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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.
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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

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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

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You don’t even need to own a horse these days, if you are a member of one of the growing number of virtual horse communities. Some say it’s even better than owning a horse; you don’t get mucky and it doesn’t cost a penny.
The ‘howrse’ website (www.howrse.com) lets you ‘buy’ as many horses as you like and choose from a variety of different breeds. You can even create your own, with a customising facility item to alter the coat colours, even add wings to create your very own Pegasus or create your very own pet unicorn .
Molly, a howrse member for six months, has already clocked up 164 days. Should parents be worried that their kids are spending so long on the computer? Molly thinks not; she has learnt HTML, how to create graphics and has been introduced to book-reading circle (currently based around the series ‘Warrior Cats’). She is only 10, although there are lots of younger and older children, there are even parents and grandparents on howrse
Molly says her parents are reassured by the site’s good safety system: ‘Howrse is amazingly well moderated; if someone has been the slightest bit rude to you or nasty, you can report them to one of the many moderators. Players over 18 years of age that are trustworthy and kind can be given ‘Karma Points’ for being a good player, and lose them for being bad.’
What can you do on howrse.com? You can discover the responsibilities of caring for your own horse, (feeding them, excercises them, taking them to the vet etc…) you can buy and sell them, breed them with your friends’ horses, and even manage your own Equestrian Centre. You can also train your horse up to gain many skills and win competitions.
There are now over four millions players on howrse.com, so being a member provides a sense of ‘belonging’ to a huge online community of like-minded people. Molly says: I have friends who I can communicate with using ‘private mail’ to message each other, ‘I can also communicate by posting in the Equestrian Centre forums and posting things on my personal profile page, I can visit other peoples pages, and even start clubs and groups!’
Do a search for ‘Virtual Horse website’ and a whole host of these websites will pop up. Here are some of the established ones:
Horseland junior is also very good for children under 13 years of age. Horseland (compete in horse shows)
My Dream Stables (grow your own feed) My Dream Stable
Equine Ranch Equine Ranch
White Oak Stables (pretty graphics and nice, friendly community) White Oak Stables
A virtual horse.com (lots of adverts) aVirtualHorse.com
Pony Star (mythical virtual horse, e.g. Unicorns, Pegasus’s etc.)
Capalls
There are new ones cropping up all the time. We have included a list here but do let us know if you are a member of any of these, or any news ones and what you like about them; we would love to hear from you! Post us a ‘comment’ now!
 Horse Dreams
 Olympia
 Virtual Horse Ranch
 Club Pony Pals
 Pony Box
 Arcadia
 Whinny
 Down Under Horse previously, Poor Man’s Horse
 Equine Champions
 Horse Isle
 Horse Rock Stables
 Horse Obsessions
 Equiverse
 Red Waters
 Townsend Stables
 Blue Moon Herds
 Land of Equines mystical
 Horses Forever
 National Velvet
 Capalls
 Wild Horse Island
 Shinari Isle
 Horse Eden Eventing
 The Refuge
 My Stable UK
 Dark Becomes Light
 Interactive Equine
 Horse Rescue Sim
 Canis-Equus horses and dogs
 Render Ranch a nice virtual ranch, you can breed, raise, show and sell all sort of animals

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At The Riding Company we’re often astounded by the ability of the horses on our holidays to adapt to their riders ability, cope with the terrain and for their exceptional temperaments.

Among them there are Uruguayan Quarter Horses tackling the Peruvian mountain trails to reach Machu Picchu to Lippizanners giving riders a real taste of classical dressage.

The strength and depth of the horse breeds used in our personally selected riding holidays include Lusitano stallions, Haflingers, thoroughbreds, the Paso del Mont, and many more.

What’s your experience?

Do you have a favourite equine breed and why?

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 Karen and Sue in Austria
 

Courtesy of The Riding Company, Susan Halliwell (above left) from Herefordshire won a five night trekking week at the Schlosswirt Hotel in the British Horse competition taking her friend, Karen Lloyd along for the ride.

 

 
Karen says, “I can vouch that the photos on The Riding Company website do give a very clear indication of all that any holiday at the Schlosswirt might entail.
 
Yes, you really do head off up high mountain paths through rivers and by water-falls and are surrounded by the most spectacular panoramas and scenery.
 
Each day Toni arranged a different ride for us and we never went the same way twice – he matched us well with our horses and once we both relaxed into the Western style of riding with the long rein and long stirrups we also allowed ourselves to be taken by those trusty sure-footed Haflingers where they were confident we could indeed go!   
 
When not riding, we choose to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside. We spent an afternoon in bright sunshine exploring the glacier at the base of The Grossglockner (Austria’s highest mountain) in the Hohe Tauern National Park and another afternooon exploring the pretty local village of Heilingenblut and another memorable afternoon was spent just sunbathing in the hotel’s garden sipping long iced drinks and really winding down from our busy UK lives.  
 
The hotel was really very comfy and everyone there very welcoming and helpful.   The food was divine.   Huge amounts of help-yourself breakfast and each night a delicious and varied 5-course supper.   I was very glad I had packed stretchy jodpurs!      
 
We  were inspired too by the idea of riding through the snowy season ahead which Toni assured us was very popular and possible…. skiing AND riding very very tempting.”
 

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                    Emma and Maureen Lowden

 
 
Emma Lowden (above right) won a trip to the Orthal Riding Centre in Italy, through Horse & Rider magazine.
 
Emma says, “I am sure you remember that phone call you made and I was convinced it was a scam!
 
It was a brilliant week as you well predicted -everything ran like clockwork!
 
The hotel was really lovely and the area nice and peaceful – the real Italy I believe. Predomaintely a skiing resort the scenery was outstanding, (skilifts in the background) and explored the streets of the nearby town.
 
We rode daily and Massimo, being a show jumper, knew instantly I was into dressage and shortened the stirrups by about four holes which felt like hundreds more..ouch!
 
A former Olympic ski jumper (Eddie the eagle eat your heart out!) he lives for adrenalin filled activities and spends the summer concentrating on horse riding.  And he was a real peoples person and very popular with both children and adults alike.
 
I took my mother, Maureen, with me and she did really well after not riding properly for nearly 20 years!  We rode several horses that were all well suited to their job though they were well bred including Thoroughbreds to Holstein – Mum’s favourite horse being Flo-Jo who turned out to be a former showjumper!
It was a wondefully relaxing and enjoyable week and maybe next time we’ll combine with a trip to Venice!”
 

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