Having just been introduced to my lovely companion for the next few days in Molise, I had a double take; did the guide really call her “Vivicon?” She was a foxy filly, with flowing, platinum blonde hair, surely she was a Christina or even a Sophia, but no she’d been given a name which made her sound like a mobile communications network!
“Latin ladies was high maintenance”
There had been some discussion about my relative horse-riding experience, it seemed Vivicon, like many Latin women was high maintenance. I later asked about her temperament and was informed she was crazy, and to watch her ears. Apparently if she draws them right back, beware her mood has become particularly fiery and she may either kick or forcefully ‘remove’ me from her back. Being christened Vivicon was surely enough to drive anybody crazy, she deserved some sympathy and a little more understanding.
I spent the next three days trying to win her over, constant encouragement, lots of petting and bribes of handfuls of grass or hay. She wasn’t easily impressed however, rebuffing my attempts to gain her favour with nonchalant disregard, she enjoyed playing hard to get. Like any lady she also didn’t appreciate getting muddy or wet, avoiding soft mud or puddles with single-minded determination. If this meant jumping a ditch or dragging me through the thickest, thorniest bush so be it, better I required medical assistance than she got dirty or wet hooves.
We did come to an understanding over the next few days however, I realised that allowing her to pick her own way over the often steep, and rough terrain over which we travelled was the best way forward. Once she was able to pick her own route, she looked after me, giving me a safe and relatively comfortable ride for the following days. I did fall off her, but this was due to an incorrectly fitted saddle, which slipped when travelling along a particularly muddy track. After that, I tightened the saddle myself.
The countryside of Molise in autumn is spectacular, beautiful and dotted with quaint mountainside villages or the remains of ancient cities, which thrived long before the birth of the Roman Empire. Our route wound it’s way along steep, rocky paths, often joining ancestral routes of transhumance known as Tratturi, which the indigenous Samnites used to drive livestock for trading in nearby towns. crisscrossing the landscape, they offer perfect routes for visitors to travel on foot, bike or horse throughout the region.
Our group consisted mainly of Italians, almost all spoke excellent English, an Israeli and myself, it was friendly group, which gelled quickly and made the trip especially enjoyable.
Three horse wranglers accompanied us, acting as guides. They looked after the horses and offered advice when needed, but couldn’t help feeling they played the strong, silent cowboy type a little too well. They barely spoke any English, often communicating entirely in monosyllables and almost never smiled, but they must each have possessed a wicked sense of humour. They did after all name my horse Vivicon, and left the saddle a little too loose one day, though when I bounced on the ground even this didn’t manage to raise a smile.
“riding into “Sleeping Hollow“
The weather was generally kind, the sun shining most days, and sunscreen was more useful than waterproof clothing. One evening however, we entered a wood, shrouded in thick mist, it felt quite spooky, the drifting mist swirling around our horses legs like ethereal soup. It closed in around us, enveloping us in a gaseous cloak, very atmospheric. The wood seemed almost enchanted, feeling as if we were riding into “Sleeping Hollow”, while some of my images in the dim light actually looked headless. I’m blaming the low light, trotting horse, and not my poor technique of course.
Throughout the journey, there was the treat of the stunning backdrop of an Italian Fall. The full glory of autumn wasn’t yet displayed, that would probably take a few more weeks, but there was still plenty of colour, as the shades of the season gradually spread across the hills of Molise. Even in just a few days the changes were quite dramatic, but I can only imagine the spectacular display which full autumn would produce.
This ride requires three days in the saddle, which maybe an uncomfortable experience. Especially true when travelling over steep and rough terrain, but it is still suitable for novice riders. Though a thorough briefing from the guides on basic horse handling, and just sitting in a saddle would be useful before beginning the journey.
I have to confess, at first the thought of three days riding a horse seemed slightly daunting, however it never occurred to me not to attend, and a good job too, the adventure was thoroughly enjoyable. I’d recommend a horse riding expedition in the Molise region, but if you give it a try, and get introduced to a horse named Vivicon, allow her a long leash, call her Sophia and don’t forget to watch her ears!
Kolidur Travel Club, arranged this trip, but all opinions are my own, formed in consultation with Vivicon of course.