Strada delle Ginestre 12 - Barberino Val d' Elsa (FI)
Tel: +39 055 8059218
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Tuesday 17 March 2015 in Events
Nel lavoro quotidiano soprattutto con i giovani cavalli spesso si utilizza la pista per equilibrare e rettificare il movimento in avanti. Questo può essere anche giusto ma comporta una serie di problemi. Il primo è di carattere psicologico. Più a lungo il cavallo segue la pista più perde la concentrazione e l’attenzione agli aiuti del cavaliere. In secondo luogo quando si segue la pista il cavaliere tende sempre ad utilizzare maggiormente la gamba interna in quanto all’esterno il cavallo è “contenuto” dalla parete. Quindi il cavallo si muove si su una linea dritta ma con gli aiuti del cavaliere asimmetrici. Infine questi aiuti asimmetrici creano problemi nel momento in cui si affrontano gli angoli. Una delle soluzioni che adottiamo è quello di lavorare su una linea parallela alla pista. L’efficacia dell’esercizio è subito evidente. Il cavallo non potrà più appoggiarsi alla recinzione ma, mantenendo il più possibile la stessa distanza dalla parete, avrà comunque un riferimento per procedere su una linea dritta. Inoltre proprio per mantenere la direzione il cavaliere dovrà equilibrare i suoi aiuti. L’uso delle gambe sarà simmetrico e il cavallo si sentirà più inquadrato. Anche da un punto di vista psicologico, questo esercizio richiederà al cavallo una continua concentrazione sul lavoro.
Posted by on Wednesday 25 February 2015 in Guestbook
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!
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Monday 09 February 2015 in Events
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.
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.
Tags: Handle a horse's feet
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Saturday 24 January 2015 in Events
Classical training pays off for double winner Emily Bull and Royal Red II
Fm an interview by Horse and Hound magazine Emily Bull who won 2 dreassage classes (prelim restricted and novice) last Wednesday riding her 8 years old ex eventer Royal Red II, says: "We have just returned from Italy where we have been training at classical dressage centre Il Paretaio since June, and with the progress he has made we'll be hoping to step up to elementary this year.At Il Paretaio they have revolutionised my riding and approach to training horses"
Posted by Annie on Sunday 18 January 2015 in Guestbook
Je suis allée dans plusieurs centres équestres pour monter des chevaux différents, et n\'ai jamais trouvé un lieu qui m\'ait apporté autant tant au niveau équestre qu\'amical. Le site est magnifique, les cavaliers viennent de tous les coins du monde, la nourriture test typiquement toscane, ..tout est formidable. Sur le plan équestre, j\'ai fait des progrès notables grâce à l\'exigence gentille des instructeurs, et à la variété des chevaux tous différents mais vraiment intéressants. J\'y suis allée plusieurs fois, et y retournerai encore et encore ! Merci à tous pour tout cela. Annie
Posted by Cecelia Marcus on Saturday 17 January 2015 in Guestbook
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!
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Friday 16 January 2015 in Events
Horse riding tips: the importance of transitions to develop 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.
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.;-)
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Tuesday 30 December 2014 in Events
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.
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Monday 22 December 2014 in Events
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".
Tags: Horses relationship
Posted by Jeremy Francis on Wednesday 10 December 2014 in Guestbook
I am learning so much about horse riding in Tuscany. Classical dressage is taught in such an efficient and gentle manner by Cristina. It is certainly an experience not to be missed, whether you wish to learn to ride or to improve...
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Wednesday 10 December 2014 in Events
Training a horse 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".
Tags: Horse training
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Wednesday 10 December 2014 in Events
.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
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Tuesday 09 December 2014 in Events
It is thought that mounting on the left was a tradition dating back hundreds of years, when horses were ridden by soldiers carrying long swords , making it easier for them to pull them out quickly with their right hands. Wearing the sword on the left also meant that it wouldn't interfere with the soldier's leg as he threw it over the back of the saddle as he mounted.
It is also thought, however, that a horse's left eye is the "rapid-reaction" eye. So when, for example, a stimulus is presented on the left, that eye will produce a faster flight reaction from the horse than the right eye, with the horse wanting to keep that stimulus in their left line of vision.
There is also another train of thought suggesting that horses usually favour their left side in general, possibly due to the way their mare's womb.
. It's always worth training your horse (and yourself) for mounting from the right side in case you get into a situation where you have to through injury or restricted movement.
. It is worth knowing that because of the nature of the horse's brain and eyesight, you have to train one side of the horse, then the other-so, for example, walk him past a spooky object one until he's happy, then the other way.
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Tuesday 02 December 2014 in Events
A horse who is dead to the legs often becomes so through ineffective riding. It usually occurs if the rider "nags" continuously with the legs trying to encourage the horse forward, to the extent that the horse switches off and becomes unresponsive to the leg aids. You have to break the cycle, therefore, with effective aids, so one larger nudge with your leg is better than lots of little ones.
If you find you're using your leg every step to keep your horse forward- which is exhausting and frustrating - that's as much your fault as your horse's. Give an aid once and mean it, otherwise he'll learn to lean on the contact rather than carry his weight in self carriage.
What is extremely important is that, once your horse responds to your effective aids, immediately praise and reward him by keeping your legs still and remembering not to hang on to his mouth as you ask him to go forward. You should be very careful not to do that otherwise you'll be sending him mixed messages that will confuse him.
Tags: A horse dead to the legs
Posted by Carol on Monday 01 December 2014 in Guestbook
I have just spent a magical time at Ilparetaio. The Horses are so special teaching me patience and empathy. Looking into the horses eye.....they reveal so much about themselves....deep into the sole...being completely absorbed ......spending all day with them ......words cannot describe....watching you...is it my turn? Hot breath soft coats....munching sounds at hay time. Thank you Cristina and Gianni. Can not wait to return. Xx
Posted by Véronique on Wednesday 12 November 2014 in Guestbook
J\'ai eu la chance de passer une semaine dans cet havre de paix équestre. De l\'arrivée dans cette magnifique propriété jusqu\'au départ - nos hôtes et leur équipe ne cessent de vouloir nous faire plaisir. Tout le monde est à l\'écoute et aux petits soins. Les chevaux sont très bien mis et vous pourrez en trouver pour tous les niveaux. Le seul bémol de cette semaine : faire un régime avant de venir car personne ne peut résister aux plats délicieusement préparés. Les rencontres avec des cavaliers et accompagnateurs du monde entier sont extrêmement enrichissantes et très sympathiques. La situation géographique d\'Il Paretaio permet de s\'évader très facilement afin de visiter cette magnifique région qu\'est la Toscane. En résumé, que vous soyez cavalier, accompagnateur ou simple touriste de passage, n\'hésitez surtout pas à venir admirer ce magnifique endroit. BELLE CONTINUATION A IL PARETAIO
Posted by Anke Martmann on Sunday 02 November 2014 in Guestbook
"Even 3 weeks after returning home Il Paretaio's very special magic is still continuing to have an effect. 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, it 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."
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
Posted by Andrea Ridolfi on Tuesday 14 October 2014 in Guestbook
Sta per compiere 28 anni, ma l’entusiasmo e la freschezza con cui Il Paretaio ti accoglie è paragonabile a quello di chi ha appena iniziato una nuova avventura e vuole trasmettere tutta la sua passione e voglia di fare per coinvolgerti in un’esperienza bellissima e che spera si possa rinnovare per molti altri anni. Cristina e Gianni sono stati bravissimi nel rendere tutto questo possibile e forse lo stare sempre “en plein air” estate, autunno, inverno e primavera li ha aiutati a conservare e a far trovare all’ospite sempre qualcosa di nuovo a Il Paretaio. Ciò che non cambia, e anzi si rinnova, è lo sfrenato amore per i bellissimi e curatissimi cavalli – vero punto di forza – e l’attenzione con cui vengono “coccolati”. Tutto lo staff, molto preparato e attento, è sempre disponibile alle esigenze degli ospiti siano essi cavalieri che non. Per i cavalieri è da sottolineare come in questo centro si insegnino i fondamentali della monta classica, indispensabili anche per i saltatori (e ora con Pietro vi potrà succedere di riuscire a superare con maggior facilità anche i vostri \"ostacoli\"…), la leggerezza, il sentirsi parte del binomio cavallo-cavaliere e il rispetto per questi meravigliosi animali capaci di regalarci così tanto. I non-cavalieri, invece, possono trovare la base per escursioni nelle località di maggior pregio artistico in Italia (Firenze, Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra ecc.) e, una volta ritornati in quest’angolo di mondo incantato e magico, un posto speciale fatto di tranquillità, relax in piscina, buona compagnia e, fondamentale, ottima cucina, il tocco finale per prenderti alla gola e non volerti più far andar via… o per lo meno farti ritornare.
Tags: monta classica
Posted by Il Paretaio Staff on Sunday 28 September 2014 in Events
Brush up on your riding skills in the breathtaking scenery of Tuscany, writes Charlotte Ricca-Smith- it's 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 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 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 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. 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, 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 holiday? Il Paretaio is set in the heart of the Tuscan countryside