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Posted on October 22, 2015
The Riding Holiday Show on 12 December 2015 is all about “Meeting the Guides” – in fact that’s what we called the event when we first ran it in 2007. It’s a chance to learn all about wonderful riding holidays all over the world, directly from the people who will be guiding you day by day. As well as an opportunity to renew friendships and chat about past experiences.
We thought it would be interesting to run a series of profiles of some of the people who will be at the Riding Holiday Show and here is another legendary guide – Jenny Bawtree from Rendola in Italy.
I have been guiding at Rendola for over forty years.
Previously I had been employed as a guide by a Swiss company in the Abruzzi Mountains east of Rome called “Rentahorse”. Not only was this company rather elitist, but it also had too many horses, too many employees and too few clients. It was not surprising, then, that it went bankrupt soon afterwards.
I must be grateful to “Rentahorse”, as it gave me the idea to create a riding centre that was completely different: with the aim of bringing the love of horses and riding to people from all walks of life.
When I first came to Italy I was a teacher of English at the British Institute in Florence and later obtained a post as reader at Florence University. However, I am a countrywoman at heart and wanted to pursue a career that would permit me to live in the countryside. Opening a riding centre 30 miles south of Florence enabled me to unite my love of the Tuscan countryside with my love of horses. I have never abandoned teaching and still hold classes for children during the summer months. I also have a few advanced pupils whom I enjoy teaching very much.
I love the Tuscan countryside and really enjoy showing it to my guests, naturally on horseback. We have riders from all parts of the world and through my work I manage to meet a lot of interesting people. My riders are, in my opinion, the cream of every country: they ride not because it’s a fashionable thing to do, not because they want to show off their smart clothes, but because they love horses, good company and the countryside. The downside? There isn’t one for me! Of course, it involves a lot of work and long hours, but I am a happy workaholic anyway so this is not a problem.
My favourite horse is Silver, a grey Arab gelding. You could compare him to Gregory Peck, as he is good-looking and a perfect gentleman.
What could I not live without? Well, obviously riding in the Tuscan countryside with its infinite variety. But I am also passionately interested in medieval Tuscan art and architecture and enjoy sharing my knowledge with my riders, offering them tours of local art-cities. I pursue my studies whenever I have the opportunity, mostly during the winter months. I also enjoy writing. I have written “Pietro’s Book”, the story of a Tuscan peasant farmer, published by Collins in 2003; the original Italian version is now into its third edition. Recently I have completed my autobiography ‘Tuscany on horseback: a horsewoman’s love affair with the land of Chianti wine’ for which I am trying to find a publisher. I am now working on a book about a fascinating but little known aspect of medieval sculpture. I haven’t mentioned my son Nicholas; I certainly couldn’t live without him: who else would deal so patiently with my frequent problems with the computer? He is a journalist but finds time to help me in all sorts of ways.
My most memorable week was a few years ago in October. I was guiding a group of riders round Chianti and it had been raining so much that all the tracks had become torrents. When we arrived at the river Arbia, what was usually not more than a sluggish stream was now a raging mass of water a hundred metres wide. I ventured into the edge of the water until it reached my stirrups; then I looked back and saw five very pale faces! We turned back to our base, stopping only once to relieve ourselves, holding our raincoats over our bare bottoms in a vain attempt to keep them dry. When we got back to our base my colleague drove the riders to their hotel outside and in view of Siena, whereupon one of them, a paediatrician from Hawaii, threw herself on the floor and had a tantrum, demanding to be taken to the airport immediately! We did not comply, of course. Later I told some clients about this episode and one said that a paediatrician from Hawaii had done exactly the same thing on a trip in France…
How do I relax after a day in the saddle? After dinner I usually sit with my guests either outside the house or in the sitting room beside the fire, drinking some red wine and chatting. If I’m alone I read or listen to music, mostly classical. But I go to bed early because I’m an early riser, (I usually get up at about five.).
10. What advice would you give a 21-year-old who wants to train for your job?
What advice would I give to a 20-year-old who wants to train for the job? Spend at least a year with a veteran guide. So much he or she can tell you about the job you will never find in books. Ride as many different horses as possible, as each one will teach you something more about this fascinating but complex animal. Interest yourself in every aspect of the area where your riding will take place: the flora, the fauna, the agriculture, the history. Not only will you be able to answer your guests’ questions, but it will make your rides much more interesting for YOU. Always give safety a priority: accidents can happen, but make sure that your lack of attention or sense of responsibility has not put any of your riders in jeopardy. Don’t expect to get rich if you take on this job; but you will enrich your life.
11. Where do you go on holiday?
Where do I go on holiday? Usually to England, where I still have friends and to which I still feel attached in spite of so many years spent in Italy. I usually go alone on long-distance walks, particularly in the North of England. I have also been on very enjoyable cultural tours in Italy, France and Germany.
Thank you Jenny for your wonderful images and a very insightful article.
You can meet Jenny from Rendola at the Riding Holiday Show in London on 12 December 2015. Space at the venue is limited so you must obtain a ticket in advance. The event takes place at the Royal Overseas League in SW1 just off Piccadilly from 10 am to 6 pm.
38 different riding destinations will be represented at the Riding Holiday Show. All part of the In The Saddle portfolio of worldwide riding holidays.