Monthly Archives: March 2013

Siobhán English tells a romantic tale of riding in Italy…

Italy is one of the most romantic countries in the world, and horses often complete the love story, as freelance journalist Siobhán English discovers…

Sibhan English TUSCANY1
Italy is one of the most romantically beautiful countries in the world, and there is no doubt, that after one visit you will be well and truly in love. Add horses to your itinerary mix, and your holiday will be a spectacular adventure.

Nestled in the Tuscan Hills, some 40-minute drive from Pisa is Castellare di Tonda, a luxury resort specialising in riding holidays – western style. Owned by the husband and wife team of Stefano and Alessandro Scotti and run by a formidable team of staff, it is particular popular with Italians, but also attracts tourists from across mainland Europe and beyond.

In the stables there’s everything from Argentinean Appaloosas, to Paint Horses, to Fjords – the variety is endless. Fjords, I was told, handle the ‘sometimes rocky’ terrain far better than the quarter-horses which have been associated with the stables for years through Stefano’s love of reining.

Stefano is a former champion, but now only rides at his leisure, and instead lets his top horses enjoy their retirement on the 800-acre estate which boasts accommodation for up to 300 people. Guests can either avail of a full-furnished apartment, or a luxury farmhouse, depending on the size of the group. All accommodation blocks have a swimming pool, and most are within walking distance from the beautiful spa, which boasts a sauna, and jacuzzi, amongst other facilities. You can also take in a good massage to unwind. Radji, the resident masseur at Castellara di Tonda, will have you sorted in no time!

As well as the fully-functioning vineyard on the estate, there’s golfing and tennis nearby, with the opportunity to partake in cookery schools, as well as truffle and mushroom hunting, just a handful of the countless other activities on offer in the area. The estate also has its own church, and therefore makes a perfect location for an all-inclusive wedding package. In my opinion, there’s nowhere more romantic than Italy to tie the knot, and Castellare di Tonda has it all!

From one who has experienced it first-hand, mushroom hunting on horseback is not to be missed – and the chance to sample the many varieties which can be found in the woodlands over dinner is even better. Guests can also take in day visits to many of the surrounding sights, including Siena – home to the famous ‘Il Palio’ horse race which dates back to the 13th century. If stopping off in the gorgeous medieval town of San Gimignano, don’t miss the chance to dine at the award-winning Cum Quibus. Rated No 1 of 79 restaurants in the area, it will not disappoint.

At Castellare di Tonda guests of all levels have the option of doing short rides for one or two hours, or full-day rides, which can be fantastic if you also take in a stop-over at one of the local sights such as the famous San Vivaldo Monastery. No matter what time of day, the scenery is breath-taking as the landscape constantly changes with the light. In the summer temperatures can soar into the 40s, so autumn is a good time to visit, though the amazing colours associated with Tuscany make their appearance in the spring.

Only between October and December, however, can you experience truffles, and this is a luxury item not to be missed on your visit to Tuscany. Truffle hunters are a special breed of men, and even more valuable are their truffle-hunting dogs. These highly-trained dogs can be worth anything up to €30,000, but when you are searching for truffles worth several months’ wages, they are worth their weight in gold. Truffles themselves are highly-valued and are very much in demand from the top restaurants in Italy and beyond.

On departing Castellare di Tonda, and before you leave this gorgeous country, be sure to visit Venice and Florence – two of the most beautiful cities in Italy. From Castellare di Tonda, Florence can be easily reached by car, or train, while Venice is a further two-hour train journey from Florence. It’s going to be a fast one though – Le Frecce reaches speeds up to 155 miles an hour – so be sure to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!

To find out more about the wonderful Castellare di Tonda, and other horse riding trips in Italy, visit

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get packing! What to take on a riding holiday…

A riding holiday is different to your usual getaway, which means there are a few things that you should definitely not forget to pack in your suitcase. Your exact requirements will vary depending on the trip you are taking, and all good travel companies will provide you with a list tailored specifically to your holiday, however here are a few things to bear in mind wherever you will be riding…

Safety is paramount
Before you think about packing anything else you should ensure a riding hat is at the top of your list! We thoroughly recommend taking your own hat whenever you are riding abroad, and make sure it meets all the latest safety standards and has been correctly fitted to you. Many destinations do provide hats, however taking your own guarantees the fit and comfort, and let’s face it, who wants to wear a hat that has been on someone else’s head for many hours before? There are many well-ventilated, lightweight helmets and hats available on the market so ‘hat hair’ and a sweaty head don’t have to be a concern!

Olwen on beach in Portugal

Best foot forward
This is probably the most important thing to remember, second to your riding hat! Equestrian footwear has been designed specifically with a stirrup friendly sole that enables you to keep your feet secure in the stirrups, yet also enable you to slip them out quickly and easily in the event of an accident. Trainers are not appropriate footwear to wear around horses, not only could they potentially get stuck in the stirrup, they also offer no ankle support and when on the ground, if a horse treads on your feet you will certainly know about it. The most popular choice is a short ankle length boot with a rubber sole and these double up perfectly as walking boots as well.

Choosing the correct footwear will provide you with support, comfort, and peace of mind that you are secure in the saddle. You may choose to wear tall boots, however consider the temperature if you are going somewhere warm and if you are riding through water don’t take your best leather tall boots as they are not likely to stay looking smart for long! A popular choice for travellers on a riding holiday are short boots and lightweight chaps because you get the lower leg stability and grip that you would from a tall boot, without the heaviness of long boots. Look for chaps made from breathable fabrics that don’t require ‘breaking in’ and will give you that second skin feel so you can forget you are even wearing them!

Peru Sacred Valley 2

Clothe for comfort
The clothing you pack for a riding holiday needn’t be fashionable and trendy, it should however be comfortable! When you are spending many hours in the saddle this is a priority and while bringing perfectly colour co-ordinated, stylish items may look great at the beginning of the day, by the time you have ridden for a morning you will be pining for comfortable breeches and a soft cotton shirt!

We recommend riding in jodhpurs or breeches. Some people find denim comfortable however don’t choose a riding holiday to break in that new pair of skinny jeans though – you will probably regret it!

Keeping cool

If you are travelling in a hot country then lightweight, breathable clothing is ideal. A long sleeved, loose fitting cotton shirt will not be restrictive, yet will protect you from the sun and provide a pleasant draught to help keep you cool. There are also many technical fabrics available in riding and sports clothing which can help protect you against UV rays, whilst also keeping you cool and dry. Some hot countries can get chilly in the evenings, especially places like Africa where you may be sitting around a campfire under the stars, so do take a jumper or jacket to offer protection when you need it.

Olwen at Moolmanshoek, South Africa

Staying warm
If you are escaping to a cold country then layering up is key to staying warm. Consider investing in thermal base layers. In particular, items containing natural fibres such as merino wool offer excellent heat trapping properties. Wearing multiple lightweight layers will help trap air and still allow for flexibility, rather than one or two thicker items, which can leave you colder and with restricted movement. Choosing items that are breathable such as fleece will help regulate your temperature as you may find that at times you get warmer than others, for example, when you are going for a long canter or walking your horse down a mountain path. Good quality thermal socks and gloves are also recommended – there is nothing worse than cold feet and hands when riding and if you are not fully prepared this can spoil your enjoyment. For outerwear choose something that will protect you against the elements, many jackets are windproof and waterproof, particularly those including fabrics such as Gore-Tex. Try and take a jacket that has been designed for riding to ensure you have complete freedom of movement in the saddle. Equestrian wear is designed with vents and adjustment to allow you to maintain your position without the risk of draughts or discomfort.


A few suggested extras
Sun protection. You may think that this is only relevant when going to a hot location, however the sun can be very strong all year round in many parts of the world, particularly in snowy destinations. Remember to bring good quality sunglasses, sunscreen and if you are going to a warm country then a wide brimmed sun hat to protect your head and face when not in the saddle.

Lip Balm. Cracked and dry lips are not pleasant and can occur in any destination, at any time of year. Take a ‘chap stick’ style lip balm that you can easily reach when riding and walking so you can keep your lips moisturised and protected against the elements.

Camera. You will undoubtedly want to capture many of your travel moments on camera so don’t forget a small hand held camera that is easy to carry, and make sure you have plenty of spare batteries and an extra memory card!

Binoculars. On most trips there will be amazing views and vistas to take in so make sure you can see widely with a pair of binoculars.

Bum Bag. These are ideal for keeping your essentials close to hand while you are in the saddle and are less bulky and restrictive than a rucksack. Keep a small pack of tissues and wet wipes within the Bum Bag so you can clean up when out on trail rides.

At In The Saddle we provide every client with a detailed ‘what to pack’ list specific to their holiday. For more information about the holidays on offer and the destinations you can travel to visit


Categories: Equestrian Safety, Equestrian Travel, Ranch holidays, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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