Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Trip to Sardinia - horse country


Sardinian horses, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Sardinia has its New Forest equivalent - the Giara di Gesturi. Giara is the name given to a flat topped mountain, smaller than a plateau, of which there are a number in Sardinia.

Gesturi is a town at the foot of the Giara, with its own saint - Fra Nicola. Another very pretty little place and cheap too... four large rosetti (round rolls) stuffed full with sheep's cheese and ham, plus some drinks for just €5. This would be lunch... and dinner, as it eventually turned out.

The Giara has its own very special type and landscape and vegetation. Grey granite, supporting forests of shortish trees, many blown to the east by the prevailing wind, shallow lakes, full of flowering white ranunculi, heather, euphorbia, cyclamen (three types) and orchids (44 types) and all manner of grasses and mosses. Not a national park, but protected, the land supports a population of wild Sardinian horses, as well as domestic cows, pigs and, at times, sheep (of course).

The horses here seem to play a large part in local folklore and many of the murals from the nearby towns would depict horses as symbols of freedom. Wild and free, like the archetypal Sardinian. They are fairly short (what a surprise), mainly dark , with thin faces and long flowing manes. Driving around looking for them brough back memories of game parks in Africa.

We had arranged with a local chap called Gianni to go out on a ride, which we did after lunching on one of the rosetti. He had a number of mares, most of them with young foals, tethered to trees, and now saddled. They were beautiful horses to ride, being Anglo-Arabian- Sardinian crossbreds, very keen, very well trained and very sure footed over the rocky terrain. One of teh foals followed his mother as we rode the range, him full of life, bucking and kicking and running around back and forth. Gianni was a great guide and spoke very easy to understand Italian as he explained the nature, his career in horse-racing (he knows of Franki Dettori, most famous jockey in the world, son of Cagliari/Milano). Stong recommendation for Gianni.

As usual riding out dives one a great way to experience nature and we saw many birds including a number of woodpeckers and heard a cuckoo, first of the spring, and saw many different types of orchids. Riding through a white lake, full of flowering ranunculi was a highlight.

Once back at base, we found a couple of randy wild stallions hanging around the mares and one of them tried to get friendly with The Cat's horse, who gave him a well aimed kick for his efforts. In the meantime, just after dismounting, along came a magnificant looking stallion, being ridden by another good looking specimen.

We were about to witness a mating. Fred would (and did) call it rape, when I told him about it. Anyway, the stallion was introduced to the chosen mare and after about ten minutes bagn to get excited. In the meantime, the mare's back legs had been tied to stop her from kicking. Graphic shots from the mating are on flickr. There'd have been more, but my memory stick all of a sudden became full and by the time I had fixed that, the deed had been done. It was all quite quick.

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