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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. 

 
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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

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

 

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

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?

 
 

 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.”
 

                    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!”