Category: News

Dressage rider Cristina Libardi De Marchi

Good transitions: the importance of good transitions in horse riding

Good transitions

Smooth, balanced transitions are very important to improve the paces. They require a good balance, precise communication and accurate timing.
Good transitions will make your horse remain balanced and stay in the same frame with his head, neck shoulders and back. It is important that the horse reacts to the aid as soon as you deliver it. In order to achieve good transitions you need a very good balanced seat and this is why you should never forget that a good seat is the key of good equitation.
Poor transitions between the gaits will affect your horse’s natural paces, as well as looking uncomfortable for both horse and rider. Establishing a transition that drives your horse effortlessly through the gears requires strength and control. Practising transitions will encourage harmony from one gait to another, as well as helping his balance and improving his self carriage. Wether you’re making an upward or downward transition, a bad one will display any weakness in your partnership and, ultimately, cost you valuable marks in a dressage test.
What happens when you make bad transitions?
In an upward transition, when your horse is getting it wrong he’ll…
. rush or speed up in the pace without changing gait
.loose his balance
. become heavy in the mouth
. lean onto the forehand
.respond slowly to your aids
. leap from one pace to the next
. fall to one side

In a downward transition, when he’s getting it wrong he’ll…
.collapse rather than carry himself forward
. loose his self-carriage
. feel off-balance
. resist or drop the contact
.lose momentum

Tips to become more relaxed when riding a horse

Tips to become more relaxed when riding a horse

What you can do to become more relaxed when riding a horse?
There are lots of things you can do to help you become more relaxed in the saddle. First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re in the right frame of mind. Clear your head and think positively. Get rid of all those negative thoughts and try to remember that your glass is half full, not hal empty.
If you’re learning, you should make sure that the horse you ride is of the right ability for you, and that your instructor is very aware of making sure that you don’t run before you can walk.
Horses can be quite forgiving, so if you do tense up and get it wrong, try and relax, too.
A secure seat will make you feel more confident , too. This is about getting your seat bones to sit correctly, having good core strenght so you don’t rely on your arms and legs to hang on, and stacking your body up, so that you have a straight, vertical line through your pubic bone, belly button, sternum and collar bone.
Think positively and visualise yourself doing something really well – cantering, for example. Be clear and focused but, above all, remember to breath deeply. All of this will make you more effective and more able to pass on positive vibes to your horse.
And remember, always end on a positive and take it into your next ride. Rehearse your personal best!

Tips to become more relaxed when riding a horse

MENTAL
Mental state is as important as your physical state.
Clear your head before you set out to ride.
Think positively – the more you think you can do something, the more you can!
Try not to dwell on what you’ve done wrong – remember what you did right.
De-stress before you get on a horse.
Don’t over-analyse what you’re doing when you are riding.
Avoid riding when you’re tired – you should be alert and concentrating.
Only do as much as you think you can

PHYSICAL
Do some stretches before you get on your horse – you need to warm up as much as your horse does.
A quick shrug of the shoulders is an instant relaxation fix.
Breathe – learn to breath deeply into your stomach.
Sing in rhythm with trot or canter – not only is it relaxing for you and your horse, it will help you breathe!
Build up your core strenght – use a gym ball to develop your core muscles and balance.
Lunge without stirrups – but without gripping on with your legs. This will help you to deepen your seat and make you much more confident.
Find a generous horse tha will do his best to balance you and improve your confidence.

Feb/March Il Paretaio

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endless love for the horses

Cooperation and good communication with horses

To obtain cooperation and good communication with horses you need  humility.

Don’t give always the responsability to the horse when things don’t go as you would like . Remember to always blame yourself. If something isn’t working and you are the trainer or the person responsible for that horse, it’s down to you. Very often we need to think why things go wrong and do one step back in the training. Very often it is important to ask professional help to educate a horse. To become a good horse person you need lots of humility and you need to be ready to accept the fact that someone, more experienced than you, could say that what you have done with your horse is wrong. I think that this is not so difficult to be accepted if it is well explained and motivated though.

We think that only a  good relationship will create cooperation and good communication with a horse and these elements are essential for reaching good results and performances.

Cooperation can only be obtained if you believe in a not dominating relationship. At Il Paretaio, our training centre in Tuscany, we believe that one of the keys of success is maintaining balance in the relationship: it should be 50:50 with neither side dominating the other. I always say to my riders  to imagine to be two friends. Cooperation can only be achieved through skilled communication and negotiation. We think that a very important rule is to give lots of importance to details. It is very important to solve problems  with a horse when they are small rather than leaving them until they get much worse.

The importance to be polite to reach cooperation and good communication with horses.

To get a good relationship and cooperation with a horse  we think that both the rider and the horse need to be polite to each other. I cannot understand how often riders are not polite with their horses and how often I have seen horse not polite with their riders or trainers. It is important to give the right emphasis to this subject and, again , it is important to be able to see what needs changing, when and how.

It is such a better feeling to get a genuine co-operation with your horse and to work together towards a common goal with positive feelings who will sure make the work progress smoothly.

Il Paretaio magic atmosphere

Some horses are naturally more forward-going than others

Some horses are naturally more forward-going than others, but could a lack of leadership be partly to blame for your horse’s lack of enthusiasm? There is nothing better than riding a horse who is keen and responsive to everything you ask of him, wether you are enjoying a leisurely hack or working towards a competition. Although it takes a fair amount of training to create a horse who is sucjh a pleasure to ride, that’s not all it requires – leadership plays a huge part, too.

If you’ve got the type of horse who is naturally laid-back rather than forward-going, your challenge will always be finding ways to sharpen him up a bit. But regardless of what type of horse you have, there comes a point when he must follow your lead, and respond to and respect your aids, so that your rides are pleasurable and safe for both of you.

Why leadership affects enthusiasm

When you put your leg and your horse goes forward, that’s a good start – he understands what the aid means. However, one day the situation will arise where you need him to push rather than step forward. The difference between a step forward and a push is when your horse engages his muscles and pushes forward instantly, rather than responding in two or three strides.

Your horse will only push if he respects you and you are prepared to lead. If he’s not pushing, he’s doing things on his terms, not yours, and one kick gradually becomes two kicks, than three, four or five, and before you know it, you can’t move your horse. It’s a grey area where lots of people get stuck, but I am going to show you how to solve it.

How to perfect the push

When your horse is less than enthusiastic, it’s easy to slip into the habit of using your legs all the time in an effort to keep him going. The trouble is , this can be annoying for your horse and it often doesn’t achieve anything, as he learns to tune out your leg aid, becoming dead to the leg. Ideally, he should push positively forward from one light squeeze of the leg, it shouldn’t take two or three good nudges to get him going.

When you ask him to move up a pace, ask nicely once by applying slight pressure with your calf. Don’t use too much leg- if you want him to learn to move off a light cue, you’ve got to give a light cue.

If he doesn’t respond to your leg , gently tap him with your whip behind your leg to say “Hey, listen!” . When you use the whip, make sure it’s instant and that you mean it.

A lot of horses who are behind the leg will fall out of the pace after a few strides. If this happens, ask again in the same way  – a gentle squeeze with the leg, quickly followed up with the whip if he doesn’t respond, then leave him alone once you get the right reaction and reward. If you stick to this sequence, all you have to do to get an instant push is to give a gentle squeeze.

Calibration,the skill of measuring small changes

Calibration, the skill of measuring small changes

In our philosophy of riding at Il Paretaio we think that the attention to details makes the difference. We have been teaching to so many riders (around 12.000!) and this unique experience has developed in us an incredible sense of observation and capability to understand very QUICKLY where the rider needs a small change. All these things are important for a good rider or trainer:’ understanding’, ‘small change’ and ‘rapidity ‘(quickly). Calibration, the skill of measuring small changes is essential for a good equitation. Riders, trainers, teachers need to use this skill constantly.Calibration can be visual but we can do it with our other senses too . Calibration can be improved by visual , kinesthetic observation and hearing.

Concerning this important skill for riders  I found an interesting chapter on the book ‘Schooling problems solved with NLP by Wendy Jago where she talks about visual calibration.

“Calibration is the skill of measuring small changes. People who are good at any physical skill are good at calibration; so are those who are skilled with people. But so are we all, in some ways, even though we may not know that calibrating is what we are doing. When we wake up in the morning and have a feeling that we are in some way off-colour, we have been calibrating, perhaps unconsciously, differences from the way we usually feel , and on that basis have reached the conclusion that something isn’t right. It may be several hours, or even days, before those slight differences have grown into something we can label as a cold , or flu, or depression, or a pulled muscle. When you are having a lesson, you may be amazed sometimes at how your teacher can pinpoint where a problem stems from, and what you need to correct it. The everyday word “pinpoint” tells us how small such a piece of important information can be.

Good teachers, good trainers, in whatever sphere, are good calibrators. They notice small changes in detail, and how they relate to the overall pattern of what they are looking at. That is another way to describe calibration: it’s a bit like those ‘spot the difference’ pairs of pictures in children’s puzzle books. But whereas in that case both examples are available at once, with calibration one example is in the memory. The remembered examples may be from a few minutes – or even seconds – ago, last week or last year. As we get better at the skill, we get better at monitoring changes from moment to moment – and this gives us the ability to recognize the situation we are working with and to make desired changes very quickly. Sometimes my trainer has said that, for example, a shoulder-in or half-pass began well but then fell apart after a few strides: ‘It would have been better to abandon it as soon as it started to go wrong rather than continuing’, she might say. But often, her speed at calibration was faster than mine,  so whereas she could have made an earlier decision to abandon the attempt, I couldn’t. Nowadays, I am often faster than I was – but usually still not fast enough to make a correction before she comments: ‘ He’s losing impulsion!’ ‘ I know!’ ‘ Well…’ (‘do something about it, then…’ is implied).

If we want to improve our ability to calibrate, it helps to concentrate on one thing at time, otherwise we get overwhelmed with information and find it hard to sort out. The dreaded neck-watching is something most dressage riders are reasonably good at calibrating: we know some of the key features of how a neck should be – rounded, soft muscle, bulge near the crest, triangular bulge in front of the saddle. We watch, often to the detriment of true ‘throughness’ from behind, for the small changes that tell us our horse is on or off the bit or going from one to the other.

If we have the chance of watching other riders, we have a freer attention to practice our calibration. Again, it’s best to pick one feature and really watch for that. What does a ‘swinging back’ look like? What tells us that the horse is ‘engaging behind’ – or not? We can learn from books, videos and experts what we should be looking for, we can begin to watch how, moment by moment, a working horse and rider get closer to this ideal, or further away from it.

If you have the opportunity of writing for dressage judges, this can also be a good way of learning, since they have to comment very rapidly on what they are seeing. Watching good teaching and training is even better, because good trainers give their pupils ongoing feed back on small details as they notice them, and suggest small improvements they can make. So, as observers, we are also being taught. If you are able to have your own riding recorded on video, even if there is no teacher present, you can later stop and start and pause and compare details of what you see, always being mindful of small changes and small detail.”

Ideal relationship between man and horse

Ideal relationship between man and horse.

I really liked a study of the philosophy of the ideal relationship between man and the horse  by Ray Hunt, a western rider and trainer. I like to get inspired by different riders coming from different disciplines or even different styles of riding exactly as in this case as we are talking about a western rider. A horse is a horse and it does not matter what discipline you have chosen; the ideal relationship between the horse and the rider  involves  body and mind  as a unit and the way to reach harmony will follow a common sense that is universal: a different equestrian discipline does not mean a different philosophy if your goal is to reach harmony with your horse.

“When you ask your horse to do something it should be his idea…. he wants to do it, he likes to do it, he understands how to do it, and he does it” These words, by Ray Hunt, are typical of the way he expresses his philosophy of the ideal relationship between man and the horse.

I would like to quote a few sentences from the introduction  of the book “THINK HARMONY WITH HORSES An In-depth Study of Horse/Man Relationship by Ray Hunt edited by Milly Hunt.

” My belief in life is that we can all get along together if we try to understand one another. …friends, they are very rare and very precious. But evert horse you ride can be your friend because you ask this of them. This is real important to me. You can ask the horse to do your thing, but you ask him; you offer it to him in a good way. You fix it up and let him find it. You do not make anything happen, no more than you can make a friendship happen.

My goal with the horse is not to beat someone; it’s to win within myself. To do the best job I can do and tomorrow try to do better. You will be working on yourself to accomplish this, not on your horse. You will work to recognize how you feel toward your horse and how your horse answers you back; how he understands you, and how he takes it. There shouldn’t be any hassle; there shouldn’t be a big flareup. Mentally, your horse should not weigh anything. When you ask your horse to do something it should be his idea. This is the goal. In the end, when you ask your horse to do something, he wants to do it, he likes to do it, he understands how to do it, and he does it. ….” Extract from the introduction of the book Think Harmony With Horses by Ray Hunt

I think that this book is really great if you want to understand the essence of the philosophy of the ideal relationship between man and horse

 

How to get a supple and straight horse

How to get a supple and straight horse

How to get a supple and straight horse is a matter of exercising consistently the horse and the result will be a real pleasure for a rider and a big achievement.

There are many exercises that will help to reach this objective and I will list some of them.

It is well known that it is impossible to reach straightness in a horse without being able to bend in both directions.

Very often horses can show stiffness more on one side than on another. We generally start to work the horse always from the easier side and then , gently, we go to the stiffer one.

To achieve bending and suppleness we recommend to work a lot on circles and turns. If your horse is in the initial stage of training better to ride mostly 20m. circles and 15m circles in walk , trot and canter. Too often we have seen horses who do not have the appropriate flexibility and suppleness been ridden on 10, 8 or even 6 m circles and this can create big damage to the horse instead of improving him.

So at the beginning only big circles and , gradually, when the horse has acquired more balance and suppleness you can start to ride the 10 m circles in walk and trot.

Only when the horse will really be able carry well his weight having acquired a higher level of collection and bend then you can start to introduce the smaller 8m and 6m circles.

Remember also that when you ride in the arena, every corner is important and is a part of a circle; the size of this circle depending on your horse’s abilities. Again I see riders going to deep into the corners with horse not ready to do that and this can cause discomfort and damage to the horse. When riding a circle or turn your horse’s hind legs should follow on the same track as the forelegs and he will need to take extra weight on the inside hind leg. This is achieved by riding from the inside leg to the outside hand. Throughout the circle your horse should remain on a constant bend and should not be bending just through his neck, in which case his quarters would ‘drag’ to the outside.

Some exercises on how to get a supple and straight horse

.Perfecting 20m, 15m and 10m circles

.Figure of eight

.Riding correct 8m and 6m circles

.Riding correct corners

. Shallow loop serpentine

.Half circles and straightening to the track

Horse riding and importance of the center

Horse riding and the center

Horse riding and the center: the constantly changing center.

When riding, there is only one time that your weight should remain distributed 50/50 left and right in your seat: when your horse is at the halt with his fee square and parallel. At all other times, when the horse is moving, your weight is constantly shifting. Your center is actually a sphere that is constantly moving and changing. Trying to hold fast to a point that we call the center is impossible. To define your center you need to know where the outside edges lie.

Buddha said that entire answers lie in the middle ground-and to know the middle you must know the edges.

To enhance your balance, you want to redefine your outside edges and bring them closer together. In Tai Chi, as in riding, your balance cannot depend on a stationary position. It must be alive and moving – and always within your center.

realize that the horse’s center is also moving with the forward motion of the trot. To keep your centers joined, you pass through the center where both of you meet.

When you ride in a posting trot imagine yourself passing through the center with each stride, so you’re not trying to hold your center still. Think of letting your center breathe.

Extract from “Ride from within” Use Tai Chi principles to awaken your natural balance and rhythm by James Shaw

At our  horse riding holidays center in Tuscany  we think that a good use of the center is essential for a good way of riding. This is why we encourage our students to study Tai Chi as in this discipline great importance is given to the use of the center and to the shifting of the weight,

We think also that Tai Chi can educate riders to pay lots of attention to little details which, at the end, make the quality in riding.

equine fitness

Equine fitness : General rules of fitness

Equine fitness: General rules of fitness

Bringing a horse to an adequate level of fitness for everyday riding takes more effort and planning than many riders realize. Perhaps because horses cannot talk to us or because they seem like large masses of bone and muscle, we tend to regard them as being naturally more apt for their job than they actually are. We jump into specializations with them and neglect good basic conditioning, which puts them at a disadvantage. Too frequently, riders treat their horses like cars – turn on the engine and go. This chapter provides conditioning tips and information that is sometimes overlooked in our own busy lives and dealings with horses,

It is easy to look at a horse of average weight that shows some muscling and assume that he is plenty fit for whatever you may ask in your daily riding; however, we far too often underestimate what does or does not physically tax horses. You must see past the initial impressions of a big, powerful-looking horse. Size and brawn don’t much matter when it comes to the aptitude of tendons, bones, and ligaments for the job at hand, no matter the job. In other words, it’s impossible to judge a horse’s physical preparedness by what you think you see on the outside.

Because of the fragility of their vertebral columns, many horse require several months of exercise for their back and abdominal muscles to gain the necessary strength to maintain  a good posture under the rider’s weight. If the muscles of his back and abdomen are not developed properly, the horse bears a rider’s weight by overtensing the tendinous floor of his belly like a sling, creating a dropped back and saggy underline, which is very difficult to change. Furthermore, it can take up to a year to develop the fitness necessary to handle an hour’s worth of walk, trot, and canter. Yet, how many riders require this after just a few months?

Extract from the book Equine Fitness, a conditiong program of exercises & routines for your horse written by Jec Aristotle Ballou, Author of 101 Dressage Exercises

The tactile sensitivity of the horse

How Horses’ muscular systems function

How Horses’ muscular systems function.

It frequently surprises me how little most equestrians seem to know about how their horses’ muscular systems function. Too few riders seem able to distinguish the croup from the trapezius or the serratus from the quadriceps. Many riding frustrations can be avoided and questions can be answered with a rudimentary understanding of basic anatomy and muscle function, so it is important to understand how and why the horse’s body does or does not respond to what we ask of it every day. You cannot rely on what you see from the outside. Horse can continue physical activity even in the presence of muscle/body tightness and mild discomfort. In fact, to some observers, they will appear 100 percent fit. In the presence of tightness, however, as we humans know, other ailments are just around the corner. Muscle tightness leads to an entire chain reaction as the body tries to adapt. tightness in the lower back, for example, will soon evolve from localized discomfort into a notable change in a person’s stride and posture.

That change in posture will create tightness elsewhere in the body , such as the hamstrings or the base of the neck. As these areas of tension spread, the overall mechanism quickly loses its optimal functioning ability and its aptitude for top performance is hindered.

Think of the horses’ muscles as big elastic bands. Although a horse may appear to be moving just fine based on the outward observation of his gaits, the real story is often that those elastic bands are compromised in some way – brittle, stiff, about to break, etc. Because horses  cannot speak, we must always put a great deal of thought into whether our daily activities are likely to create tightness in a specific muscle group that will rapidly translate into decreased performance and discomfort.

Just because we cannot see the tightness does not mean it isn’t there! The muscle group could be malfunctioning. Any muscle that is not entirely toned, loose, and in harmony with its surrounding muscle group is working against the horse.

Extract from the book Equine fitness by Jec Aristote Ballou, Author of 101 Dressage Exercises

The quality of the trot ,Horses need consistency in their training

Horses need consistency in their training

 

Horses need consistency in their training and we need to be logic and accurate and as riders we need to be very accurate to reach this consistency in dressage.
It is extremely important to focus on where we’re riding in the arena. When you are schooling you need to stick to your line, wether it’s an accurately sized circle or the correct line across the diagonal. Then your horse will learn to understand what’s being asked of him. If you want to focus on riding accurately, the following exercize may be useful:

Exercises 1- CORNERS
Make sure your corners are really accurate by riding as deep as you can into the corner. If your horse starts to fall in, try halting, then allowing him to turn around the corner, almost as a quarte pirouette. Repeat this until your horse is remaining deep into each corner.

Exercise 2- SERPENTINE
Ride a three, four or even five-loop serpentine, making sure you know exactly at which points you want to hit the track. Ensure you ask for a change of flexion each time you cross the centre line

Horse riding lesson: a good outline

How to achieve a good outline? Again horses  need consistency in their training to achieve a good outline.There are many different ways to achieve a good outline and very often some methods work better than others depending on the different horse and the different situation.What is really important is not forcing and not feeling pressed to achieve the result.You need patience and time and especially you need to understand what you are seeking.If all the basic and simple exercises are well executed with the aim of reaching lightness then the outline will come as something magic. Do not be impatient when you find a good shape and then you cant maintain it: time, good work and comprehension of what helps and what does not help will lead you to have a horse able to develop and sustain a very nice outline.At Il Paretaio, horse riding centre in Tuscany specialized in classical dressage all is about teaching the riders how to reach a nice outline with light aids.

yoga for equestrians

Yoga for equestrians

Yoga for Equestrians is a very interesting book about yoga and how to use this discipline to achieve  the maximum union with the horse. We ,at our horse riding centre in Tuscany  Il Paretaio,  organize regular yoga for equestrians retreats because we think that any rider would really benefit by this practise. The following text is an extract of the book Yoga for Equestrians

What is Yoga?

There is no concise textbook definition of yoga that satisfies everyone; this ancient tradition has been interpreted in a variety of ways by people throughout the world and throughout history. You may have already formulated your own personal interpretation of yoga or what it represents to you. To many, yoga is  a “way of life, an integrated system of education for the body, mind and inner spirit.” To others, it is the perfect “all purpose exercise.” However, each definition of yoga refers to three essential elements:

– body, through which we experience the world phisically;

– mind, responsible for all our intellectual perceptions; and

– soul or spirit, the unseen part of us that seeks  balance and inner-peace in our lives.

The practise of yoga aids in the preservation of our health and well-being and creates inner harmony, enhancing our relationship to the world around us. Despite references to the soul, yoga is not a religion, but rather a practical approach to self-discovery.

The word yoga i san ancient Sanskrit word that means  2union2 or to “make whole” and refers to the ultimate alliance between body, mind and spirit. There are many systems of yoga. Like the spokes of a wheel  that converge at the center, they provide numerous paths to the central goal of wholeness and balance.

The path more familiar to the Western world is Hatha Yoga. It is the avenue of  yoga which seeks balance through toning and strenghtening the physical body. Hatha (pronounced HA-ta), also a Sanskrit word, illuminates the many polarities within each of us. These polarities are represented by the Sun (ha), which symbolizes masculine Energy espresse in the formo f activity, and the Moon (tha), which symbolizes feminine Energy espresse in the formo f receptivity. Both masculine and feminine energies are present in all men and women to varying degrees. Hatha yoga is a means to bring a bilance unity to the polarities within ourselves through asanas and pranayama, which are the foundation of Yoga for Equestrians.

Awareness

Yoga is a powerful method that cultivates self-awareness. To become self-aware is to truly know your mind and body and under stand the relationship between the two. Your success as a rider relies greatly on your level of body-mind awareness, which can improve through your practice of yoga.

Traditionally, a key function of the riding instructor has been to assist the student  in developing body awareness in order to achieve the correct position on the horse.

However when equestrians take the iniziative to improve body awareness off the horse, their performance on horseback is greatly enhanced. Even for advanced riders, the practice of yoga can expand self-awareness and promote a deeper connection with the horse.

Extract from the book Yoga for Equestrians by L.Benedik & V. Wirth

classical riding Il Paretaio

Tai Chi and horse riding :Using observation to see energy moving

The idea of seeing energy might conjure up visions of metaphysical and new age followers gazing into auras and looking at colours and light. While I believe that some people really do see force of energy that most of us miss, the energy that I am describing can be seen by everyone who know where to look – as I will explain in a moment.

While most of us cannot explain the mechanics of gravity, we sense it and can anticipate its effects ( a suspended ball , for istance, will drop when released) .While riders might not be able to explain the mechanics of energy flows between horse and rider, we can sense and anticipate its effects ( a connected walk, for instance, will propel our center through a figure – eight pattern).

Because we have lived with gravity since birth, we have developped a deep, largely unconscious sense of its effects. None of us has, in contrast, spent nearly as much time on the horseback – for many of us it is a relatively brief encounter perhaps two or three times a week – so it is no wonder that we are less sensitive and skilled at seeing this horse-rider energy flows.

When I look at a horse and rider I see them as one organic whole. Your two separate energies combine to make one force greater than the sum of your two parts. The way that I see the movement of energy move from the horse into the rider and back into the horse is first by watching the way the wrinkles of your clothing move as you ride. It is the same way that I can be sitting inside the building and know without any doubt that the wind is blowing outside by observing the undulating movements of a flag. By paying close attention to how the wrinkles move, I can see how the energy of your horse is moving through you.

For example, if I am watching you at the trot, I might see the wrinkles in the back of your shirt roll horizontally upward from your lower back (Ming Meng), travelling straight up and out the neck of your shirt. This tells me that the energy of your horse is not being redirected back into the whole – you and your horse – but is instead being lost out the top of your head.

See for yourself. Watch the wrinkles in the shirt of a rider who is one with her horse. You will see the wrinkles move up toward the upper back – when they reach Gate 4: The Back of the Heart, the wrinkles dissipate out towar the shoulders, where they deseappear. This motion of the wrinles tells me that the rider’s energy has been redirected at Gate 4, forward out Gate 3: the Front of the Hearth, and down the arms through the reins back to the horse.

Watch the rhythm of the horse in the rider’s shirt wrinkles. If the two are connected, there will be a common rhythm between the movement of the horse’s tail and the rider’s clothing. If the rider you are watching weras her hair in a ponytail. look for the movement of the ponytail in relation to the horse’s tail and mane.

fm the book  on Tai Chi and horse riding”Ride from Within by James Shaw

Dressage terms: Engaged, Round, Shoulder-fore, Shoulder-in

Dressage terms: Engaged, Round, Shoulder-fore,Shoulder-in

Engaged describes the connection between the horse’s hindlegs and the rein – ie, the forward movement coming from an active hindleg into a consistent, elastic rein contact.

Impulsion is the term used to describe the propulsive energy generated from the hindquarters.

Round This describes the shape of the horse’s topline – the neck and back – which is raised and round to form a convex arc. The hindquarters are engaged.

Shoulder-fore is an exercise often used to straighten the horse in canter. The horse’s shoulders are slightly positioned onto an inside track and he is slightly bent away from the direction of travel. The angle of the horse’s body should be the same as that on a 20m. circle.  The footfalls form three distinct tracks (outside hind on the outside track, inside hind and outside fore  on the middle , inside fore on a third inside track).

Shoulder-in As shoulder fore, but the forehand (shoulder) is brought in from the track to an angle of about 30°. The angle of the horse’s body should be the same as that on a 10m. circle.

Through This is when a horse accepts the aids willingly and without any tension. It describes the energy coming from the hindquarters, working “through” a supple and swinging back into an accepting and elastic contact with the bit.

Up together Working through from behind, from an active, engaged hindleg into a steady contact.

Horse training techniques, positive reinforcement

The psychology of learning

The psychology of learning is an extract from the book “Zen Mind Zen Horse” by Allan J Hamilton.

While each of us may possess different abilities to draw upon our right-hemispheric functions, the principles of training are universal. For example, I can (bribe) my dog to lye down. He will do it willingly and look up expectantly for his just reward -say, a piece of  hot dog. But I can’t get my horse to vault over a jump standard for a carrot.

Why?

Predators thrive on rewards – the foundation of stimulus-response (SR) training. The principle of SR is that the occurrence of a desired response will increase if we pair the behavior with a reward.

Pleasure centres in the brain

Ultimely the nature of our ability to acquire experiences and link them as stimuli to a particular set of responses (be their positive or negative) directly relates the basic wiring of our brains. Deep within our cerebral emisphere there are structures that qualify and quantify our experiences by connecting them to positive or aversive sensations. This loci include the hypothalamus (deep behind our eyes at the bottom of our brains), the septum pellucidum (a structure in the mid line of the brain several inches above the plane of the eyes), and most importantly the nucleus accumbens, a pair of structures that are located both in the right and in the left sides, approximately in the middle of the skull and lying a few inches off the mid line.

The nucleus accumbens and septum pellucidum are important not only in the immediate sensations of pleasure, like sex or eating, but also in behaviors like altruism or learning or education. For example, when we feel happy about helping someone in need or learning a favourite subject matter in school,  these activities are linked in our memories with pleasant sensations generated in the nucleus accumens and septum pellucidum. We tend to try to repeat or reproduce those behaviors that are associated with more activity in these centers  rather than less. In fact, addictive behavior, be it gambling or heroine, is directly linked to excessive and repetitive stimulation of brain activity in these regions.

The hyppothalamus, on the other hand, seems to function more in matters of generalized mood, such as fear or happiness.

All of these structures have been well-perserved through out evolution, and they function in humans much as they do in the other animals. In the end, these mysterious collections of neurons and axonal fibers determine how well we learn; what experiences and relationships give us joy; and to a large extent, what give our lives purpose, but it love, wealth, or spiritual insight. Their electrical activity and circuitry lies at the heart of the matter, of the reasons we want to live and the purposes we wish to fulfill.

HOW HORSES FIT IN

Given this behavioral paradigm, horses are, at first glance, something of an odd fit for SR training. Horses have a dramatically different notion of reward. The predator’sbrain might assertively say something equivalent to, “Hey, I want something to eat.” A prey animal’s brain, on the other hand, may politely inquire, “What do I need to do to avoid unpleasantness?”

In the context of training, although we can easily pair a stimulus (“Lie down!”) with food (hotdog), release is far more vague and elusive. How do we define avoidance? And what priority for avoidance readily comes to a horse’s mind? Is a small amount of avoidance sufficient, or must it be substantial?

With training our hypothetical dog, the size of the hot dog is immaterial. While avoidance may be a more difficult reward to quantify and incorporate into training, we can use it effectively toreinforce specific behaviors during training. For this reason, we employ the notion of release as our reward system for SR training. In this context, release is simply defined as a dramatic reduction in pressure: that is, a significant decrease in the amount of chi applied to the horse.

We must be familiar with two important, overarching principles of learning theory in order to understand the structure of training. The first is behaviorism. The second concept is a specific aspect of behaviorism called flooding.

 

Tai Chi for riders to get a connection with the horse

Tai Chi for riders is a very interesting way to get that special connection with the horse which is not always so easy to explain just with technique . I think that the following extract from the  book by James Shaw is very useful to understand how Tai Chi can help riders to get this deep connection with their horses.

fm Ride from Within by James Shaw

Tai Chi: Riding with Life’s Energy, Connecting with Your Horse

Through Tai Chi you will achieve a true connection by learning to join centers with your horse. When joined, you match the rhythm of your centre to that of your horse. You actively control the movements of your entire body, not just your arms and legs. You develop your balance independent of your horse. If you rely on your horse for balance, your horse is in control of your center; if your horse relies on you for his balance, then you are in control of your horse’s center.

Tai Chi teaches you to stay centered by controlling your position and motion. Control grows from a strenghtened mind-body foundation, in which you develop a perfect state of awareness. This awareness allows you to detect istantly any change of balance, either in yourself or your horse, and compensate for it without ever loosing your rhytm.  Your mind directs your body and your body follows. You soon discover that your mind directs not only your body but also your horse.

Thai Chi as a philosophy or spiritual practice abounds with unseen forces and energies that are often difficult to comprehend or explain. Tai Chi as a martial art, in contrast, is bound by well-known and well-understood laws of physics. I assume that the natural laws of physics apply to riding and that is the perspective from which I have written this book. I have, however, seen things happen while working with a horse and rider that are difficult to explain in exclusively scientific terms.

Chi means “energy” or “life force” and in Tai Chi, you direct the flow of your Chi with your mind. Because some practitioners  of Tai Chi believe that there are no limits to the minds’ capabilities, they also believe that this art can extend beyond what we can explain through our usual understanding on our everyday world. While this book will limit its approach and instructions to the world of natural law, I can confidently tell you that you are very likely to find your practice of Tai Chi occasionally going beyond ordinary experience. Rather than label these experiences or debate their nature, I suggest we simply enjoy them as part of the daily miracle that we call life.

horse training

Horse training: long term project

 

Horse training :Long term project

Horse training must be, according to our philosophy at Il Paretaio, a long term project. Very often we have to convince riders that being pressed does not lead them very far. Each time we find a problem in the training we make a step back and we do not feel frustrated or disappointed when this happens. It is normal. It is a normal step of learning. Only acting like this , that is to say, WITH the horse and NOT AGAINST the horse, we think you will create a relation of trust and confidence. Without any trust or confidence a rider will never be able to feel the harmony of a good relationship with his horse. This is what we try to make our riders learn in all our lessons at Il Paretaio and , perhaps, this is why our horses are considered “special”.

Tips to build your confidence when you ride

.First of all accept the idea of a lack of confidence: you are not the only one!
.Try to do things gradually: this will help you to buid up your confidence
.Be very analytical: try to understand why you feel unconfortable
. Find a good instructor and, if possible, ask for a private lesson
. Do not forget to breath

First impressions are often right

(fm Gallop to freedom by Magalie Delgado and Frederick Pignon)

You can be wrong but often the first impression is the right one. People often ask me, ” How do you know that the horse is suffering or that he’s anxious?” It is not easy for me to reply to this because my understanding has become largely instinctive. I say to apprentice trainers, ” Try to feel what the horse is saying to you.” Remember, you can usually work out what people around you are thinking without having recourse to the spoken word. Are you relaxed? Are you unhappy? You can do the same with horses once you apply yourself to the task. Why is that horse moving away from you? Is he nervous or does he want to play? These two alternatives will produce different telltale signs and you must pick them up. Perhaps you decide that he wants to play so you start a game. How does he respond? If you were right, remember the signs that made you take that decision. I also use my voice a lot. I speak to the horse and watch his reactions. Some horses are very attentive to my voice, which they often betray  by turning their ears toward me. Other horses show no such reaction.

classical riding Il Paretaio

What is classical riding ?

WHAT IS CLASSICAL RIDING?
Very often our riders ask as this question. We found an interesting article about this subject by Sue Morris.

What would your first answer be? The Spanish Riding School of Vienna? The Cadre Noir at Saumur perhaps? Possibly the riding seen on the Iberian peninsula with Andalusians and Lusitanos? Of course you would be right in naming all these, but the answer that I’m looking for is: “Classical Riding is correct riding”. It is how we really should ride every time we get on a horse. It is Horsemanship – not just knowing how to ride, but all round knowledge of the horse as a species – its psychology and physiology.Classical Riding works because it has stood the the test of time. It works without fear or force and most definitely without gadgets. It’s working with, never against the horse. It is opening the lines of communication between horse and rider, listening to the horse, of being very aware of how every move you make means something to the horse, of first being able to ask yourself “what did I do that made the horse do that?” when you didn’t get the response you were looking for. There is nothing about “making him do it”. The responsibilty lies with you, the rider, to make things comfortable for the horse. That doesn’t mean you won’t meet resistance or evasion or that you can’t use discipline to counter them; the results are achieved through co-operation not co-ercion.Classical riding is foremost concerned with the the aquisition of a classical seat – this is a balanced, deep and feeling seat. In this context “seat” includes the seat bones, pubic arch, thighs, lower back and very importantly the abdominal muscles. Classical riders develop wonderfully light, responsive horses because they ride from their “centre”. The horse is ridden from the seat first, then the legs and into the hands. “The hands receive what the leg puts into them – no more, no less” – Dr Thomas Ritter.The emphasis is placed on the you, the rider, to learn about your own body and how even slight variations in the way you hold yourself affect the way the horse moves beneath you. How can you expect your horse to achieve self-carriage if you’re not in self-carriage yourself? In Classical Riding much is made of the position of the pelvis and seat bones and the use of lumbar and abdominal muscles. You learn that you don’t follow the horse’s movement you lead it and to be able to lead it you have to know that “To be an aid, the seat or weight effect of the rider must not only be correct; it has to occur at the right moment” – Brig Gen Albrecht, former Director of the Spanish Riding School).”One of the problems is that many riders pay lip service to some of the classical principles, but they interpret them incorrectly, so the outcome looks nothing like a classically correctly trained horse and rider. In other cases, they admit to deviating from classical principles, because “modern research shows …” or “it is not applicable for our modern horses…”, or something like that, as if the equine species had mutated in some significant, fundamental way from the horses the Old Masters had to work with. What has changed is that the breeding of the warmbloods in particular has improved dramatically since the war. Some of the pre-war Olympic horses would never even be looked at, much less trained, by any of the modern competitors, because their gaits and conformation would not be good enough in today’s world. The temperaments have probably become easier, because disposition is an important factor in breeding sport horses. The bottom line seems to be that the average modern sport horse (I hate the term) can be trained to much higher levels with much less skill than the average horse 50 or 100 years ago, which invites even more shortcuts” – Dr Thomas Ritter, to whom I am deeply grateful for all the help he has given me with my horses.Re-printed by Courtesy of Sue Morris

Riding downhill: should the rider lean back or forward?

Riding downhill : should the rider lean back or forward?

At our horseback riding vacation centre in Tuscany many riders pose us this question: ‘When riding downhill, should the horse have his head on a longer rein and the rider lean back ? Or should the rider lean forward with more of a contact?
Minette Rice Edwards on Horse&Rider answers:
Riding downhill successfully is a question of good balance. Some horses are naturally better at travelling down a steep slope than others and this is usually due to their conformation, suppleness, flexibility of joints, strenghts in their hindquarters and fitness. It is possible, however, to improve a horse’s performance with training and practice.
If possible, turn your horse out in a field with a steep hill where the water is at the top and the feed at the bottom! He can then learn to negotiate the slope working out the mechanics for himself, becoming well balanced and sure footed.

Safety of downhill riding
The safety of downhill riding is dependent on the position, stability and confidence of the rider. When riding slowly down a steep hill, give the horse his head so he can balance himself, but mantain a light contact to catch him if he trips. Sit still – your back engaged for support and your hips loose- allowing your seat bones to follow the movement of the horse.
When travelling faster down a lesser slope, take a firmer contact, holding the horse with your back so that he doesn’t gather more speed than is safe for the situation. Always keep your calves close to his sides to help keep his hindlegs under his body, maintain your own poise and confidence, and most important…breathe!

Training
when teaching your horse to cope with travelling downhill with the weight of a rider, start with gentle slopes in walk and when you are both confident, try a slow, balanced trot, progresing to canter. When on your training rides, keep a regular speed and rhytm over undulating ground to develop that essential balance and agility.
Gradually increase the severity of the gradient and remember that correct flatwork – to promote suppleness – and riding up long hills – to build muscles and stamina – are also essential to the preparation.

When the horse goes too deep and leans on your hands

What to do when the horse goes too deep and leans on your hands
One of the problems our students tell us they have at home with their horses when riding and training is that the horse goes over-deep and leans on their hands. Generally they come to our classical riding equestrian centre Il Paretaio , in Italy,to be helped to solve this problems.
I found quite clear for any rider this explanation by D. Lush in her book The building blocks of training.

“If he is young and/or it is early in his training, don’t panic! His back muscles may still be too weak to support his posture against the pull of gravity, so he is using your hand to help him. Your goal will be to strenghten him- hill work, trotting poles and lungeing are all good for this. It may be some weeks or even months before he can begin to support himself without your help, so be patient.
If he is actively leaning onto your hand because he is lazy, you need to remove his prop! Use positive, rhythmic lower leg aids to ask him to step further under from behind, and make frequent, unexpected (to him!) releases of the contact by pushing your hands forward suddenly and letting the reins go into loops. He will either support himself or fall flat on his nose! For safety, do this in a school with a good, level surface and sit very upright – you don’t want to go over his head if he stumbles. Your giving of the reins must be sudden, or he will follow your hands by dropping even further down. You should find that he quickly loses the inclination to lean on a contact that suddenly disappears without warning.” Fm “The building blocks of training , by DebbY Lush.

Anyway we think that all the exercises that will lead the horse to have more balance (lateral work, transitions, variations of speed, outdoor riding, little jumping etc) will bring him to have more self carriage and then he will not lean go too  deep and will not lean at all on your hands. During your equestrian riding vacation in Tuscany, at Il Pareaio, very qualified instructors both in dressage and showjumping will teach you all about this.

From the classical riding equestrian centre Il Paretaio equestrian riding vacation in Tuscany

Outstanding horse riding training at Il Paretaio with the instructor Pietro De Marchi

Outstanding horse riding training

Outstanding horse riding training

Posted by Taurus Munich- Villas Austria  in Guestbook

“Outstanding horse riding training jointly with wonderful vacation” This was now the third time, that we spent our vacation at the horse riding centre Il Paretaio, in Tuscany. But this time, we asked, if we could bring our own horse with us to get the maximum out of the training. This idea turned out to be excellent. We bought our horse 2 years ago and beside, that he is a wonderful horse, he started to run after a canter quite often. So Gianni and Pietro both rode Lenni and gave the same diagnosis. The former owner rode him with a very strong bite, which made him fear of the pain, so he run. What can I say, after two weeks intense training our horse stopped this behavoiur, also he did not \”role\” away from the bite, but accepted it again. And we gained a lot more confidence in our horse, which makes it now much more pleasant to ride him. The abilitly of Gianni and the other teachers to feel what horse and riders need is outstanding. This jointly with the whole atmosphere at Il Paretaio, the food (I was not brave enough to check my weight when we came back :-)), just made it unforgetable. Thank you very much – we learned more in 2 weeks in Il Paretaio, than in 2 years with local trainers before !

Il Paradiso

Posted by cynthia paquette  in Guestbook

Dear fellow traveler, If you love horses, magnificent vistas of rolling fields and ancient hilltop villages, gracious welcomes, delectable meals, and kindness in all things human and equine, you have found your home. Il Paretaio Classical Riding Center and B & B caters generously to all needs for expert equestrian training, from world-class dressage to aspiring beginners and provides elegant rustic accommodations in a delicious atmosphere of gentility, comfort and profound natural beauty. As comfortable for non-equestrians as for impassioned riders, Il Paretaio was our logical choice when my husband and I made plans to explore Tuscany. Mornings, I trained in the classical equestrian arts with Cristina, my expert and heavenly coach, while my husband watched ringside and planned our daily adventures to Montereggioni, Siena, Chianti and beyond. Each night, we returned for a glorious evening in the \’great room\’, gathered together by the fire with Cristina, her husband Gianni, and friends around a long wooden tavern table, for hearty and flavorful Tuscan fare in the warm and delightful company of like minds. The De Marchi\’s also offer \”Tuscany Florence Bed & Breakfast\” in their perfectly restored apartment in the heart of Florence. Within walking distance to the historic city center, Il Duomo, Il Mercato Centrale, the Uffizzi, and all the glorious churches, shopping and cafes, this is the ONLY place to stay in Florence. Two bedrooms, tidy kitchen, cozy authentic Tuscan decor, and astonishingly beautiful 15th century ceiling frescoes that capture your gaze and usher you into peaceful and colorful dreams each night. I dream daily of our return to Il Paretaio (Il Paradiso, as I\’ve come to think of it), to the best riding instruction I can remember, focusing on lightness and balance, and to be in the kind, generous, and personable company of Cristina and Gianni. We felt very sad to leave our new friends as we said our good-byes. We will return soon!!

Counter shoulder in

Counter shoulder in step by step

Counter shoulder in is a very good exercise for the suppleness of the horse

1. To perform a counter shoulder in walk your horse around the short side of the arena and as you pass the center line (C or A), picture the movement happening along the next long side in your mind. This is important, as without having a clear idea of the movement before you start, your horse will not know what your aids mean.
2.As you pass the centre line, allow your outside leg at the girth to passively follow the roll of the horse’s barrel in and out as he walks, (continue to do this during the counter shoulder-in and it will be a perfectly-timed leg aid).
3.Before the corner, subtly change his bend to the outside, so if you are on the left rein, bend him around your right leg at the girth and ask him to bring his head a tiny bit to the outside, facing the fence as you are coming to the long side.
4.Ensure your body is facing out of the arena at the same angle as you want the horse to perform the movement; otherwise you are conflicting with him and making it more difficult for him to give a good result (it helps to look between his ears).
5. Allow the horse to perform the counter shoulder in, making sure your weight stays over his centre of gravity, rather than tipping one way : it is far easier for him to perform the movement if your balance is with his.
Perry Wood- Horse &Rider -apr 2006

Counter shoulder in , what is it?

Counter shoulder in: what is it?
In counter shoulder in the horse moves forwards and sideways at an angle of 30 to 40 degrees to the track, with his head bent away from the direction he is travelling and facing towards the fence or wall of the arena.
It is a useful way to begin teaching lateral work from the saddle because the fence or wall of the arena helps the horse to understand the movement, and once he learns the feel, it should be quite easy to ask him to perform the normal shoulder-in. It also gives you a bit less to think about all at once.
Tips for lateral work
.Remember that preparation is the key with lateral work and as it requires a lot of strenght and suppleness from the horse, begin by only doing a little, and gradually build up what you ask the horse to do slowly, over a period of weeks, months and maybe even years.
.Give always your horse plenty of time to understand your requests and always use the lightest aids you can, as this will help with the quality of the result and avoid both of you getting tense or frustrated.

Riding holiday at Il Paretaio

Article on a riding holiday at Il Paretaio on Horse

I like to report this nice article on a riding holiday at Il Paretaio as it can give a good idea of what this horse riding holidays centre can offer

Bella Italia
Brush up on your riding skills in the breathtaking scenery of Tuscany, writes Charlotte Ricca-Smith- this riding holiday is an experience you’ll want to repeat

If I’m honest, I’ve never been interested in going on a riding holiday. Lucky enough to have my own horse, I thought it would be something of a busman’s holiday, and doubted the horses would match up to my trusty steed back home. However, a few things have changed over the years. I no longer own a horse, I’ve become a covert dressage fan and I’ve had two children. What I needed was a break from the routine, an uninterrupted horse-fix and some serious help with my lateral work. Oh and a pool with a view, would be nice. In short, I needed Il paretaio. set in the heart of the tuscan countryside, Il paretaio is no ordinary equestrian centre. photos can’t do justice to the beauty and tranquility of its setting. the first thing you see as you drive through its rather grand gates is a pool, with a truly breathtaking backdrop. Hoorah! Laid back atmosphere I soon discovered the whole of Il paretaio has postcard-picturesque views – from the 20m X 40m arena, to the 18th century accommodation. this is tuscany, after all, and the riding centre sits perched on the edge of a valley, with rolling hills and olive trees as far as the eye can see. How anyone gets any work done here is beyond me. On a number of occasions I found myself gazing off dreamily into the distance when I should have been focusing on my shoulder-in. Luckily my instructor was on hand to keep me on – or should that be ‘off’ – track. Whether you want to learn elementary dressage movements or are riding for the first time, husband and wife team Giovanni and Cristina De marchi are only too happy to help. the couple’s passion for their horses and their work is evident – and infectious. From the chefs in the kitchen to the grooms on the yard, everyone does their utmost to give you a great holiday. When I arrive mid-afternoon – too late for lunch, but a long way off dinner – I ask if I could have a bite to eat. What I am presented with is a lovingly prepared, very large salad, complete with fresh bread and jug of local wine. their energy and enthusiasm also mean those staying with them want to be the best rider they can to please their surrogate parents. Cristina clucks around her guests like a proud mother hen, while Giovanni sits back and lets his riding – and his wife – do all the talking. It is their charm which makes Il paretaio such a success. It feels like a family home, which is exactly what it is – complete with a range of friendly, laid back dogs wandering about, in search of a shady spot or a comfy lap. the De marchi’s son, pietro, also teaches there, when he’s not competing in showjumping. And their daughter, Georgia, plans to return to the centre after finishing her degree at the University of Florence. the family atmosphere also fostered a feeling of camaraderie in the group – even though most of us had arrived alone and came from all around the globe. I was the only brit during my stay there, sharing the dinner table with riders from switzerland, Germany, sweden, Italy, singapore and Japan. Food glorious food Our talk each evening was of what we had achieved on our ponies that day, and hoped to achieve tomorrow. We also talked about the incredible food. A lot. breakfast is buffet style, complete with homemade yoghurt, jams, fresh bread, cake (cake for breakfast? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it), and strong, Italian coffee. the evening meal is a more formal affair. Course after course of traditional tuscan food was brought to our table, washed down with a seemingly bottomless jug of local Chianti. In Italy you not only have a starter (antipasto), they also enjoy pasta or risotto before their main meat dish. Accommodation is an 18th century Tuscan farmhouse
At Il Paretaio you get a few months worth of lessons crammed into one week
The impressive stables of this stunning riding holiday centre are home to well-trained horses (an Italian breed traditionally used for herding cattle) was assigned to me for my first lesson. It soon became apparent I can’t ride a corner correctly, let alone leg-yield. No wonder I’m having problems at home. I was regretting using the phrase ‘very experienced’ when asked about my level of riding. In fairness, I often have these negative feelings when a dressage lesson doesn’t quite go to plan. ‘I can’t ride, I know nothing, I am beyond help…’. And then I don’t see my instructor for another two weeks, by which time I’ve forgotten what little I learnt. this is a pattern that has repeated itself for many years and one of the main things holding me back – irregular lessons, combined with a lack of self belief. What is so great about riding at Il paretaio is you get a few months worth of lessons crammed into one week. What I learnt – and failed at – in the lesson on my first morning, I was able to have another go at later that afternoon. And you know what? second time out, I really wasn’t so bad. things started to click into place. For the first time I understood the importance of the outside aids and I (kind of) felt like I could ‘do’ dressage. squib became softer and more responsive, my position improved and my confidence soared. It also helped that Cristina was endlessly optimistic and complimentary about my riding. Giovanni was slightly more pragmatic in his approach, but nonetheless encouraging, and I found myself sitting that little bit taller in the saddle and trying to really ride those corners in hope of receiving another “benissimo” [excellent]. On other days I rode a gorgeous young mérens, a breed more used to negotiating the French pyrenees than a dressage arena. When I first got on, his stocky build and voluptuous mane felt like I was riding Aslan When Pietro isn’t competing he helps train the horses – and riders Everything you need to know l Half board at Il paretaio costs from €70 to €105 per night (based on two people sharing). this includes a buffet breakfast and a four-course dinner with wine. single supplements are €28 per day. l Airport transfers start at €85 one way, for a car with up to four seats. l Children aged five to 14 years, sharing with two adults, receive a 50 per cent discount. those four and under go free. l A 50-minute group lesson (maximum three people) costs €35 for beginners and €46 for a dressage lesson. Individual dressage lessons cost €59. l A half-day hack is €55. l Alternatively you can book a weekly riding programme, which includes seven days half board, plus six days or lessons and/or hacking. prices start at €915. l For more information or to book your holiday, visit: www.ilparetaio.it Getting there there are a number of airports, all within an easy drive of Il paretaio. Florence is the closest (around 40 minutes drive), but often the most expensive to fly to. However, you can get a bus to the local village barberino Val d’ elsa, which cuts down on transfer/car hire costs. Other airports close by are pisa (around one hour) and bologna (around two hours). the best option is to hire a car, so you can explore the local area. Airlines serving the area are easyJet (www.easyjet.com), ryanair (www. ryanair.com), british Airways (www. britishairways.com/) and Vueling Airlines (www.vueling.com). prices start from as little as £80 return. the earlier you book, the cheaper the flights. Il paretaio recommends using www.skyscanner.net for the best price. With each course I tried to save room for the next, and somehow always managed to find a small space for the delicious desserts. After all that riding, swimming and eating our group bid each other “buona notte” by 10.30pm each evening. most of the bedrooms are in the main house, which is simply decorated in a sympathetic Italian style, with original terracotta floors, wooden beams, stones walls and arched ceilings. there is also an apartment, complete with small kitchen, which is ideal for friends or families. Clicking into place Giovanni and Cristina moved from milan to the tuscan countryside 28 years ago, wanting to share their love for horses and promote a sympathetic way of riding. Usignol was more Aslan than Valegro, but Charlotte was smitten both trained with the likes of Louis Valenca – one of the chief riders in the portuguese equestrian school – and pedro de Almeida, who was a student of dressage master Nuno Oliveira. As a result, Il paretaio is a riding holiday centre that specialises in classical dressage and has around 30 quality horses, trained by themselves, ranging from Italian sport horses to english thoroughbreds and French mountain horses. Following an assessment on day one, each rider is matched to the most suitable horse, according to their ability and aims of the riding  holiday. mine was to master lateral movements, such as shoulder-in. I have been trying to teach these to a lovely horse I took on as a share a year ago, but frankly it’s like the blind leading the blind. I hoped a schoolmaster would help clarify things for me, so squib – an Arab X maremmano rather than Valegro, but what Usignol lacked in height and elegance he made up for in attitude. Only recently backed, he was quick to learn, eager to please and had very promising paces. I began to wonder if I could ship him home. Wining and riding You don’t need to be a dressage fan to ride here, as the centre caters for all abilities. One woman had never ridden before, while a couple from Naples on their honeymoon learnt together a year ago and wanted to progress. Now that’s the kind of marriage guidance I would happily sign up for. If you want to ride out, you can explore the beautiful tuscan countryside, although according to Cristina most who plan to spend their week hacking out, decide to book more lessons instead as this riding holiday centre is specialized in classical riding. One experience not to be missed – but also not to be repeated by me – was a two-hour ride to a local vineyard for some wine tasting. I say ‘tasting’ in the loosest possible way, as it was more a case of drinking several glasses, encouraged by our lovely guide and Il paretaio groom Natalie. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the ride, or the fabulous wines we sampled, it was dealing with the dressage lesson when I got back to the stables that was less favourable. I can only describe dressage after a few glasses of vino as a unique experience, and I can’t say I’m in a hurry to try it again… I am, however, keen to return to Il Paretaio for another riding holiday, as my riding improved during my short stay and I’m eager to learn more. It seems I am not alone, as many of the guests there are regulars, coming each year for a week or two to top up their equestrian skills. they also come for the fantastic scenery, fabulous food and De marchi friendship. What more could you ask from a riding holiday? Il Paretaio is set in the heart of the Tuscan countryside

Il Paretaio magic atmosphere

Even 3 weeks after returning home Il Paretaio’s magic is still with you

Even 3 weeks after returning home Il Paretaio’s magic is still with you. Actually this very special magic is still continuing to have an effect.

Posted by Anke Martmann on Sunday 02 November 2014 in Guestbook

There are so many beautiful pictures in my head: the relaxing and warmhearted atmoshere of the people of Il Paretaio, the relaxed and well trained horses among which each rider – wether beginner or advanced rider – will find “his” horse, homey dinners with superb Tuscan cooking and international guests reviewing the riding lessons and / or hacks, exchanging horse and riding experiences and looking forward to sitting on the saddle the next day.
However, Il Paretaio’s magic is not all about horses – at dinner on the long table you can meet the world. Guests coming for many years to Il Paretaio – like my husband and myself or such guests who are discovering this enchanting beauty spot for the first time. Beside ideal conditions for riders of all levels also non-riders will reach their full senses here: Florence, San Gimignano, Siena, Volterra, Greve in Chianti, etc. – the cultural treasure of Tuscany can be reached easily be car. Some guests also use the bus connections to explore the surroundings or simply make a walk to Barberino – the next little spot.
For passionate bicycle riders like my husband Tuscany has to offer beautiful bicycle trips starting from San Filippo – various gelaterias with outstanding icecream are waiting for tired bicycle riders.
Here is my result: this beauty spot has a high “craze factor” and makes riders as well as non-riders happy. Everybody says that Il Paretaio’s magic is something you get addicted and I think it is really true”
Big hug
AnkeSelbst 3 Wochen nach unserer Rückkehr nach Hause wirkt der ganz besondere Charme von Il Paretaio noch nach. Da sind so viele schöne Bilder im Kopf: die entspannte und herzliche Atmosphäre der Menschen von Il Paretaio, die genauso entspannten Pferde, unter denen jeder Reiter – ob Anfänger oder Fortgeschrittener \”sein\” Pferd findet, gemütliche Abendessen bei hervorragender toskanischer Küche in internationaler Runde, bei denen man die gemeinsamen Reitstunden und / oder Ausritte des Tages Revue passieren läßt, sich über Pferde und Reiten austauscht und sich schon auf den nächsten Tag im Sattel freut. Aber es dreht sich nicht nur um Pferde – beim Abendessen am langen Tisch trifft sich die Welt. Gäste – wie mein Mann und ich, die schon viele Jahre nach Il Paretaio kommen und solche, die zum ertsen Mal dieses zauberhafte Fleckchen Erde entdecken. Neben idealen Reitbedingungen für Reiter aller Könnensstufen kommen hier auch Nichtreiter voll auf ihre Kosten: Florenz, San Gimignano, Siena, Volterra, Greve in Chianti, etc. – der Kulturschatz im Herzen der Toskana ist mit dem Auto schnell zu erreichen. Manche Gäste nutzen auch die Busverbindungen in die Umgebung oder machen einfach mal einen Spaziergang nach Barberino – den nächsten kleinen Ort. Für passionierte Radfahrer wie meinen Mann bietet die Toskana von San Filippo aus wunderschöne Radstrecken. Diverse Gelaterias mit ausgezeichnetem Eis warten als Belohnung auf den müden Radfahrer… Mein Fazit: dieses Fleckchen Erde hat einen hohen Suchtfaktor und macht Reiter wie Nichtreiter einfach glücklich.

Tags: Il Paretaio

endless love for the horses

Love for the horses: an endless feeling

 Love for the horses is a subject very often analyzed among horse addicted.

 Love for the horses is the absolutely paramount feeling which makes us into riders. It should be the only feeling which motivates us to deal with horses and strive for happiness in the saddle, in complete harmony with the horse. Without this deep feeling, which you should sense with every horse, you will never be a good rider. Of course there are horses to which one feels more naturally attracted than others, but basically it is important to experience a sense of love for all horses. This love causes us always to direct our thoughts and actions towards ensuring that our horse feels good: finding the best livery yard, where the horse feels comfortable, selecting the best rider, without letting personal interests take priority, looking after it and  training it as well as possible and trying to recognize its requirements and to satisfy them.

A horse’s face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used. Whether a horse raises its head in a friendly way when you approach and looks at you calmly, or stands facing into the corner of the box with its head hanging apathetically, says everything. I would even venture to say that horses which are really loved and respected live longer and remain more healthy.

 Indeed it is from the love and respect which you feel for your horse that the patience ensues which you require with the horse as well as with yourself in order to achieve your aims. Without patient repetition of individual learning steps and frequent praising, you will not achieve anything in riding.  Because one single outbreak of impatience  and uncontrolled behaviour can shatter the relationship with your horse on the long term or even completely ruin it for good. In all likelyhood, your horse did not understand you properly and does not really know what to think of your sudden and unexpected behaviour. Thus in such a moment it looses its trust in you. Trust, however, is the basis of every relationship! Your love of the horse also makes you want to present it in the best way possible, either at home or in front of a lot of spectators, at a show or a competition. It is your horse which should be in the foreground. Its ability, its elegance and its grace is what you would like to present, and in doing so you accompany it harmoniously and elegantly. You, as a human being, are not presenting yourself or even try to dominate the picture. No, you merge with the horse and, in a clever way, try to direct the eye of the observer to the main actor – your horse .

If it is your aim to present your horse in public, then look for one which you would like to train and present, but on no account should you pursue this aim in order to present yourself. Equestrianism does not tollerate this form of misuse and alert spectators are also quick to recognise it.

Riding as a hobby also represents an obligation to a certain seriousness and should not be done at a superficial level. Always consider that you are dealing with a living creature which is dependent on the human being.

Anyone who wants to practise equestrianism should really be obsessed with it. Idealism and limitless passion should be deeply rooted. Anyone who would like to earn his money with horses should distance himself mentally from the idea of an 8 to 10 hour day, a 5 day-week and regular holidays. Horses need to be looked after all the time, sometimes even need someone to be with them during the night or get injured just on Christmas day etc. Furthermore, you as a rider or a riding instructor are offering a service in the area of leisure, i.e. most of your customers only have time for their hobby in the evening, at the week end or on public holidays and would particularly like to take their lessons during these time. If you would like to achieve anything you, therefore, have to work during this period when other people are free , not instead of normal working hours but in addition to them. In order to maintain this pensum over the years you need endless passion and endless love for the horses as living creature. Wether you are a leisure rider or a professional, make sure that everything you do with horses, you do as a labour of love.

Fm the book In Deference by Anja Beran edited  by WuWei Verlag

I reported an extract of this interesting book and decided to choose the chapter about our endless love for the horses because I think we, horse lovers, all ask ourselves sometimes why we are like that and  sometimes to know that we all behave in the same way  (a way that only this endless love for the horses can  explain) can be quite reassuring!  Cristina Libardi De Marchi

Horse training techniques, positive reinforcement

Horse training techniques

Horse training techniques

“When a horse gets it right, be quick to reward him” this is a must of our philosophy in training horses at Il Paretaio and I would love to share with you an extract of an interesting article which was published on Horse & Rider magazine in  the Oct 2010 issue. The feature was about the horse training techniques used by Michael Peace who, with his unique “Think Equus” philosophy helps horses and riders of all levels to achieve their ultimate goals in life.

Training techniques

Positive reinforcement is when you reward a behaviour to encourage it

Negative reinforcement is when you discourage an unwanted behaviour. The horse learns that when he gets it right, he’s comfortable. For example, the rider puts pressure on the left rein to move the horse to the left ,and the horse learns that when he moves to the left, the rein pressure is removed.

Theory of neutral reinforcement is that it would be a mixture of negative and positive experiences. The horse learns to do the right thing through negative experiences, but when he gets it right, it’s comfortable for him and he is rewarded.

Flooding  is trying to force a horse to do what you want by overwhelming him. For example, putting a dummy on his back until he stops bucking, or putting someone who is scared of spiders in a room full of them. When a horse is flooded, he either learns to deal with it – unwillingly- or he has a breakdown. I think flooding is cruel.

Horse training techniques: ” Your horse has to have faith in you and believe you will do the best thing by him

How to be a neutral trainer

Talking about the horse training techniques we can say that the key to becoming a successful trainer and rider is to know exactly how much pressure to put on and when. Learn to read your horse’s body language carefully, so you can look out for little signs that he’s confused (so you make your signals clearer), worried ( then you reassure him and help him to find a way of dealing with it) or pushing his luck (you need to increase the pressure).

Most importantly, though, your horse has to have faith in you and believe that you’ll do the best thing by  him- you have to be his manager and one he trusts. This is really hard to do if you’re scared of your horse or you’re not sure what you’re doing in a certain situation, so make a plan of action…

1 Take control of the situation

Remember, if you don’t trust your horse, then he won’t trust you, so work really hard to build up a bit more trust each day. For example, it might be allowing him an extra inch of rein contact, or going for a canter out hacking instead of just walking and trotting. As you start to trust your horse more, you should get the feeling that he trusts you more , too.

2 Know what you want to achieve with your horse

At the start of each session, you might not know what you want to achieve by the end of it, but you should know what you want to achieve  at every split second along the way. Remember, if you are unsure about something and can’t make a decision- even for a split secon- your horse will feel the void with his own behaviour. This is because he will detect that you’re not in control, which will make him feel unsafe, so he feels the need to take control instead.

3 Be prepared to take the best route for the horse, not necessarily the quickest. Years ago ,I was  crossing the Solent on my father-in-law’s boat on a windy day. Despite the weather, he decided to show me his boat’s auto-pilot, but when he pressed the button, the boat diverted off the safe path he was sailing and began to sail in the most direct route.On that particular day, the direct route wasn’t the best one as the sea was so rough, and soon lots of water was coming over the sides of the boat. My father in law decided to switch the auto-pilot off, and he was able to regain control of the boat and steer it along a safer and smoother route. A good reminder that quickest isn’t always best.

4. Make your body language clear at all time

if you want your horse to come to you make yourself inviting; if you want him to go away from you, make that clear too. To help you, remember the last time you walked into a room full of people you don’t know. It probably didn’t take you long to work out who was friendly and who you didn’t warm to. Mimicking their body language can make you approachable or appear hostile to your horse.           Beware of becoming overfriendly, though. If, like me, you’re uncomfortable around people who invade your body space and who are very full-on, than respect that your horse might not like it either. By all means have a mutual grooming session with him from time to time, but remember that mutual grooming is something which is done between two horses who know each other well – each of them consents to it. Be sure your horse is happy to be on that level of intimacy with you and give him space to get away if he isn’t.

Try to avoid picks and troughs in your horse training techniques and aim to keep everything on an even level. Work with as many horses as you can to get experience and watch their body language carefully. It’s learning to read the subtle changes in body language – interrupting thought patterns and making tiny adjustements back to the right track – which will make you a great horse trainer

 

 

The tactile sensitivity of the horse

The tactile sensitivity of the horse

The tactile sensitivity of the horse, which varies according to the part of the body  is especially strong around the lips, nostrils, and eyes, given both the high concentration of receptors and the presence of vibrissae, which are rooted in many nerve endings. Among other advantages, these vibrissae provide a horse with a “second view”, which enables him to precisely analyze, by touch, what is in front of him in the blind spot of his visual field and to calculate how far he is from it. Mc Greevy (2004)  reports that, in addition, “horses are said to test electric fences with these whiskers before touching them”.

Consider, too, the presence of many filiform papillae with a tactile function within the buccal mucosa of the horse, which enhance its capacity for discrimination by allowing it to finely sort what it ongests, which explains the rarity of foreign bodies in horse intestines, compared with, say, cows (Mc Greevy 2004). This buccal sensitivity also comes into play in the different effects of the bits used on horses.

The sensitivity of the equine body is especially evident in its response to very light stimulation produced by the presence of flies, which causes a reflex twitch of the skin, the cutaneus trunci muscle reflex (Theriault and Diamond 1988), named for the broad, thick subcutaneous muscle that extends under the skin of the back and flanks. Saslow (2002) carried out a study of the tactile sensitivity of the horse that unfortunately remains unpublished. She measured the variation of the tactile sensitivity tresholds of different parts of the trunk, using the same methods as those used to test human tactile sensitivity. A propos of this subject, she notes: “We were surprised to find that horse sensitivity on the parts of the body which would be in contact with the rider’s legs is greater than what has been found for the adult human calf or even the more sensitive human fingertip.

Horses can react to pressures that are too light for the human to feel. This might, she continues, explain the negative consequences (failed training, “dead-sided” horses) of human instability in the saddle, and the rider unconsciously giving his horse irrelevant cues, as well as a trained animal’s apparent “extrasensory perception” of the intentions of its rider, which may simply be a response to light movements or muscle contractions that the rider makes unawares.

In addition there are also mechanoreceptors, thermoreceptors, and nociceptors in the hooves, with Ruffini and Pacini corpuscles, as well as free nerve endings (Bowker et al 1993; Floyd and Mansmann 2007)

Fm The Mind of the Horse-An introduction to equine cognition- by Michel-Antoine Leblanc

I thought that this extract from The Mind of the Horse about the tactile sensitivity of the horse could be of great benefit for many riders and horse people and I strongly recommend to read this very interesting book to understand better our horses,

Cristina Libardi De Marchi

Instructor at the Horse Classical Riding centre Il Paretaio, Italy

Grand Prix rider Andrea Mercier riding at Il Paretaio

 Grand Prix rider Andrea Mercier riding at Il Paretaio

Grand Prix rider Andrea Mercier riding at Il Paretaio says about Il Paretaio:”ll Paretaio is a gem for travelers, horse enthusiasts and seasoned riders alike. 

I am co-owner of Knoll Farm located in New York, where I train horses and teach riders. I have competed at Grand Prix dressage and also competed at advanced levels in show jumping CDI, international competition, hunter/jumpers and equitation. 

I trained in dressage with the previous owner and founder of Knoll Farm, Ann Gribbons, who has recently been inducted into the USDF Hall of Fame for her outstanding accomplishments and contributions to dressage, she was also the Chef d’Equipe, National Coach and Technical advisor for the US Dressage team for the 2012 Olympics.

When I visited Il Paretaio, I was impressed with the skill of the instructors and the quality of the horses. In addition, I enjoyed the warm hospitality and outstanding cuisine. It’s a must go for riders looking to improve their riding skills while savoring the beauty of Tuscany. This is a place for advanced riders and for the novice. Four of my students are regulars at Il Paretaio, and always come back with improved riding skills!

If you are a horse person, it’s a must go!”

We are very proud that a rider with the experience and quality of Andrea Mercier was very happy with her holiday at Il Paretaio, our Horse Riding Centre in Tuscany and would like to thank her for the nice words about us. Very often the very advanced riders appreciate the work on simple things, the attention to details, the simple exercises to soften a horse in order to decontract it in the body and in the mind.. In our lesson at Il Paretaio the first objective is to try to find the best communication between the horse and the rider and to reach this goal we use all our capability in making the horse and the rider trust each other and willing to cooperate.

Warming up our horse

The difference between loosening up and warming up our horse

 

Some people believe that riding around on long reins at a walk at the beginning of a session serves as a sufficient warm-up. Although a vital part of the everyday ride, this activity does not adequately increase oxygen and blood flow to the horse’s muscles. It’s important, therefore, to differentiate the purpose  of this phase from the actual warm-up phase. When you first mount up, you should spend a few moments allowing your horse to walk around on a long rein, especially if he lives in confined quarters much of the day. This gentle activity allows his joints to regain mobility. As the fluids begin moving and lubricating, the movement gradually brings his respiration rate up and gives his muscles time to limber up. This phase also allows the horse to adjust mentally to the workout ahead. It gives him time to settle and relax, which will make his body more adept for the task at hand. For some horses, this phase needs to last only 3 minutes or so. For older horses, it may require up to 10 minutes. But, generally, two laps around the arena should suffice for most horses.

The Warming up Phase

Following the initial phase of loosening up, you can begin to increase the intensity of your exercise, allowing the muscles to gradually increase their working temperature, which makes them more pliable. Once you begin the warm-up phase, keep it active because the point is to increase blood flow to the skeletal muscles.

This does not happen at a wandering pace, or if you trot actively for a minute, stop to chat with someone outside the arena, and then start trotting again and so on. Once you begin moving the horse actively forward, keep going! A few points to bear in mind:

.Maintain contact with the horse’s mouth and ask that he carry himself with good posture.

.Keep any ridden figures/patterns very simple at this stage, utilizing mostly straight lines, changes of directions, and large circles.

.Avoid tight turns, serpentines, and similar movements.

.Use the rising trot to keep the horse’s back as loose and unrestrained as possible.

. When cantering, sit in a light seat, slightly inclined forward from your hips, so that you do not drive your seat bones down into the horse’s back muscles before they are fully warmed up and engaged.

There is no rule about whether trot or canter suits your warming up best. Every horse is different. Some are more balanced in the canter and prefer it; therefore it is perfectly acceptable to use it for your warm-up. Others, however, move and carry themselves better in the trot,which would be more suitable for their warm-ups.

This phase of actively riding the horse forward to stimulate blood flow and pliability of his muscles should last from 5 to 10 minutes. From that point on, the horses tendons and ligaments will be warm enough that you can begin to add suppling exercises into your riding. For the following 5 or 10 minutes you can continue riding actively but begin to progressively add more gymnastic demands such as smaller circles, serpentines, leg yeld, and lateral movements if your horse knows them.

This text about loosening up and warming up our horse is  an Extract from Equine Fitness by Jec Aristotle Ballou, Author of 101 Dressage Exercises

 

 

We help frightened riders to deal with fear also motivating them

We help frightened riders to deal with fear

At Il Paretaio we help frightened riders to deal with fear.

 

Feel the fear and ride anyway!
All riders get frightened, but if it’s holding you back, try these great ways to get a more positive attitude

Panick attacks, anxiety, fear…. these are all things that most riders will have experienced at some stage during their riding lives. But when it is time to start realizing you have been indulging those demons for far too long and that they need to be faced head-on?
It’s strange but true that fear can actually be an important tool for riding. It creates an adrenalin rush, which can encourage people to achieve what they think is the impossible. By the same token, however, it can distort people’s imagination, encouraging a ‘what if’ scenario. And both situations can make riders prohibitively over-cautious or dangerously over-bold.

What if…
Like horses , riders differ in the way they deal with certain situations-say, how quickly they learn to trust their horse or how they let their imagination run riot. For them, everything is based on a constant ‘what if’. What if the horse spooks, will I fall off? What if the horse takes off, will I be able to stop?
When a rider becomes anxious about something, it doesn’t take much for any horse to recognise the signs and react to them. As she tries to take control of some imagined situation, she more often than not loses it by grabbing the reins, assuming an ineffective riding position, riding with the handbrake on and restricting the horse. So a tense rider actually manages to create the very situation that she is most frightened of.

Be positive, not passive! (This is a very important advice when we help frightened riders to deal with fear)
So if you’re worried that your horse is going to spook – more out of devilment at that set of showjumps he has spotted on the other side of the arena fence – dig deep and ride him positevely forward to distract him. Be a positive passenger in that driving seat, not a passive one!
And when you do, watch his ears , for they’re a dead giveaway! If they’re pointing in towards you, he’s listening,
but if the’re pricked out in front and focused on what is going on in the field beyond, then he’s distracted. So make sure you get him on the aids- and listening!

Don’t forget to breathe!
This is one of the best ways with which we help frightened riders to deal with fear with , so make sure your breathing is rhythmical – and if it helps, hum or sing to yourself. As it’s physically impossible to sing and hold your breath at the same time, singing will help you to keep breathing normally.

fm Horse&Rider- Liz Morrison – Sports Psychologist and NLP Master Practitioner

equine fitness

Lateral work is like yoga for horses and riders

 

Lateral work is like yoga for horses and riders; in our horse riding centre in Tuscany, Il Paretaio, we believe that lateral work is an essential part of classical riding and good training. There is no possibility in fact to collect a horse unless there is a good preparation of the horse making him supple, soft, relaxed in the mind and in the body and listening to the aids first.
We all dream a horse well balanced and flexible and the lateral work is an essential tool to reach this objective.
Lateral work can be called the “aspirine” of equitation because it can solve lots of problems: canter problems, flexing the hind quarters problems, tension problems and many others.For example, if you find difficult to canter with a horse on the right lead you will see that after exercizing with the correct lateral work exercizes your horse will be more capable to use his weak outside hind left leg for his right lead canter. Furthermore a good lateral work will increase the ability and will of the horse to go forward.

Why lateral work is like yoga for horses and riders?
With a good lateral work your horse will learn to use better his body and he will become stronger and more flexible; this is exactly what happens to us doing yoga. We become more flexible, stronger, we acquire more body awareness, balance and we feel better. also you will see that it will increase his ability and will to go forward.

In addition to this consider that lateral work  is something that has to be done gradually and slowly. Speed is the worse enemy of collection!
It can calm the rider too because he needs to give the horse time to understand the requests and it is very important to do these exercises very gradually and always using the minimum and lightest aids you can.

The quality of the trot ,Horses need consistency in their training

Training horses at our Horse Riding Centre in Tuscany

Training horses: an endless passion!

Training horses at our Horse Riding Centre in Tuscany we follow the principles of Classical Riding and I think that nothing better than what has been written by Charles de Kunffy could give you the idea of our way of training horses and instructing the rider.
Extract from the book “The athletic development of the dressage horse” by Charles de Kunffy
During instruction, regardless of the rider’s level of preparedness, the coach must costantly cater to the needs of both horse and rider. The emphasis, however, must remain on the rider, especially until he reaches a level of effectiveness that allows him to become a “trainer of the horse”.
The coache’s functions are devided between attention to the rider and to the horse.
Coaching should address two consecutive categories: first diagnostic, and then curative. Two logical categories of work will follow: first determining the hierarchical importance of the problems and then knowing which problems are basic and cause the other, lesser ones.
The curative remedies of the diagnosed problems have their hierarchy as well. Some remedies work more effectively or fasters than others, and a coach should know how to differentiate and choose appropriately among them.
This is the kernel of the coaching effort: knowing the appropriate remedies for the diagnosed problems!

I would also like to add some words by Magali Delgado and Frederick Pignon about their Six Golden Principles of Training:

1 To foster a more equal relationship, based on trust and respect, in which horse and man learn from each other.

2 Never to adopt “standard” or inflexible methods of training but to recognize that each horse develops as an individual and reacts differently to the same stimulus.

3 To reduce stress as well as to become a safe, trusted “haven” for the horse.

4 Always to be patient and never push too fast or too insistently – and on the other hand, not to allow the horse to get bored.

5 Never to use force or become angry.

6 To establish a more “natural” form of communication – that is, to further new methods.

Horse riding out in Tuscany

About our horse riding holidays in Tuscany

My Only Regret Is That We Don’t Live Closer

Posted by Louise Motum

I visited Il Paretaio, a beautiful horse riding centre in Tuscany, with a friend recently, found it via the internet, read about it booked it and then hoped it lived up to everything I hoped. It wildly exceeded any expectations I had. Il Paretaio is amazing, my friend and I had not ridden for a number of years, Jenny was a fantastic instructor taking time to let us get our confidence back. The scenery  is spectacular and the food was amazing, all the staff at Il Paretaio made us feel so welcome and nothing was ever too much trouble. The horses are beautifully trained following classical methods and really taught me a lot. I was a different rider by the end of the week and I can’t thank the instructors and horses enough for a truly amazing week. I am recommending Il Paretaio to everyone I know  and I think it is the best place for horse riding holidays in Tuscany and my only regret is that we don’t live closer.

My best horse riding holidays in Tuscany

Posted by Sharon Azmi

My friend and I have just spent the most magical week ever in a fantastic horse riding holidays centre in Tuscany. We have not ridden for a few years and were a little worries, but everyone was kind, understanding and very patient. The horses were amazing, Jenny was inspiring and this gave us both confidence to ride and even not be nervous! Perhaps the calm of the instructors and the soft way of training make these horses very gentle and always ready to please the rider. I have never seen in this horse riding holidays centre in Tuscany someone fighting with a horse while riding . The facilities were amazing, the food out of this world. We did a pasta making course one day and it just added to the awesome things we did. Every view was a postcard, every horse was kind, they truly follow the classic riding training, and the instructors were out of this world. This place was better than we had imagined and hoped for. AWESOME!

Listening to the horse when you ride

 

Listening to the horse when you ride

 

Listening to the horse when you ride is one of the most important training tools that we teach at Il Paretaio. My husband and I have been teaching to over 10.000 students at our Horse Riding Centre in Tuscany so we can say that we have a wide experience. Therefore we can make some considerations about some habits that can affect good riding and the capability of listening to the horse.
We have found that one of the main problems in riders is that they often do things without paying attention to the reaction of the horse. Our aim is to start a rider or to retrain an experienced rider to listen to the minimum changes in the horse giving himself and the horse the time to feel it.
Time is in fact another important factor that very often is not taken enough into consideration by riders and horse riding instructors.
Very often we see reactions of impatience by riders that, even just leading a horse, do not give him enough time to answer to a request. Again, in our weekly horse riding programmes, we insist on the importance of taking the time to allow the horse to understand the commands both on the ground (leading, lungeing, working the horse on hand) and riding them. Obviously at Il Paretaio, our horse riding centre in Tuscany, the situation to work on and develop these important items is idylic because the riders find themselves in a totally isolated place surrounded only by beauty and calm.
The horses and the horse riding instructor will lead the student to find a subtle and deep connection with the horse giving him the time to do it and not being pressed by the normal routine of life that many riders have at home. in this special situation they can dedicate time to the horse riding details, often discovering very important sensations that can improve enormously their riding performance.

Our nice relations with horses

Our nice relations with horses make our communication easy. We never fight, we try to understand the horse. Very often problems come from physical reasons and not for lack of cooperation. It is such a fantastic experience to feel that your horse is a friend ready to listen to you and happy to be with you! This is our way of being and thinking at Il Paretaio, a horse riding holidays centre in Tuscany specialized in classical riding and dressage.

I first visited this beautiful horse riding centre in Tuscany in 2004…..

 I first visited this beautiful horse riding holidays center in Tuscany in 2004 with the idea to stay for around 2 months. 9 years have passed by and I am still here! Originally from Birmingham in the UK, life is a little different now! During my first few months I fell in love with the magnificent landscape surrounding Il Paretaio and the method in which lessons were taught and horses trained.

I will never forget my first riding out through the vine yards surrounding the horse riding centre, it was late september in the evening sun and the vines seemed to be on fire they were such a vibrant orange. Since then I have trained to become an Instructor following the classical training of Cristina and Gianni that they have been passing on to many riders throughout the last 25 years,. Lightness, balance, harmony are the best words to describe what I have found here (both in the horses and in the way of teaching) and what I continue to pass on to all the riders that come to take dressage lessons at this classical horse riding centre located in one of the most beautiful places in Tuscany.

Over the years I have bought a lusitano mare to enjoy myself, I have even started to teach my ex Pony Club teacher who used to give me lessons with my ponies many many years ago!

Horse bend and straightness

Horse Bend and Straightness

Horse  Bend and Straightness

 

Fm:the very interesting book “The Building Blocks of Training “by Debbie Lush an interesting chapter about Horse Bend and Straightness.
 Do Horses Really Bend?
“When talking about bend, many old textbooks will tell you that your horse should “have a uniform bend throughout the lenght of his body”.
IN THE LIGHT OF MORE MODERN INVESTIGATION, WE KNOW THE EQUINE SPINE IS NOT UNIFORMLY FLEXIBLE- in fact many parts of it are quite inflexible , so we need to start understanding how we can create within our horses the illusion of a uniform bend and why we should do so.
Staring from the front:
. The horse’s neck (cervical vartebrae) is the most flexible portion of his spine, being able to move both up and down, and from side to side.

.The next set of vertebrae-the tohoracic- are those we sit above. They have the ribcage attached to them and they are almost entirely inflexible.

. Next along are the lumbar vertebrae – the loin area. These have a limited ability to flex up and down and side to side.

.His pelvis and his sacral vertebrae (which are fused together, so have no movement wahtsoever) are joined via the sacroiliac joint , which has very limited lateral movement.

. The vertebrae of his tail are, as you know from watching him swat a fly, very flexible in all directions.

The Illusion of Bend

This is created by a number of components that together give the illusion that the horse is bending along the lenght of his frame. We already know he can bend his neck a great deal – often more than we want when he is using it as an evasion- but a major tool we have to help us is ribcage.
His shoulder girdle is attached to his spine only by ligaments, tendons and muscles. This relatively flexible connection is what allows the strong advanced horse to literally raise his withers up between his shoulders.
In terms of bend, this allows the displacement of his middle section to either side- in other words his ribcage can swing quite extensively from one side to the other.
This is further assisted by his intercostal muscles. which primarily move move his ribcage in and out for breathing. When they contract on just one side they pull the ribs on that side closer together, so making one side of his body shorter than the other.
His legs also play a major part in his apparent ability to bend as, in addition to their ability to move back wards and forwards, they possess quite a range of movement to either side.
If you stand on the floor beside the girth area and, with your hands, push his ribcage away from you , you will see the natural result: as his ribs move away so the hind leg nearer you will move forward and towards you, the foreleg nearer will move back and towards you , and his neck will bend to your side. This is the reaction you want to your inside leg when you are on his back.”

I hope that the readers will find this text about the horse bend and straightness useful and interesting : Horse bend and straightness are really two of the most important tools for training.

My horse riding holiday at the horse riding centre Il Paretaio, in Tuscany

I already miss Il Paretaio!!!!!

Posted by Jaruwan Taylor on Sunday 04 January 2015 in Guestbook

 

Where do I begin?:-) I learned about Il Paretaio through Trip Advisor. So many happy returning riders! During my first visit to Italy, I wanted to ride in Tuscany. So I signed up for a weeklong visit in late November of 2014. My visit was amazing! I made fast friends with two lovely women from Nova Scotia. After enlightening morning lessons, I tagged along with them on driving adventures to San Gimignano, Siena, and Volterra. Other afternoons were spent learning something new in a lesson or on a lunge line. I never heard of Merens ponies until I came here. I had the good fortune of having one horse exclusively – the lovely Ivoir. He was the best teacher, in addition to my instructors, Emily and Natalie. All of the horses are extremely well cared for and many are super affectionate. Bette loves to cuddle and she enjoys massages. I heard Shiraz was a grump, but we got along. She even posed for me! I could go on and on about the horses, but I just say – pay them a visit! You certainly will not regret your time here! I haven\’t even mentioned the food! The dinners are unbelievable – so much yummy goodness. There are several courses. My warning to you – pace yourself because you will be stuffed by the end of the evening! Cristina\’s 86 year old mother made handmade lasagna for us one evening. She used the same pasta machine her father used in the 1900s I believe. As a foodie, I am forever spoiled by the food here! I\’ve been traveling all over Italy; and I\’ve been to Madrid, Paris, and Bruges. Hands down – Il Paretaio has the BEST food. Lunch and breakfast aren\’t bad either. And the desserts are so yummy! Well I missed Il Paretaio so much that I came back on January 1st, 2015 – exactly one month from leaving after my first visit! Everyone here is awesome. The positive energy at this magical place is something else. I can\’t describe the feeling really. Good people, wonderful instruction, loved horses, fantastic food and so forth! I\’m already planning a reunion in the fall with one of the Nova Scotia women.;-)

Horse riding lesson: no contact

At Il Paretaio we think that it is very useful to ride a horse with long reines and little or no contact. We use this to warm up and to cool down. It is also very important to build trust and to obtain relaxation.
Allowing the horse to carry his neck in a lenghtened and lower position will furthermore naturally stimulate the release of endorphins, the relaxant hormones, into the horse’s system.
It is very important that the reins are considered a mean of connection and not of control. Ifyou cannot ride the horse without keeping him on tight reins then the reins are used in the wrong way that is to say for control.

Outstanding horse riding training at Il Paretaio with the instructor Pietro De Marchi

The importance of transitions to develop the paces

One of the best ways to develop paces is with good transitions between and within paces.
For example, trot to walk, walk to canter, working to medium trot, as well as “on and back” exercises such as medium canter then more collection for a few strides, then back to medium canter. If you do well this work on transitions you will really see the difference to the horse’s paces. Transitions are the basic of good training and the building blocks to develop lightness, balance, expression as you ask the horse to push in the upward transitions and to get his hindlegs under him in the downward transitions. This is very important to help to lift the shoulders and to improve the carrying power in the hindquarters.

Lusitano or Warmblood?

Sometimes my students ask me what are the advantages of the Lusitano breed compared to a warmblood and …as very often it happens…I have to start answering saying…it depends!
I love Lusitanos because they really tend to try always hard to please the rider and I find them always easy to collect.
I love sensitive horses and Lusitanos are very sensitive and smooth and very confortable to ride. I love their brave attitude and their athleticism and generally riders that follow the classical principles of riding (calm and quiet riding style) find these horses always very pleasant to ride finding them extremely sensitive to the rider’s legs and hands.
On the other hand, while you can find collection easier riding a Lusitano than a warmblood, you will maybe need to work more on developing a cadenced trot and, sometimes, more help to develop a good canter.
Anyway I find always very difficult to give a proper answer to this question : “Should I buy a Lusitano or a Warmblood?” because most of the success and pleasure will depend not only on the right choice but also on the good training. It can be true that a Lusitano, because of his incredible generosity, sometimes will try to do anything a rider will ask him even if not “through” his back. Sometimes you can see Lusitanos not well ridden with tight backs, short necks and behind the bit but this does not depend on the breed but on a bad training. Remember that there is no substitute for good training: no breed can hide the rider’s fault with training as any horse needs a consistent training programme to build on the strenghts and overcome weakness.

Lunging the rider to get a fantastic seat!

In our horse riding holidays centre in Tuscany we believe that longeing the riders is extremely important in order to reach a perfect seat.
Through appropriate exercises the rider will gain an independent seat and will be able to concentrate on another very important tool for riding: conscious breath work.
It does not matter the level: from beginners to advanced riders, any rider will get great benefit from being longed because we can concentrate 100% on our balance without worrying about anything else. This is extremely important in fact the philosophy of riding at our equestrian centre Il Paretaio is that only a perfect balance will lead a rider to a deeper connection with the horse. Longeing a rider will also bring him to develop a stable, correct and elegant seat.
With our experience of more than 27 years of teaching we can definitevely assure that put on the longe line, any rider will achieve his goals and will feel much more secure because he will trust much more his balance.

Horse riding out in Tuscany

Riding out in Tuscany: a good exercise also for the training of the horse

Riding out is very important for the mind and the good athletic developement of a horse.
It increases the willing to go “straight and forward”. It is much easier to fulfill this important goal than what it is sometimes in the arena. In the arena in fact the horse can have the tendance to lay towards the fence or the wall and become crooked which is something absolutely to be avoided from the first steps in training. Crookedeness will affect all the rest of the training and it is easier to have this problem in a confined space than when we ride out in the countryside.
Furthermore if you have the chance to be surrounded by hills as we are here in the Chianti area it is a great benefit for the horse in terms of engagement going up and down the hills. It is also very useful to make him learn to use better his body and the uneven ground improves the coordination of the legs.
Little jumps in the countryside will awake his spirit and will be , again, a good exercise to improve the jumping exercises we generally make working in the arena.
This is one of the reasons why in our classical riding horse centre in Tuscany, Il Paretaio, we work our horses not only in the arena but also in the beautiful countryside finding that such a beautiful environement can be also felt by the horse as something extremely enjoiable and relaxing.

Helping our riders to solve riding problems and horse management problems

When leading a horse you should set a rule that the horse mustn’t put his head in front of your shoulder.
My husband and I have been running our equestrian riding centre in Tuscany for nearly 30 years and we found out that most of our students, who come from all over the world, often encounter lots of problems with their horses at home just because there is a lack of aknowledge about horse’s behaviour.
Very often we found oursevelves involved in the retraining of horses who used to walk throwing their head all over the place , showing agitated behaviour and overtaking their rider. We think that education starts from the way you lead a horse too.
When leading a horse you should set a rule that the horse mustn’t put his head in front of your shoulder.
You should never forget that one of the basic priciples in training is that like children horses need consistent rules and boundaries in order to feel secure. If you are clear with boundaries horses will usually relax and feel afer.
Going back to how to lead a horse you should not allow him to put his head in front of the leader’s shoulder. If he does, stop him, back him up a few steps, then walk him up again.
This may take many repetitions and if you want you can also add a verbal command. Of course these look like simple things but, depending on the level of experience of the rider, it could be that you need a help of an expert at least for the beginning.

Horse’s feet; when you first handle a horse’s feet

A horse who lets you handle his feet shows a good level of acceptance of people and it is a good gauge of where he is in his relationship with people. When you first handle a horse’s feet, remember all you are looking for is to be able to cue the foot off the ground. So start with your hand up high on the horse’s body and slide it down the outside of the leg (not the inside like so many people are taught) until the foot comes off the ground. When it does, don’t try and hold on to it, simply allow the horse to put it down again, and repeat on the next leg and so on. Repeat this a few times on each leg until the horse is happy for you to go to each foot and cue it off the ground.
At first a young horse may snatch the foot away and that’s fine. Resist the urge to grab it, and instead repeat the process. After a few exposures, the horse should be relaxed and hold is foot in the air for you. Once he realises you mean hinm no harm, he’ll let you hold on to it and eventually position it to work on it. Take your time with this and make it easy on him.
Top tip
Make sure that you are calm yourself before you start. Horses are very good at picking up on tension, so if you’re not relaxed, wait until you are, or leave it to the experts.

endless love for the horses

Our horses, our friends

I think that lots of people come back at Il Paretaio because of this special relationship we have with our horses.
When I say “our horses” I mean the horses that are ridden in the lessons and in the ride out by our guests and then retrained in the low season , when we do not have guests ,by ourselves.
What we teach iour riders is s actually how to make the horse do something with pleasure.The idea is that when we ask the horse to do something he must understand how to do it and very often we find riders who come here and they are not really clear or light with the aids. The other important thing is that you have to ask and the way you ask. If the horse is not forced to do something and your idea will become his idea then you will reach a great goal. We think that it is very important to respect our horses thought and feelings and this is very important for us because we believe that evey horse you ride can be your friend. This is, perhaps, the reason why many riders leave Il Paretaio saying that our horses are really “special”. They are not special, they are normal horses but it is the way we approach them that makes them so confident in us that you will feel them “special”.

Lesson in equestrian culture: How horses sleep standing up

Horses sleep or doze in short bursts, most or which are spent standing up. Research has shown the amount of sleep varies considerably between individuals, but horses actually need as little as two and a half hours of light sleep per day. They also need a couple of hours of deep sleep about once every forty-eight hours, which must be spent lying down.

Once down the rigidity of the spine makes it difficult for a horse to get up. This takes a considerable amount of muscular energy and is often accompanied by a grunt of effort.

Outside horses sleep better in groups because some sleep while others stand guard. This behaviour emanates from the need to make a rapid exodus from predators.

Horses can sleep standing up because the stay apparatus in their legs allows them to relax their muscles and doze without falling down or expending much energy.

Lightness of riding

Posted by Christina Hammer on Wednesday 08 April 2015 in Guestbook

Every time I visit Il Paretaio I am able to focus on a special topic of my riding skills by performing exercises always with lightness. You experience the nicest feelings with your horse when you have a connection that makes you dancing with your horse. This can only happen when you are riding a sensitive horse and you have trainers who not only teach you technics but also how to communicate with the horse and put no pressure on you or the horse. It is always great to return home as a more complete rider.

Working the horse in freedom

We believe that some of the best and finest horsemen that we met in our life were some artists working their horses in freedom. We think that among many of them, Magali Delgado and Frederick Pignon show really a special ability to connect mentally a physically with their horses as well as Lorenzo whose last show was so touching that I found myself (Cristina) in tears.

To understand a bit this charming discipline or perhaps I should call it” art” I strongly recommend the book Gallop to Freedom – Training horses with the founding stars of Cavalia-

by Magalì Delgado and Frederick Pignon and I would like to propose you a short extract by this fantastic book.

Each Horse Has His Favourite Game

“I like to reward a horse who has done good work by allowing him to play his favorite game. I soon learn which games each horse prefers and it is not difficult to enter into the fun of it. For instance, I might run away from him as fast as I can, knowing that we will enjoy the chase. What is more, I often interleave games with hard work on an exercise like the reverence, the bowing movement that is arduous and requires a lot of effort to do.

As I mentioned before, Aetes, one of my oldest horses, likes to get up on his box (the wooden cube) on the stage and do a jambette for the fun of it. He will even come up to me and gently nibble my chin. I allow him to do this and when he does it during a show the public thinks that it is a result of long training. Not a bit of it! Aetes thought of the idea himself, and by permitting him this pleasure, I help to reduce the stress of the performance…….

My horses often show me great affection but this is only because I have own their respect and confidence over a long period. I do not allow them to overstep the mark. My responsability is to make   each horse as relaxed and free from stress as possible and I have never to forget for one moment that each one is an individual and has his own likes and dislikes.”

fm Gallop to Freedom by Magalì Delgado and Frédéric Pignon

 

 

A horse riding lesson at Il Paretaio

For the first several minutes of my private lesson, Giovanni De Marchi asked me to walk Squibb, a grey Andalusian cross, briskly on a long rein to loosen his body and also to use the bending aids of my seat and leave my hands quiet. When the rythm became regular and swinging, I progressed to riding Squibb more into the contact and then progressed to lateral movements along the quarterlines, ensuring that I cued him – minimally – from my core and not by overusing my leg pressure. A lively round of posting trot followed as I continued to utilize arena figures and lateral exercises when Squibb’s posture or engagement needed improvement.

To maintain good swing and looseness in the horses’ backs, most trotting work at Il Paretaio is done in posting trot, Giovanni explained, including shoulder-in and haunches-in. He believes that many riders make themselves and their horses stiff by overusing the sitting trot. He prefers to see riders use the sitting trot for brief periods throughout each session when the movement is relaxed and engaged. On this note, all of Il Paretaio’s instructors emphasize how and why to ride exercises so that, even with extensive dressage schooling, horses do not become robotic or dull.

The instructors show riders how to modify certain lines of travel and tempo during exercises to retain each horse’s freshness to keep him alert and responsive. During my canter transitions aboard  Tempo, for instance, Giovanni asked me to ride down the center of a 20-meter circle straight toward C and then, right before the rail, execute a canter depart and the turn immediately in the new direction. This exercise keeps both horse and rider sharp and quick. He prompted me during the exercise to cue for the canter from a slight hip movement, and using very little leg pressure. This would create a more smooth canter depart, Giovanni said, preventing my leg from becoming dull.

June 2015-Dressage Today Usa magazine

Jec Aristotle Ballou

Fm Jec Ballou, author of “101 Dressage exercises for horse and rider”

So far I have brought two groups of American students to this lovely facility, in addition to writing about it for Dressage Today magazine in the U.S.. I find the owners, staff, and overall experience to be a tremendous rejuvenation of riding inspiration for riders of all levels. Here you are reminded to fall in love with the details, to honor lightness. I find myself leaving with a satiated sense of clarity and purpose. And I should mention that this is all on top exemplary hospitality and cuisine!
Jec Ballou

Feed back from Dina, Paris

“If you are looking for a place where you can have the best riding lessons and in the same time enjoy very relaxing holidays in a beautiful scenery, you should go to Il Paretaio.
The horses are very well trained, very calm and they are the best to help any rider to get more confident and improve his riding. Cristina, Gianni and Pietro give very precise lessons and have a special attention to the communication between the rider and the horse. There you learn how to get more and more sensitive, for example, you realize that you can stop your horse just with your breath. They give a lot of very good advises to better your position and your seat. You really can feel their love for their horses. I’ve rarely seen horses that are so well taken care of.
Apart from the riding, the toscan food is one of the other highlight… It is just delicious ! And it is really nice to have dinner all together with riders from all around the world.
Even non riders really enjoy the place. You can as well chill at the swimming pool or visit the surroundings (Sienna, Volterra, San Gimignano…).
I already went there three times. The first one, I didn’t have a car, but you can easily get there by bus.
I feel really lucky to have discover this wonderful place !”

benvenuti a Il Paretaio

Feedback from Eeva and Tiina

We had a long weekend in the end of September at beautiful Il Paretaio. The weather was good for riding. We were lucky to have sunny days, no rain and temperature was around 17-24 celcius degrees.
Good classical riding and teaching, nice athmosphere for a holiday. There are well trained and good quality of horses at Il Paretaio and a lot of nice choices for a rider. Rider’s level is well noticed and then selected matching horse for the rider so that it’s possibility to see the progress and develop communication with a specific horses during the stay. We found exactly what we were looking for.
You can ride in small groups example 2-3 persons, you get personal teaching and the good thing is that feedback is given during and after the lessons. There are also other occassions to discuss about your riding more in detail which is really appreciated. Before arrival we had planned to have one trekking but the quality of lessons was so good that we decided to have only dressage.
Location is very nice. We had a rental car and got easily around to visit closeby villages between morning and afternoon riding.
Thank you Il Paretaio for a wonderful riding holiday in Tuscany! We are looking forward to return soon again.
Eeva & Tiina from Finland
Horse riding and importance of the center

Fm Horse & Rider UK magazine

Treat yourself to a riding holiday at the wonderful Il Paretaio in Tuscany, says Nicky Moffatt. You’ll never forget it

 

There’s so much to love about this classical riding centre that it’s difficult to know where to start, but one thing’s for sure. If you love horses, you’ll love Il Paretaio very much. Set right in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, the views are second to none. You can ride out for miles in the rolling green countryside or enjoy the magnificent setting from the confines of the arena. English speaking hosts Cristina and Giovanni De Marchi run this beautiful centre, and they do a very good job of it. Not only will you receive one of the warmest welcomes you could wish for, but you’ll get to ride quality, classically trained horses, receive top-class instruction, go wine and olive oil tasting, as well as taking time out to enjoy the beautiful scenery, sample some wonderful home-made cuisine and explore the nearby historical towns and cities.

 

My Happy Addiction

by Cecilia Marcus

I won’t deny it!

I am addicted to Il Paretaio, which is why I have visited twice a year for the last 12 years.
I have learned so much from Cristina and Gianni about the Classical approach to dressage which stresses gentle communication with their very special horses, rather than strong-arming them into submission. In October, after 12 years, Cristina finally deemed me a calm enough rider to ride Squibb, a delightful, highly-schooled Arab mix.

I already had a relationship with him, having helped out in the barn on various occasions and having given him hugs and carrots over the years. I cannot describe the thrill of riding such an animal, whom I felt cared about me and gave me so much generous leeway, rather than balking at my sometimes inept use of the aids. I have been able to apply so many, many of Cristina and Gianni\’s equitation principles to my riding at home, and always impress my trainer with my newly-gained improved riding skills when I return to New York.

I have, with their help, been able to overcome longstanding anxiety on a horse stemming from a jumping accident and am now a pretty confident rider! I eagerly look forward to my next visit on April 25 of this year. The beautiful landscape surrounding Il Paretaio has inspired me, a painter, to paint many watercolors trying to capture the ineffable, ever-changing vistas which vary greatly depending on the light and weather conditions.

I feel like a member of the family each time I return to Il Paretaio and am warmly welcomed by Cristina, Gianni, son and instructor Pietro, daughter Giorgia, Elide (Cristina\’s mother) and the terrific members of the staff. The peace, quiet and warmth I feel at Il Paretaio is a wonderful antidote to my hectic, stressful, New York existence!

partnership with horses

Our horses, Our friends

I think that lots of people come back at Il Paretaio because of this special relationship we have with our horses.

When I say “our horses” I mean the horses that are ridden in the lessons and in the ride out by our guests and then retrained in the low season , when we do not have guests ,by ourselves.

What we teach iour riders is s actually how to make the horse do something with pleasure.The idea is that when we ask the horse to do something he must understand how to do it and very often we find riders who come here and they are not really clear or light with the aids. The other important thing is that you have to ask and the way you ask.

If the horse is not forced to do something and your idea will become his idea then you will reach a great goal. We think that it is very important to respect our horses thought and feelings and this is very important for us because we believe that evey horse you ride can be your friend. This is, perhaps, the reason why many riders leave Il Paretaio saying that our horses are really “special”.

They are not special, they are normal horses but it is the way we approach them that makes them so confident in us that you will feel them “special”.

A”human cone” as a reference point

Very often we use this exercise to help riders to focus on direction. Sometimes riders struggle to mantain consistent-sized circles . To help the riders to ride a perfect circle I position myself either inside or outside the circle (just half a meter away) asking them to use me as their point of reference passing in front or behind me as if I were a cone.

The incentive to avoid trampling me encourages the riders to be exacting in the geometry of their circle.
I also use this idea of a “human cone” to help riders develop their horse’s attentiveness after a fence. For example I can ask someone to stand 50 feet away from a small vertical on the landing side, centered with it. The rider will trot to the fence, jump it and come to a walk before the “human cone”. The impetus to not stampede the person will compell the rider to focus on riding the downward transition effectively.

After riding this exercise a few times, the horses become more attentive and willing to respond to the riders’ aids.

Animals are marvellously non-judgemental

Creature Comforts

Our big, complex brains think up big, complex problems, while other people can be just as exhausting. when such a feeling hits, there’s nothing to beat the best listener of all: an animal pal. Not only are animals marvellously non judgemental, their company reminds us of simple pleasures – there’s nothing like a good meal and a belly rub.

In the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula, Bedouin tribes developed traditions to survive their stark environement. One was animal husbandry, and the bond between Bedouin and horse was particularly strong. The Arabian horse was revered, and equestrianism was conisidered one of the most important parts offurusiyya, the warrior’s arts, and the horse was celebrated in poetry and song.

Not everyone can own an Arabian stallion, but you could give a dumped cat or dog a loving home. Even some time spent watching the birds flitting among the trees or a spider spinning its web can lift you out of your mental maze and tune your ears to nature’s gentle call.

fm “calm” Secrets to serenity from the cultures of the world – lonely planet

Il Paretaio is on Dressage Today!

The article has been issued on the June edition and it has been written by Jec Aristotele Ballou, aithor of 101 Dressage exercises.

…The Il Paretaio experience

Il Paretaio feeels like a home away from home for riders who have steeped themselves in classical dressage…with more than 20 high-quality school horses, it also caters to new or novice riders in addition to advanced dressage students.

Lessons run throughout the day, beginning at 7.30 a.m. with a large pause in the middle to seek reprieve from the heat….Most sessions begin with lateral movements in the walk and then progress to suppling figures at trot and then canter.

Students spend ample time in the beginning of each lesson loosening their horses by riding figures and lateral work in a lively but relaxed walk. This phase of “connecting the horse’s body to your seat and his mind to your mind”, as Giovanni explained it, sets the stage for any training session to be productive.

IMG_2743

In the walk, explains Cristina, considerable learning and progress happen for both horse and rider, but too many riders skip over it in their daily work. When they are too eager to get to the faster movements, they often skip the finest points of dressage. At Il Paretaio, students learn the value of that initial walk period, especially for touring through lateral movements and feeling every stride…

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classical riding Il Paretaio

In our horse riding philosophy simple is better

In our horse riding philosophy  simple is better:we think that first of all the communication between the horse and the rider must be simple and we have to make sure that it is understandable for the horse.At our Horse holiday riding centre in Tuscany we give lot of importance to good basic training for a horse. Most of the time, when we encounter a problem while personally riding a horse or while teaching a rider, we find the best solution is to simply take one step back. I do not mean literally walking backwards but just making it simpler for the horse. For example if you are having a problem performing an exercise in the trot try going back to walk and making it clearer for you and the horse. If your horse becomes strong on the bit try going back to suppleness with some lateral work instead of insisting on the same pattern with the risk of having a stronger and stronger horse. If one step is not enough then go back to something even simpler; for example if you are having problems in a canter exercise and you cannot find the right exercise to solve that problem in canter, go back to trot. If it’s still too difficult in trot and you find it difficult to re-establish harmony then it will be worth going back to walk. These are just simple examples to explain that when we have a problem most of the time it is because the horse is showing that he cannot execute that exercise in that particular moment and very often this happens because we were not clear enough with our aids while making our request. In our equestrian centre in Tuscany the school horses are very seldom against the rider because we use this method of understanding, calmly explaining what the horse needs to make an exercise correctly.