Earlier this year, I flew to the beautiful island of Sardinia to visit an equestrian centre that was still under construction on my last visit. Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean lying just west of Italy near the French island of Corsica.
Here I visited a centre which has been entertaining horse riders for 20 years but has recently opened fantastic new riding facilities, and we were excited to add it to our list of destinations. The complex is nestled amongst a pine forest on the Western coast, near the town of Oristano. Now one of the biggest riding centres in Europe it is open all year around.
Rachel is one of a number of qualified instructors who give lessons in all disciplines including jumping, dressage and western riding. She also takes trail rides out into the surrounding pine forests, to the flamingo lake and along the sandy beaches. There are several trails which explore the surrounding areas including one to a local fishing village at Marceddi.
I was taken to the Sartiglia horse tournament which is held in Oristano during the carnival period and is one of the celebrations held today to honour the horse and to mark its importance to the island. It is one of the most important events in popular Sardinian tradition. Every year the event attracts thousands of people who gather along the main streets of Oristano to support the knights who are the main characters in this fascinating and nowadays rare horse race.
The participants of the parade are teams of three horses and their knights all decked out in their own colours. Their aim is to spear with a lance, at full gallop, a pierced star hanging along the circuit. The fair begins with a dressing of the Componidori, the leader, who wears garments of both male and female clothing and it finished with a magnificent display of acrobatic riding – again at full speed.
Before this splendid event we were taken to see the horses and knights being prepared and dressed in their team colours for the occasion. Our guide Marcello from the centre had previously ridden in the Sartiglia and was able to take us to several team stables. Each stable had hundreds of visitors and food and drink was in abundance. Sardinian hospitality is second to none and glasses are not allowed to be empty. If you time your trip, as I did, to coincide with the Sartiglia then a guided visit can be arranged.
Visit our Sea and Pine Forest ride for more details.