Mountain biking

Discover Madonie on Mountain bike.

Who is interested to discover Madonie Natural park on Mountain bike, please send an e mail to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

E.N.G.E.A.

engea 2 cm

E.N.G.E.A. National Associacion of Eco Equestrian Guides.

Franco and Paolo are proud members of E.N.G.E.A the National Association of the Eco Equestrian Guides. They have E.N.G.E.A. licence to guide riders in natural areas.

 

 

Itineraries in Sicily

We know all Sicily as our Pockets.
We can organise CUSTOM GUIDED or SELF Tours by car

 

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 With our minibus and driver/guide or on your own we can design a custom trip in Sicily to discover the classic and the Unknown SICILY eating and sleeping in the best and affordable plces.
Just send an enquire and we will quote our services.

ITALY SICILY.Transiciliana TO ETNA HORSEBACK DETAILED PROGRAM, DATES, PRICES

TranSiciliana to ETNA 2015.
“Madonie, Nebrodi and Etna Parks, the different and unexpected faces of SICILY”.

 

 

General information on the riding trip.
TranSiciliana to Etna is with AROUND  6 hours a day of riding for six days on horseback. Riders need to be fit because riding days are a bit longer and trots and canters are longer  too compared with Madonie Natural park trip.  There are not really difficult/technical passages, trails are wide and with good soil almost all over.  If weather allows, Itinerary reaches 2.000 meters of altitude on Etna  to  visit the 2002 eruption area.

TranSiciliana is a very scenic mountain trek with astonishing views all over, that goes with good visibility from the Eolien islands to Etna volcano almost all along the second part of itinerary. Only this tour on horseback allow to visit in few days all these different natural environments that it is too long and too complicated  to be visited hiking  or mountain biking and forbidden by cars. Some areas are well developed for tourism with good or top country houses, some areas are not developed yet for Tourism, that’s why we use a Forest Service Refuge on east Nebrodi Park close to Lake Tre Arie. Better accommodations are really too far away.

The 96% of the ride is on trails, 4 % is on asphalt. The short pieces on asphalt normally are close to reach accommodations and/or to leave them. On day 2 need to  follow a stretch of mandatory asphalt road to reach a water pool and the trail to Sambuchetti Campanito Reserve.

The trip crosses 3 wide natural Parks: Madonie, Nebrodi and Etna and 2 nature reserves: Sambuchetti Campanito and Lake Gurrida Natural Reserves. During the trip  will be overlook the fourth Sicilian Park,  Alcantara river, that lie in the valley between the Nebrodi and Etna. It is not reach because many cars and lots of asphalt. During each day of the trip the landscapes change very much giving to riders the true, unexpected, real faces of Sicily. The island is NOT  bare, arid, without water as people have wrongly in mind. Instead Sicily is overall green, covered by thick and ancient woods of very many different species of hard wood trees; there are creeks, rivers, lakes, a great number of water springs. In the area where the land is cultivated, out of the Parks, there is the typical Sicilian country side with fields of hey, cereals, olives, almonds that surround some villages full of history and traditions. Geology and Botany change a lot between the areas offering the different faces of Sicilian nature with interesting endemic plants, wildlife and geology. So riders pass from the white, sharp, Madonie mountains to the typical Sicilian countryside between them and Nebrodi Mountains; then to the “Canadian” forests of Sambuchetti Campanito Reserve  just before to enter the thick forested Nebrodi park; till reaching the valley between them and Etna crossing the Gurrida Lake reserve and finally going up on the side of Etna volcano looking at lava flows of different age, various woods, grassy opens, craters, grottoes and lava fields.

Etna volcano was declared in 2013 Patrimony of the Humanity by the UNESCO.

Sicily has 4 Natural Parks and 77 Nature Reserves.  10% of the island is protected. Soon will be established the 5th Park: Sicani natural park (will be the largest Park of Sicily) and almost 18 % of Sicilian territory will be under protection.

Program Day by Day.
Program can vary depending weather conditions, trail situations, orders by Park / Reserves Directors, hotels occupancy.

Day 1. Saturday. From  Catania Airport to MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO (***) www.masseriaroccadigonato.it 
After arrival of planes, riders are moved to MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO Country House in around 1, 45 hours by minibus. If possible, depending time of arrivals will be done a short tour in Catania historical centre and a light lunch with Sicilian traditional fast food (cost NOT included in the package).
Dinner and night at MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO.
Swimming pool available in summer. SPA and Massages Service available all year round.
Horses hosted in the pasture in front of the country house.

 

Day 2. Sunday. From MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO to VILLA RAINO’ (***). www.villaraino.it 
From MASSERIA ROCCA di GONATO will be follow a trail in the mountains in front of the lodge. Then around 2 km of asphalt that cannot be avoided to reach Portella Mandarini. Then will be follow a very ancient trail (most of this trail was designed by the Romans after they build Petralia Soprana village (Petra Lileum), the second part of the trail is with cobblestones. This was made to remember when the roman build this trail as a road (all roman's stones of that ancient road disappeared). Picnic lunch is made in a Forestry Service wooden area with a meeting with our  minibus. In afternoon will be follow a long and ancient shepherd trail along the last hills of Madonie to reach a water pool to water horses. To reach this After the crossing of a huge private area along a trail,  need then to follow asphalt for 1 km, then a trail on hills with fields  on the side of a road  till reaching Villa Rainò country house, close to the village of Gangi.
Dinner and night at Villa Rainò. Swimming pool available in summer. Horses are hosted in the pasture in front of the country house.
Hours on saddle 6.
Total Asphalt  4 km.

 

Day 3.Monday. From VILLA RAINO’ to LA PERLA di PANCALLO Country House (***). www.laperladipancallo.it 
Will be followed the dry bed of a river (water only in winter) to reach the asphalt  road that head up to the trail that crosses  a Wind Turbine Park. That asphalt road gives to horses an important water pool to drink. The large and long trail along the edge of the mountain where lie the wind turbine park will be done mostly at canter/gallop or quick trot. Then will be followed the long dirty road that cross the Natural Reserve of Sambuchetti – Campanito, an oasis of woods that give shade almost all along the way. Picnic lunch is served before to exit from the Reserve. Then we will go down into the most typical Sicilian country side to reach La Perla di Pancallo country house and riding centre.   Immediately after the Reserve will be followed one of the last pieces of  one of the survival “Regie trazzere” (Royal roads) build by the Spanish in the XVIII century. They were dirty roads large 30 meters, used to move people and cattle, sheep and goat during their movements between summer and winter. Most of them were reduced in size or disappeared because land owners destroyed them to enlarge their properties acquiring the land of the “Regie trazzere”. In these years there are works to enlarge the road that lie at exit of Nature reserve, so in the immediate vicinities there are “work in progress” and need to be careful in that area.
Dinner and night at La Perla di Pancallo. Swimming pool available in summer. Horses are hosted in the paddocks of the riding centre of the place.
Hours on the saddle 6.
Asphalt: 3 km.

 

Day 4. Tuesday. From LA PERLA di PANCALLO to HOTEL RIFUGIO del PARCO (***). www.rifugiodelparco.com

In the beginning of the day we will go up again to reach the mountain divide of NEBRODI Mountains. Some little asphalt leaving  La Perla di Pancallo then only trails. The picnic lunch is done with a meeting with minibus in a very scenic location.  Then will be cross a valley, a river and then up to the mountain divide. Then is an afternoon almost all into woods of old beeches. Some parts of the way up to the mountains are without trails and horses will go up on the open side of mountains with wonderful landscapes. The Main Trail then will follow the mountain divide in thick shaded woods and small opens. Will be reached the only water pool available (not always with water). Then again in the woods to reach the pass of FEMMINA MORTA (the Dead Female) where is the end of the day. Horses will stay during night in an electric fenced corral made by us around a water source with one of the guides sleeping with them. This permit to save at least 1 more hour of “nothing special” to ride to the stables of hotel. Riders will be transferred by minibus (6 minutes) to the hotel. To reach that corral need to follow for 1 km the asphalt road from Femmina Morta Pass.
Dinner and night at Hotel. Horses are hosted in the electric fenced corral made by us around a water source in the wood close to the main trail.
Hours on the saddle: 6
Asphalt: 1,5 km.

 

Day 5. Wednesday. From HOTEL RIFUGIO del PARCO to TRE ARIE REFUGE.

This is the day of Lakes. One after the other will be seen the Maulazzo, Biviere, Cartolari, and Tre Arie natural lakes. All of them absolutely not expected by all visitors in a Sicilian landscape. The trail goes on the mountain divide with landscapes on Eolien islands and Etna volcano.  Along the trail are very easy to be seen “Sanfratellano’s horses”  and “Little black pigs of Nebrodi”, roaming free in the mountain pastures. Picnic will be done with sandwiches because impossible for the minibus to met the group. After long trots and canters, at end of day will be reach the Tre Arie Refuge of the Forestry Service (Azienda Foreste Demaniali). This because the closest acceptable sleeping places are too far away. The refuge has Kitchen, 3 bathrooms, hot shower, 1 dining room, 2 sleeping rooms. All rooms have a big fireplace. Riders will be divided by  “girls & boys” and will sleep in 2 rooms in comfortable camp beds with air mattresses, linen, pillow and sleeping bag. Hot shower can be done one by one only before dinner, not in the morning. We will provide wide towel to each rider.  A very tasty 3 courses Dinner will be cooked by us in the kitchen of the Refuge and on fire place. It is an extraordinary experience of full immersion in nature. Who want can help and, waiting dinner, is possible to play cards and to chat around the fire place drinking a glass of red wine. It needs to go to sleep not late because in the morning wakeup call will arrive earlier then other days, at 7, 00, with noise made by forestry service people arriving to work. A normal breakfast is served inside the dining room.
Dinner and night at Tre Arie Refuge. Horses are hosted in the paddock of the Refuge.
Hour on the saddle: 6
Asphalt: 0, 3 km.

 

Day 6. Thursday. From TRE ARIE REFUGE to FUCINA del VULCANO Hotel (***) www.hotelristorantetna.it 
When all is packed in the minibus, we will start along a scenic trail that goes down to the valley between Etna and Nebrodi, where it spreads the Lake Gurrida Nature Reserve. From the top of a hill, the landscape of this valley with Etna is impressive. Lake Gurrida it is a seasonal swamp area created seasonally by the waters of Flascio river that flow down in spring and are blocked by very ancient lava fields (between the first to build up the volcano). With a special permission the reserve is opened for us by personnel of the Forestry Service (there are gates to stop cars and people without permission). Inside will be seen an area with an astonishing , very ancient primary eruption that is the northern limit of lavas of Etna. Here there are huge lava banks and a lava field full of “volcanic bubbles” (the guide Franco will explain this astonishing volcanic phenomenon). Picnic lunch is served at exit of Reserve. Out of the reserve’s gate will be used an ancient  trail on lava that will allow to cross “Circum Etnea railway” to go then up the volcano for around 2,5 hours to reach the Fucina del Vulcano Hotel. The second part of day is along woods of mixed forests that cover the northern lowest part of the volcano.
Dinner and night in Fucina del Vulcano. Horses are hosted in the electric fence corral build by us in the garden of the Hotel.
Hours of riding: 6
Asphalt: 0, 5 km.

 

Day 7. Friday. From FUCINA del VULCANO Hotel to RAGABO Hotel (**). www.ragabo.it
The morning trail is a winding wide dirty road that goes up to reach the large trail that surround Etna volcano at the quote of around 1.650 meters (was a very ancient road of woodcutter enlarged to allow firemen to reach nature in case of fires) . Along the way can be seen various stages of colonization of lava by the vegetation and some of the endemic plants that are able to conquest again the soil. There are many old lava fields and lateral craters. After Mount Spagnolo crater (totally covered by woods) the trail cut the 1981 lava fields and the lateral craters that made a 3 months long eruption that almost hit the town of Randazzo, visible in the valley. At the very “last minute” the lava went on the right of the town stopping close to Alcantara River. Picnic will be made in Santa Maria refuge with good sandwiches because are not allowed cars into the A area of Etna volcano. Cutting at canter and trot woods of pines, oaks and birches the wide trail arrives at a junction. If weather and visibility condition allows will be follow the trail on the right going up to reach Mount Timpa Rossa  crater and close by the craters of the eruption of 2002 (at around 2.000 meters of altitude).  Then will be crossed the craters and the lava flows of 2002 along a very narrow trail on that lavas to reach Piano Provenzana  ski resort area. Then a trail in a pine wood will go down to the 1450 meter of Hotel Ragabo, a nice mountain chalet.
Along the main trail is possible to see the low valley where flows the Alcantara river, famous for his Gorges. They cannot be reached by horseback because heavy car traffic and too much asphalt.
Dinner and night at Ragabo Hotel. Horses are hosted in the paddock on the side of hotel.
Hours on horseback: 6
Asphalt: 0, 5 km

 

Day 8. Saturday. Transfer from RAGABO Hotel to CATANIA  airport.
Depending departure of first flight will be given a normal breakfast (even very early thanks to the hotel personnel) and then done the transfer by minibus to Catania airport. Who has a late plane can visit Catania or to ask for a private transfer by car. The cost is 100€ (see also Transfer policy down).

End of services.

 

TranSiciliana to Etna Customer Riding Experience.
Riders must be able to ride at walk, trot, canters and gallops without problems also for long stretches.  Riders must be able to ride for 6 hours a day without to be too tired. Riders with problems in knees or backs or not in very good general physical conditions are not for this trip. The days of rides are with different levels of work to do. There are longest and shortest days as lighter and heaviest, quicker and slower.   It is for intermediate and advanced riders with a very good degree of fitness on the saddle. No beginners or advanced beginners. Our oldest rider on Etna trip was 76.

Dates 2015:

04 ETNA: 28/03 – 04/04

05 ETNA: 11/04 -  18/04

06 ETNA: 25/04 – 02/05

07 ETNA: 09/05  – 16/05

08 ETNA: 23/05 – 30/05

09 ETNA: 06 /06 – 13/06

10 ETNA: 20/06 – 27/06

15 ETNAPIL:  31/08 – 07/09  (departure from Pancallo, without Madonie and with Pilgriminage on horseback in Capizzi: look his own program)

16 ETNA:  12/09 – 19/09

17 ETNA:  26/09 – 03/10

18 ETNA:  10/10 – 17/10

19 ETNA:  24/10 – 31/10

20 ETNA:  07/11 – 14 /11

21 ETNA:  21/11 – 28/11

 

Price.
1560 € for each rider all included.
8 days, 7 nights, 6 days on horseback.
Departures assured with 4.
Maximum number of riders: 10.
Discount for Groups.
For any group of friends more than 2 riders discounts will be fixed accordingly depending number of riders.

 Cancellation Policy.

+ 30 days before arrival: full refund
30 to 21 days before: 30% fees
20 to 8 days before: 50% fees
7 to 2 days before: 75% fees
1 day before: 90% fees
no-show: 100% fees

Airports for arrival / depart.
In 2015 the airport for arrival and departure is ONLY Catania.

 

Transfer policy.
Arrivals. Riders can arrive in the morning and afternoon but they need to be out with bags no later than 17,30 because the transfer to Masseria Rocca di Gonato is  almost 2 hours long and need to arrive at dinner time. We suggest to  riders to try to arrive between 10 and 15 to do not have a too long “transfer day” especially because planes may have delays and if the arrival time is later and there is a delay the “transfer day” will be really long. If a delay in  afternoon flight will cause a too late transfer (let say effective arrival out with bags after 19), for the riders in delay it can be arranged a private transfer. It will cost 150€.

If the times of arrivals will allow,  we will do with riders a guided short visit of Catania historical centre with a Sicilian fast food lunch (price not included in the package). If not we will wait planes reaching with already arrived riders a shady comfortable area (in full summer  will be reached a beach) not far from airport. Camp chairs and fresh water will be available for the riders.

Departures: All riders will be transferred from Ragabo hotel to Catania airport in one trip depending time of FIRST departure flight. A full breakfast will be served at whatever early hour of the day before transfer (thanks to availability of Ragabo personnel). If riders have a very later flight they can visit Catania on their own. In this case we will leave them at Catania railway station where they can leave bags in the bag deposit. We will give them indications about what to visit and where t o have a good lunch. From Catania railway station starts the buses that go to Airport (every 30 minutes). Cost is 1,5 €. Time of run: from the bus stop in front of railway station time of the run is 1 hour. From bus stop at 50 meters from Railway station is 30 minutes. We will explain to riders where this last bus stop is (very easy to reach). If riders want to have a private transfer by car at the hour of the day they want this can be easily arranged. The cost is 100€.

 

About Food.
We like to affirm that our trip is also a culinary experience on horseback. All dinners menus and restaurants were studied and choose to give to riders a real top Sicilian food experience. All recipes are made with “Zero kilometres” products coming just from the area. So are used only very fresh local vegetables, meats, cheese, wines, and breads. Even mineral water mostly comes from the Madonie Mountains and Etna volcano. All dinners have 4 courses: entry, pasta dish, main course, dessert and /or fruit. Local red wine and mineral water (or spring water) is included.

Breakfast: continental breakfast, juice, croissant and cakes (where available).  Those who prefer a savoury breakfast with boiled egg or cold cuts and cheese have just to advise in advance.

Picnic Lunch.  All  picnic lunches are cold with local fresh bread, local cut meats, cheeses, typical Sicilian products like olives, dried tomatoes, mushrooms and greens with olive oil, fresh tomatoes and salad, fruit. Menu change almost every day. In two picnics lunch (day 4 and Day 6) the minibus cannot reach riders so will be eaten sandwiches along the way.

Our minibus transport a big gazebo to protect riders during picnics if need shade or if it is raining.

 

Beverages.
Drinks included at picnic lunches: water, local red wine and Diet or Zero Coke.
Drinks included at dinner: mineral or spring water, local red wine.
Other drinks: If customers will like to find at picnic lunch /dinner cold beer or other special beverages this will be provided paying their costs. The Customers will ask what they like and at end of trip they will pay the bill.
If they would like to drink beer or other beverages in the country house before or after dinner they can order them on the number of room or their name and pay directly to the hosts before leaving.

Special food needs.
Those with particular food requirements (vegetarian, allergies, various) must advise at booking to have individually personalised food.

Siesta.
If weather permit it is allowed every day a siesta time with blankets to be spread on the ground

 

Daily Time table ( just indicative) 
Breakfast: from 8.
Ready at the horses:  9, 15.
Departure: 9, 30
Picnic lunches: between 12, 30 and 13, 30 depending different places. Stop can vary from 1 hour to 1,30 hour siesta time included.
Dinners:  19,30. (20 at Rifugio del Parco).

Single rooms management.
Because during Etna trip some accommodations are small in number of rooms ( Pancallo, Fucina di Vulcano). To make manageable and easier the management of single room requests, for ALL trips of 2015, the single room’s request are managed as follow:

-          The customers will pay the 25 € single room supplement DIRECTLY TO US at end of trip depending the real number of nights with a single room available in that precise     trip.

-          This because may be in some accommodations the single room will be not possible to have it. In that case the people have to share room with one other rider.

Guides.
With groups till 6 will be along the trail 1 riding guide only. Plus 6 riders will be 2 guides.
One more guide will drive minibus all along the trip. He is also a rider, helping to groom and saddling and a spare guide in case of any need (even guides can be sick, have incidents or any kind of problem and can need to be substituted).

 

Photography.
The guide Franco Barbagallo (www.francobarbagallo.it ) was for 30 years a top globetrotting photographer.  When he is guiding a trip as interpretive guide or third guide and/or interpreter, he will be more than happy to take photos with camera of riders for souvenirs during the trip, and also to give advices and tips to make better souvenir pictures.

 

Interpretation along the trip. 
Along the way and at dinners will be given to riders lots of news about history, flora, fauna, geology, traditions, food and local products. All questions will be welcomed.

 

Communications.
The official language of the trip is English. Franco speaks a relatively very good and fluent English and  also a good French and he try to use it in case of French riders that are not speaking English. Paolo speaks a very Basic English. To help guides to have a better communication and avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations is VERY important that communications are on both ways: from guides to riders and from riders to guides. So if explanations and news are not fully understood or clear or not completely listen, or riders have any question or need more clarifications and details, we ask to all our riders to ask, to tell, to talk. To be active and not passive in communications. This especially in situation that need to change program, trail, sleeping or lunch places or whatever it can happen during an horse trek in the nature.  If there is any kind of problem about horses, food, accommodations, whatever other aspect of the trip need that riders make it VERY CLEAR, IMMEDIATELLY AND ALWAYS, talking right away with guides.

Mother language English speaking riders have always to remember that they are not travelling with mother language guides and riders. So it will be kind to use simple talking, better speaking slowly, avoiding slang or idiomatic forms impossible to be known and understood by not mother language speaking people and guides.

Daily Hours of riding.
The most frequent questions during a trip are: “how long to arrive”, “how long is the ride”. Riders need to have always in mind that the hours of riding depend by very many components that can change even drastically at any trip and any day: weather conditions, state of the trails, how many stops are done for pictures, for explanations, for toilette stops, how many and how long stretches of trot and gallop can be done depending kind of riders, their fitness, state of the ground found that day. It can be easy for all that reasons that same ground can be covered in even very different times depending daily situations.
So for guides it is not so easy to answer giving precise times. The times on horseback indicated cannot include delays caused by horses injures, tired riders not able to ride at designated speed, unexpected surprises along the trails and any other unexpected occurs.
Is very important to explain this to riders before departures: The hours of riding indicated in the program are just to give idea thinking at an average situation in normal conditions. Answers about how long need to arrive cannot be also precise but can give just a rough indication.

ALL ABOUT HORSES & RIDERS.
Horses & Riders well being.
This is not a light trip for riders and horses. This is a real horse trek that cross the Island from west to east in mountain terrains, on not always easy trails, going up and down often  in wilderness or not populated areas, in protected areas where cars are not allowed,  that allows to visit areas unless impossible to be visited.  Riders must be fit to stay on the saddle at least 6 hours with sometimes long trots and canters. It is not a trip to go to sleep late (may be drinking alcoholics a bit too much before, during and after dinner) and then to weak up late because delays in departures, added at may be some delays along the way for the many unexpected reasons that can happen in a trekking, will mean to arrive later at hotels and have less time to relax, wash and rest. We cannot have control on the water pools along the way which are run by the municipalities and by privates. One time happened, for example, that for reasons out of our control we found in the middle of a wilderness trail one water pool without water. Sometimes we have spare water pools but in that specific day there are not. We remember that for a trekking horse not to drink for 8 hours one day it is not a problem. We are 100% sure about water in all the nights’ places so horses can have plenty of water at departure and arrival and we have 1 or 2 or 3 water pool on the way almost  every day. Despite the latitude and the hot clime of early summer of June (in July and august we are not doing the trip because too hot), our horses has a lot more water than other horseback trips in similar areas like Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal.

Horses have a special diet before, during and after the trip to lose as less weight as possible.  They eat when they arrive and then early in the morning before departure. At lunch time they have also cereals. They have every day lots of prime hey and around 6 kg of mixed dried cereals (we do not use any pellet). We cache hey in hotels before departures, we cache or transport by minibus cereals. Riders have a top level and rich food always to do not lose weight and enjoy the Sicilian food. But at end of trip both horses and riders will lose anyway some weight. Between dates of trips we assure to horses time to rest and recovery and a turn over. We have spare horses. 

 

Our horses herd.
We have 14 horses of our property. If one or more of them cannot start we use horses from another outfitter with who we have a mutual help agreement, so we use always horses trained and fit to do long horseback trips. Our horses live always as a herd, even at home they live always together in pastures or in wide paddocks. They normally never see a classic box. They have only natural covered refuges for sun, wind and rain all year round. We move them in different pastures from coast to mountain depending the season.  In the heard they established their hierarchies and have their “bosses” so when they have to eat there are always skirmishes to have food first and /or to try to have more food, sometimes with bites, attempts of kicks or even real kicks. Some of our more tempered or timid horses have on their skin results of these old and new skirmishes. This is the reason because we prepare in the corrals a lot more hey places then the number of horses so the skirmishes are very short and only at the beginning of each food distribution. For cereals we use individual eating bags always is possible. Where is possible we tie the horses and give them food individually but this is not always possible for the nature of the night corrals we have available or we made with electric fences.

In our heard of horses we have different kind of horses adaptable at different kind of riders (big, smaller, faster). During assignment of horses if there are preferences by the riders will be good to know before departure. Naturally if all riders ask, for example, to have all “fast and big horses “we cannot accommodate all of them.

For us is Ok if riders like to switch horses during the trip with their mutual agreement.

If riders are tired and want to walk for some time to stretch legs need only just to ask for.

Riders with problems in knees or backs or in not very good physical conditions are not for this trip.

We have no position in the line.

Riders are free, where possible, to ride in pairs or in groups.

“Toilette stops” and “picture stops” are allowed anytime just asking for a stop.

The only black and white rule is: never to go forward the front guide unless after asking permission.

Performances and behaviours of our horses.
The string of horses we formed is with horses that are performing and behaving all the same. They are all trained (or retrained) with Natural Horsemanship methods. In particular we use the “SIX KEYS of HARMONY” by the well known American trainer ED DABNEY (www.eddabney.com). Before a horse can participate in one of our trips he must full fill a long list of “MUST DO” and “MUST NOT DO”. Until is not trained to full fill that list a horse is not used with customers on a trip. In a short, indicative, way we can say that all our horses do:

-          They can put head down to be easily  bridled

-          They are easy to accept snaffle bit

-          They do not move to mount and dismount

-          They can be easily positioned and parked  using rope halter to use natural mounting blocks to mount (logs, stones, etc)

-          They do not pull when tied

-          They can be easily “send” to right and left from the saddle along the trails, on the ground they can easily “send” into a corral, a gate, a trailer, a box, a narrow passage.

-          They can turn right and left  on the spot from the hind

-          They can turn right and left on the spot from the front legs.

-          They  can disengage the hinds right and left for any emergency

-          They can “give” their head to the rein lifting it

-          They can go backing from the ground using bridles or rope halter

-          They  can go backing from the saddle using properly  the order with reins

-          They can go sideways along the trail to avoid trees and branches and save rider’s knees and saddle bags using properly the order by reins and legs.

-          They are independent horses that can go everywhere without  to follow the horse in front

-          They are despooked about water, plastic bags, noises, cars, trucks, lights, cows, wild bores, dogs, deer and other kind of staff can be met along trails.

-          They are used to go in total dark at night

-          They are used to be driven with light hands and without tied or short reins.

-          They respect the space of the rider on the ground

-          They are easily lead on the ground.  They are used to have at least 1 meter of free rope.

-          They give easily their feet to be cleaned

-          They do not kick, bite, or interfere with riders under any circumstances.

-          They do not like patting; they like and receive only caresses.

Obviously horses are individuals and so there are horses a bit faster at canter/gallop, others with a longer or shorter walk or trot. We have one horse that does not like to be tied very short. One that sometimes move a bit the head to be bridled the first or second day of the trip, another that sometimes try to roll when tied, some that are “professional eaters”, some that are “good actors” the first day and so long . We will tell each individuality of our horses to the assigned rider when and if need but as basic performances and behaviours all our horses are trained personally by us with Natural horsemanship methods (six keys of harmony of Ed Dabney) to obtain performances and behaviours ALL THE SAME. Obviously they have different sizes (but all our horses are never BIG or TALL) and they can look more or less beautiful but for the rest they are very homogenous in performances and behaviours. 
“All that works” if the rider show to the horse his leadership from the very first beginning. Especially showing to be always the master and leader about decisions on speed and direction that the rider wants to follow. Horses immediately test for leadership the rider of every single trip to see if they can be the leader of the forming new team or not. Before the start of the trip we have an introduction to horse and tacks where we show to riders how to behave properly to have leadership. We also advice riders about the biggest mistake that can be done with every horse of the world in every situation and in every place:  to treat horses “like pets” instead then as professional trekking horses, as they need and deserve, that they must act and behave as they were trained. A horse that do not recognise his rider as a leader pretend to be the leader and try to do what he prefer: may be to go slower than the group, may to stop to eat along the way, to do not be moved easily to mount or dismount from the proper site and so long. If riders are interested in natural horsemanship , the Six Keys of Harmony and want to know more about training, performances and behaviours of our horses we will be very happy to explain a lot more doing also live demonstrations.

Assistance to riders.
If riders need assistance to mount or dismount for age, size, weight or any other problem we will give them full assistance. Other riders will mount and dismount always on their own following the rule to try to find as much as possible natural mounting blocks along trails and at beginning and end of the day to save backs of horses. Horses do not move and are easily moved to mounting spot so we never use to help a normal rider to mount or dismount if not needed. We ask to all riders that may need assistance to tell us about their eventual problems.

Grooming / Saddling / Unsaddling.
Basic grooming and all saddling/unsaddling is made by the guides.
Before departure of the trip will be shown how to prepare the horse to be quickly unsaddled by the guides and how to prepare the horse for picnic stops.
Riders have to clean every day only snaffle bit at end of the day, girth at end of the day, feet of horses in the morning. We groom very well only the areas where tacks will go on. Riders may complete to clean/groom their horse if they like at their wish before departure.

 Change of injured horses.

If one horse has a problem that will not permit it to continue the trip he will be changed during the night. Unless really extreme cases (never happened before) horses cannot be changed during the day. In four years of activity we had to change horses only 3 times for some health / injure problems and were done always at night.

 

First aid for riders.
One guide has in the saddle bag a complete first AID kit for all small injuries that can happen during a trek in wilderness (bruises, cuts, bumps after a fall) with: spray for ice, Voltaren, Anti pains, straps, oxygenated water, a spray to cover cuts with an antiseptic layer that isolate the skin from air, haemostatic and antibiotic creams, elastic bandages. In the minibus there are more medicines for other eventual disturbs.

First Aid for horses.
The same first aid kit can be used for horses during the trail for small scratches and cuts that can happen easily during a trip. Plus there is the classic antiseptic antibiotic blue spray.  In the minibus we have horse’s antiseptics, antinflammatory, as creams or shots.

Saddles and Tacks.
We use handmade (under our instruction) trekking saddles very good for horses and very good for riders either English or western style.
We use 2 blankets. One light in cotton to absorb swear and one thick in transpiring neoprene on it to protect properly the back of the horse from any sores.
Only all leather Bridles are with a special anti tongue pitching snaffle bit. We do not use bits. Spurs are not allowed.
All saddles are equipped with  Brest collar  and grouper so the saddle will not move when horses goes on steep up and downs and with them also  do not need to  tie too much the girth. So will be easy to avoid sores on side of horses.
Each saddle has its own capable waterproof saddle bag. On the left side of the saddle there is a string to tie the  bridle at end of the day and during picnic lunches.
During picnic lunches the left side of the Brest collar must be untied to help the horse to graze.

 

Helmets.
They are mandatory. We strongly suggest carrying personal helmets. We can rent them at 25 € per person per trip. Who want to rent a helmet has to advice before departure and gives size in centimetres. If someone do not want to wear a helmet will fill an own hand written form to declare that do that under his own responsibility.

Insurances.
Our horses are insured for third damages till 3.000.000 €. Each rider MUST have his own personal insurance for damages along the ride and to be transferred home in case of incidents like Europe assistance or similar.

Personal Equipment.
We will be crossing mountain areas at heights of up to 2000 meters.  It is mandatory for all participants to have the following personal equipment:

-  Serious, Good and Complete rain gear consisting of a long waterproof coat, waterproof over pants, rubber over shoes, water proof gloves.  Waterproof helmet. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. IN THE MOUNTAINS IT CAN RAIN with sun at low levels.

-  Dress in layers.  Temperature during the day that can be anything from very hot to cold depending on the conditions, wind and the season.  Clothing requirements vary from a thin shirt all the way up to a wind jacket with pile and warm socks.  It is also suggested to have thermal underwear in fall /winter season.

-  Gloves (very important)

-  We suggest NOT wearing any kind of long riding boots.  We DO suggest short riding shoes, short or long    chaps.  No running shoes or sneakers.

-  Sun glasses.

-  Anti UV solar cream at least factor 20 (30 or 50 for north European people)

-  We suggest to bring own water bottle. We will give to anyone else a plastic water bottle.

-  Personal baggage will be moved by car. There are no weights limits at the bags and their number.

 

Rain gear.
We continue to receive riders not properly equipped for rain. Riders MUST be protected from head to feet, not just only  with a waterproof wind jacket. We will do a check about all riders. Who has not a serious rain gear will be provided by us with a complete plastic rain gear made with waterproof jacket and pants to be put in their saddle bags. If they will not use during the trip they will give us back at no charge. If they will use during the trip they will buy paying a price that will be 40 €.

Ear plugs.
Sleeping in countryside or nature it may happen to have during  night some noises like: wind, rain, storms, lightings,  barking dogs (this due we travel  in shepherd’s country), snoring of room partner, early shower from other riders in other rooms, toilettes noises from other rooms, riders going to sleep later, noises coming from other guests of accommodation,  and so long. Because it is so important to have a good sleep, we suggest to riders that has a light sleep to take with them always ear plugs “just in case”.

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