

Portugal: The New Forest Lodge. A traditional farm perched 250m above the Atlantic ocean, enjoys
uninterrupted views over the distant Algarvian coastline. The farm provides a
perfect location to enjoy carriage driving courses, riding and superb
traditional Portugese country cuisine. Combine driving on the beach with a cookery course
and/or with riding. 7 night and 3 night budget breaks available. Our hardy
locally bred Lusitano cross horses are suitable for both novices and
experienced riders. The choice of either riding or driving is yours. Winter
sun, driving on the beach.

Hungary: Carriage Driving: Experienced drivers will love the holiday as much as beginners with
the chance to drive fantastic horses in both 2 in hand and 4 in hand vehicles.
Accommodation in 4 star hotels. Your instructor is the multi medal winning
instructor Sandor Fulop.


Still a long way to go for Ossy and Benjamin but they are now loved and fed

Thanks to those who have enquired after Ossy, the Andalucian horse rescued by Carolin and Christina in Tarifa, our resort on Spain’s most southerly tip. The news is all good, he is putting on weight, though there is still a long way to go, and his leg wounds caused by a tether are healing well. Even better, he has adopted a special friend, Benjamin the donkey foal who Christina the vet is hand feeding as his mother’s milk dried up, leaving him in a poor condition.

The stables in Tarifa have a great record of giving horses a new lease of life and our clients often find themselves gallopping along the fabulous beach on great horses that one could  hardly  believe have come through a crisis in their lives. Swiss vet Christina works hard to restore them to ealth, not just physically but mentally. See below for the before and after pictues of Flo:

Flo when she arrived at Aventura Ecuestre
Flo now
Anyone wishing to make a donation to the upkeep of Ossy can contribute via Paypal to info@aventuraecuestre.com or by bank transfer

Rescue Pferde
Aventura Ecuestre
Bank: Banesto
IBAN: ES78 0030 4090 12 0293559273

The Riding Company will update you on Ossy’s progress and who know, maybe one of you will ride him in the future through the cork forest trails or along that fabulous beach. Visit our webpage to have a look at all that Hotel Dos Mares and Tarifa have to offer…… http://www.theridingcompany.com/uk/saddle-surf-southern-spain.htm


Tarifa beach, riding doesn’t get much better than this.


At The Riding Company we are always excited to discover somewhere new to ride and something different to offer our clients. Sicily offers much to her visitors with a fascinating history and traces of the Greek, Norman and Arab influences still to be seen everywhere. It is still a truly rural society and Penny recently returned from riding in the Madonie Mountains in the very heart of the Island where she tasted a slower pace of life as well as some sensational food! Pippa’s Paddock is a family run farm set on a mountainside which offers a home to an eclectic herd of rescue horses and home bred youngsters and is the brainchild of Mark, Andrea and Pippa Camilleri who have converted the ancient outbuildings into simply furnished, comfortable, en suite guest rooms. The holidays they offer are all inclusive and include mountain trail rides, lunches en route, evening meals in amazing, local restaurants and all in places way off the tourist track that you could never find alone.
View from the terrace

Breakfast is taken in the intimate farmhouse with the family, then it’s time to saddle up and set off on the day’s trail. It could be to the top of a mountain to get an amazing vista, or to Toti’s farm for lunch. It could be to gallop across meadows depending upon your ability. Evening meals are taken at a variety of fascinating venues offering great Sicilian food and Mark’s inimate knowledge of the country ensures that you get a full understanding of the history and traditions of the region. Or it could be a barbeque on the picturesque terrace with the horses grazing down below.

Farouk asks 'Did I do well'? Arriving home after a days trail.

The horses live as a herd in the mountainside paddock alongside the farmhouse and have their own pecking order as they would in the wild. They have space to roam and graze which they do for most of the year although there is a stable block for use in the worst of winter. The trails here are rideable from March to end of June then again  from September to December. July and August are too hot for both horse and rider. The terrain is tough in the mountains but the horses seemed well adjusted and unfazed, there are stone troughs en route to water them and they enjoyed a roll in the paddock upon return. Amazingly some of the horses work unshod; all have their feet cared for by the local farrier, Salvo, who has advised the family how to adapt to the local landscape. Penny rode Farouk, an ex pacer who had stopped winning. The family adopted him in Wales and bought him over when they emigrated to Sicily. He is one of the herd leaders. Also on the ride were two mares, a Sicilian mare, Saskia and Enola, an Andalucian part bred. The locally bred Sicilian horses are heavy set and up to weight but can move across the roughest terrain quickly and are often used for herding work in the mountains. Riding is on English saddles on a long, relaxed rein, Sicilian style, allowing them to balance themselves on the steeper slopes.

The herd relaxing on the hillside

With only a few rooms available, groups are guaranteed to be small and it is the Camilleri family’s intention to create a relaxed, warm atmosphere where you can join in, groom and bond with your horse. Their home is your home for the week and it is certainly far from the madding crowd, a place to take a good book and watch sunsets over the mountains. At least one day of every holiday is dedicated to a visit to Palermo, the capital, or perhaps you may prefer to visit the famous Greek Temples at Agrigento or the coastal resort of Cefalu. This allows visitors to see another side of the Island and the horses get a rest day of course.

The 4 guest rooms are in a converted stable block

 Penny rode up to Toti’s hill farm where everything that was eaten for lunch had been grown on the farm, (look away now vegetarians; even the rabbit in the fabulous ragout), and whilst the horses had a well deserved couple of hours off, the riders feasted on the home cooked delights. Toti even bakes his own bread after selecting the grain which the local mill grinds for him. Course after course was brought out onto the delightful terrace overlooking a flock of sheep grazing on the hillside and the farm’s vegetable and herb gardens.  Washed down with Sicilian wine and home made cream of lemon liqueur,  this was Penny’s favourite meal of her week in Sicily. She can still taste the fresh olives, tomatoes and basil! There is a hammock on the terrace and Pippa was quick to make the most of  it after that fantastic lunch. Mark and Pippa were on hand throughout as translators to save Penny the embarrasment of thinking the delicious starter which whe was wolfing down by the plateload was in fact the whole lunch. There was still a pasta course, a main meat course , dessert and coffee and liqueur with Toti’s hand made chocolates  to come!

Toti's table, ready for the riders, offering outstanding farmhouse flavours!

The Sicilians have a fabulous Festival of the Horse on the penultimate weekend of May each year and Mark is looking forward to making  the Taratata part of the holiday for those who visit in May. Arab and Andalucian horses are particularly prized and displayed in this huge festival in Casteltermini. The Sicilian have many Feast Days and for those interested in history and culture the Camillieri’s are happy to incorporate a visit to any of the local festivals as part of the holiday.

Pippa’s Paddock provides a holiday experience a world away from luxury hotels, time has stood still in many ways in rural Sicily and you will ride tracks and trails that the mountain farmers have used for centuries. Visitors will come home having had a view and taste of the island that few tourists in the coastal hotels will have experienced. 

Penny, Pippa and Zoe the dog heading home.

Visit us at www.theridingcompany.com to find out more about Sicily and the other great destinations we offer.

A sand school on the beach!

The Riding Company works closely with Carolin in Tarifa, Andalucia to offer fantastic sun, sea and sand holidays for riders on Spain’s most southerley tip. Many of our riders have enjoyed a sunset gallop along the three mile beach on her beautiful Andalucian horses.
However last week we were contacted with an appeal for help from Carolin and her team as they have been asked by a local animal shelter to care for a horse found abandoned  in terrible condition alongside a busy road.

They have taken ‘Ossy’ in and have integrated him into the herd that live alongside Hotel Dos Mares and the team are appealing for donations to help them pay for the special care and veterinary fees that they have agreed to meet in order to avoid Ossy being put down. If anyone would like to help make a donation to Ossy’s care please contact Penny or Kat at the The Riding Company and we will advise you how you can do so. The Riding Company will be helping out and keep you informed about his progress.

Tarifa is a beautiful place, famed for its bohemian atmosphere, totally relaxing for riders and surfers who share the beach and the hotel’s facilities. Our clients stay in bungalow rooms where you step out straight on to the sand before saddling up for the day’s riding adventure. Every Thursday Carolin takes clients to the Jerez horse show to see the Andalucian stallions at their best demonstrating the haute ecole dressage movements that the Spanish horses are famed for.

Maybe you have ridden with us at Hotel Dos Mares and have fond memories of the gorgeous horses, or maybe you will ride Ossy himself one day in the future when we hope he will be well enough to join the stable on a permanent basis and enjoy his own beach gallops and trails up through the cork forests. We attach a picture of how he was found which we hope our blog readers will not find too upsetting.

Ossy enjoying the company of a new friend.

Please contact us should you want to help. email info@theridingcompany.com

Let the top classical riders in the world inspire you!

 This year we have already organised holidays for several clients to tie in a visit to Vienna and the Spanish Riding School with a chance to visit a superb riding resort with it’s own Lipizzaner stud where you can choose to have dressage lessons on highly schooled stallions and mares or perhaps take a hack through Burgenland’s glorious landscape. Or combine both! The Riding Company also offer ‘Learn on a Lipizzaner’ courses for beginners who are  inspired by the Viennese home of classical riding, why not start at the top and learn to ride  in 5* luxury on the Rolls-Royce of the horse world!

Start your holiday with a few nights in Vienna. Kat and Penny have hand picked a number of hotels, all chosen for their proximity to the Spanish Riding School. There is so much to see and do in Austria’s historic capital but for horse lovers a visit to the home of classical riding, based in the stunning baroque Hofburg, is always central to any stay.

The Spanish Riding School, a significant part of Austria’s cultural heritage, is not only the oldest riding academy in the world, it is also the only one where the High School of Classical Horsemanship has been cherished and maintained for over 430 years. The School takes the “Spanish” part of its name from the horses which originated from the Iberian Peninsula during the 16th century and which were considered especially noble, spirited and willing and suited for the art of classical horsemanship. Today’s Lipizzaner stallions are the descendants of this proud Spanish breed, a cross between Spanish, Arabian and Berber horses, and they delight horse lovers from all over the world with their performances.

In 1729 Emperor Charles VI commissioned the architect Josef Emanuel Fischer von Erlach to build the magnificent Winter Riding School in the Hofburg Palace; it was completed in 1735. A portrait of the monarch graces the splendid baroque hall in which the riders of the Spanish Riding School train their Lipizzaner stallions and show off their skills to an international audience during the public performances. Seeing the ballet of the white stallions against this amazing backdrop is really something to remember. Even if you have seen them on tour in the UK, it is a great experience to visit them ‘at home’ in the splendour of old Vienna and do the stable tour and watch the public training sessions.

Gala performances in full costume with music take place on either Saturday or Sunday mornings at 11.00 a.m. (and some Fridays at 6pm). Tickets cost between £31 and £112 depending on the seats. Seats have to be booked in advance. We always advise booking online direct with the school to ensure you get the ticket you want on the date you require, either seated or standing or we can obtain these on your behalf through our Viennese agent.  In July and August the horses return to graze the summer pastures at the Piber stud.  The School is also closed on Mondays, public holidays and in January. Performances run on most weekends  through to July. After the Summer break, performances start again on Sundays throughout September through to November. There are occasional performances on Fridays and Saturdays. The morning training session with music takes place from Tuesday to Saturday (except public holidays) from 10.00 a.m. to 12.00 noon and is really worth a visit.  In February the training also takes place on Mondays. Free entry to the Lipizzaner Museum with your ticket. Tickets are available on the door (Michaelerplatz 1, Tues to Sat) and at Josefplatz on the day. Cost €12

There is also a wonderful  guided of the Hofburg  stables which takes place in the afternoons except Mondays, usually 2, 3 and 4 pm. Cost €16 (or €26 when combined with a ticket for morning exercise on the same day).


One of the mares at Reiter’s Resort with her foal

Ok, so you have been inspired! Why not take that inspiration and ride a Lipizzaner yourself. Just an hour and a half from Vienna is the amazing Reiter’s Resort with it’s own home bred, highly schooled Lipizzaners. There are two fantastic hotels there to choose from, one the 5* Supreme, catering for adults only, and the 4* Avance which is designed with families in mind. Both offer luxurious spa facilities and top class accommodation and food. If you have a non riding partner or family then fear not, there is plenty to do whilst you experience the Lipizzaners first hand. (Golf, tennis, walking, yoga and much more, free child care and children’s activity club at the Avance). There is a club for younger riders, ‘Lipizzaner & Co’, and the centre offer horses for all abilities. Start on the lunge as a beginner or ride a stallion if you are an experienced rider. You will recieve excellent instruction and more experienced riders can opt to hack out through the beautiful wine country of Eastern Austria. I should mention that if you fall in love with one of these beautiful horses, you may wish to take home a souvenir. Reiter’s Resort Lipizzaner Stud do sell  Lipizzaners, and the Ridng Centre will be happy to show you the young stock on sale!! You may need more than a suitcase…..

   One of our clients enjoying a recent trip to Vienna and the Supreme Hotel

If you would like to experience a little white horse magic yourself take a look at our website, You can visit Vienna as a stand alone holiday http://www.theridingcompany.com/uk/spanish-riding-school.htm
or combine it with some riding at the Supreme  http://www.theridingcompany.com/uk/yoga-spa-spur.htm  or Avance http://www.theridingcompany.com/uk/avance-activity-hotel.htm
Penny and Kat at The Riding Company are happy to advise and tailor a holiday for you, either as a solo traveller or with friends and family. 


Going Solo


Going solo!

 When you mention solo holidays people automatically think ‘singles’ holiday, the two are quite different! The only partner I am seeking on a solo travellers’ riding holiday is the perfect horse to carry me safely at all paces over the local terrain. In Austria the ideal mount is the Haflinger, small, sturdy and surefooted, and Toni Sauper based in the Hohe Tauern National Park has a whole herd of them who work both summer and winter seasons. The stunning blondes are always a talking point and the first ride is a 2 hour familiarisation ride so that we can be sure you have the perfect partner for the rest of the week. You’ve already made your first new friend.

The idea for a solo travellers week was instigated by our clientele and in 2011 we are running two solo weeks where riders who are holidaying on their own can meet up at the friendly Schlosswirt Hotel, have their own room with no supplement, ride every day in the stunning National Park and then have dinner together in the evenings and enjoy the companionship of like-minded i.e. ‘horsey’ people!

The hotel is the ideal venue for solo riders, it is not large or formal, it is furnished in a warm, traditional way and gives a real flavour of the Alpine region, no two rooms are the same and it has a small bar for after dinner socialising, most of the guests are there to ride/ski/hike/bike, dependent on the season. It’s a great place to make new friends and some of our solos have returned with those friends in subsequent years.

Join us this summer!!

 When: 4th June 2011 – 11th June  or 10th – 17th September 2011

Where: Schlosswirt National Park Hotel, Grosskirchheim, Austria

 Type of holiday:  7 nights on half-board (breakfast and dinner) in your own room, except for the overnight in the Mountain Hut when we share, with return airport transfers (Salzburg or Klagenfurt) and an exciting riding programme.

The Riding Programme: Six days of riding in the Tauern National Park  including 2 hour familiarisation ride, 2 whole day trails with picnic lunches, two day mountain adventure ride (see below) and a half day ride to the Waterfall.

 Description of the two-day adventure ride in the Hohen Tauern Region with an overnight in a cosy mountain hut:

After saddling up and packing the horses we start our ascent and reach the tree line around noon. Great views and wonderful high alpine pastures covered in beautiful wild flowers in June and early July. Mountain streams and waterfalls await us in the afternoon. The relaxing part of the tour begins in the evening when we arrive at the mountain hut. First of all we release the horses to unwind on the high-altitude pasture, then we sample some traditional mountain food. After breakfast we get the horses ready again and start the ride back down to the valley floor, by a different, less steep trail. Very comfortable Western saddles are provided with saddle bags to carry essentials.

Price: £845

What’s included: 7 nights on half-board (breakfast, dinner) consisting of 6 nights in the hotel in your own room and one night in the Mountain Hut. (Please note that there is a shared room only for the one night in the traditional mountain hut). Shared ‘get-together’ dinner table to discuss the days’ adventures. c.25 hours of riding over 6 days.

 Full use of all hotel facilities including Finnish sauna, steam bath, relaxation room, tennis courts, your riding programme, return transfer to your nominated collection point. (Salzburg/Klagenfurt Airport or local Train Station).

What’s not included: lunches (except on the full day rides), flights and insurance.

 How to get there: Fly to Klagenfurt with Ryanair from Stansted or to Salzburg with Easyjet from LGW. Transfer from Klagenfurt Airport is c.1hr.40 or from Salzburg 2hr 40m to and from hotel included. We can arrange for any flight/train to be met.

For more details on the hotel and holiday visit us on www.theridingcompany.com

The Riding Company offers riding holidays all year round and winter breaks are proving ever more popular as British riders get the opportunity to experience snow in a more positive light! In the UK riding becomes confined to indoor or all weather arenas, but in Austria at altitude there are opportunities to ride out in spectacular settings. Here are our top tips for winter from Penny Roberts, Head of Austrian Holidays at The Riding Company, and how our Mountain Guide at the Schlosswirt Hotel in Carinthia, Toni Sauper, keeps his herd of horses fit, happy and healthy during the winter season:

Haflingers enjoy a canter in the powder snow


The best breeds to cope: Without a doubt, in Austria, it is the native breed, the Haflinger. Compact, sturdy and sure footed, they are the ideal mountain horse. They remain unclipped throughout the season. The Kroller Hotel in Tirol has Criollo horses of South American origin, renowned for their endurance and ability to cope at altitude in all conditions.

Feeding: The Haflingers are fed circa 3 litres of hard feed a day in winter but this varies according to work. There is always plenty of hay and haylage available, cut from the high pasture during the Alpine summer months, it is often rich in alpine herbs. Haflingers hold their condition extremely well.

Rugging up: The Haflingers with their full coats do not get rugged up except for sweat rugs directly after work when they have a cooling period in their stable.

Stabling: Most Austrian stalls are inside a traditional style barn, with sliding doors to enable easy access. (Try pushing a traditional stable door open with a couple of feet of overnight snow against it!) Older properties often have the barn attached to the house with a link door, humans benefit from the heat of the animals and vice versa!

Live in or out?: Toni turns out the Schlosswirt herd from 09.00-17.00 every day, in all weathers. They are stabled overnight in winter but can’t wait for their roll in the snow each morning. Hay is made available to graze on.

Shoeing for snow and ice: Special shoes are a must in winter, not just for hacking but also for pulling the sleigh. Haflingers were originally draught horses bred to haul timber in the Alps and now make great driving ponies. For winter the shoes are inlaid with a rubber ring that protrudes slightly within the innerside of the metal shoe providing grip. In addition, snow studs are used to give extra hold on icy surfaces. It is possible to prevent snow forming balls on the sole of the foot by applying Vaseline or a similar grease.

Grooming: All horses appreciate a good groom and the Haflingers are no exception. Once dry after work they receive a work over using rubber curry combs and dandy brushes to remove dry sweat and tone muscle, a body brush is ineffective on the winter coats and we don’t want to remove too much grease, they need it for warmth.

Manes and tails: Left long and natural like most of the British Native Breeds. The Haflinger only comes in one colour, chestnut, and the mane and tail are always flaxen and of a coarse texture.

Riding on winter evenings: The Haflingers are happy to hack after dark and Moonlight rides with Toni are a feature at the Schlosswirt Hotel. When there is a good moon it is never really dark as the snow reflects the moonlight to stunning effect. Sleigh rides after dark are also popular, passengers are provided with plenty of blankets and a warming schnapps en route!

What to wear for snow rides: The horses generate a fair amount of heat but the answer is as much as comfortably possible. Some of the holidays are Western style and it’s possible to ride in ski type padded trousers, but you may prefer jodhpurs and thermal underwear for English tack. Always take a waterproof, warm jacket and good gloves plus boots with good tread. Extras that can make life more comfortable area thermal balaclava that fits under your hard hat and thermal ski socks. If you don’t have a balaclava, a headband or scarf should cover your ears.

Drying things: All of the Alpine riding venues also double as ski resorts in winter and the hotels are well kitted out with boot rooms and drying areas for kit and equipment.

Are the trails always passable in winter? With the horses wearing their customised winter shoes and with Austria’s long experience in managing winter conditions, riding is available throughout the season. By using local, experienced guides who tailor the rides to conditions it is possible to find safe and exciting routes throughout winter. Routes would only be closed if there was a danger of avalanche or extreme icy conditions on a particularly steep route.

Criollo horses are tough and well suited to winter conditions

Look after yourself: Riding in cold conditions at altitude burns up much more energy than your average hack so make sure you prepare with a hearty breakfast. Many of our hotels include ‘afternoon tea’ as part of the package for riders upon returning from the daytime rides with a choice of sweet or savoury snacks to boost energy levels. Eat well, Alpine food is often high in carbohydrates for a reason!

Pack your sun cream!: Yes, it’s winter but a good strong sun cream with UV block is recommended for those hours in the saddle. It also moisturises your skin against the effects of the cold and wind. Lip salve also highly recommended.

Grooming for humans: The Hotel Post Tolderhof in Süd Tirol, Italy has worked on developing a fitness programme with the University of Deggendorf especially for riders and the treatments are targeted at aiding recuperation and regeneration after an active day in the saddle. Examples of treatments include alpine herb and hay baths, horse brush exfoliation scrubs as well as the trademark ‘Rider’s Massage’ to ease and soothe those muscles used in horse riding. Great in summer, but bliss in winter when you have been out in more extreme conditions.

Select the right destination: Are you experienced or novice? Do you want to canter through the snow or trek at a more leisurely pace. Would you like to combine lessons in an indoor arena on warm bloods with hacks on Haflingers? All are possible but you need to ensure that you select a destination that has the right horses and facilities to cater for your needs.

How long can I ride in winter? During the winter months a maximum of two hours at a time in the saddle is normal as your extremities will feel it no matter how protected you are, there are longer trails but always with a break. The days of course are shorter anyway so the longer trail rides are saved for summer when the mountain tops are accessible.

Best tack for snow? You can ride safely in English or Western depending on which resort you choose but many of our clients have commented on the Western saddle being of great benefit when in deep snow or on the steeper trails!

Try ski jöring!: Have a go at this winter sport whereby you ski behind a horse, like waterski-ing on the snow! This is actually not a new sport at all, but had its origins in Sweden 2500 BC as a simple means of winter transport by peasants. It was also presented as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Olympics in St. Moritz. You should be at least 16 years old, a good parallel ski-er, but no riding experience is necessary. You should not deviate more than 1.5m to the side of the horse. The Riding Company offer this at the Post Tolderhof in Italy where you can combine it with dressage, jumping and hacking!

Take a camera! The views from horseback in the snow are amazing and you will want to remember the experience! Riding through deep snow feels as though your horse is swimming beneath you. Watch out for the snow-spray from the rider in front when you are cantering …………there’s always plenty to talk about over a glühwein in the evening.

Sure footed in winter and summer