After realising that increasing my intake of pasta and bread by at least 300% is doing nothing for my waistline, let alone my digestive system, I have decided to take up horse riding lessons. I had seen some riding stables called ‘Ciampacavallo’ quite near to Appia Antica, and having taken some lessons many years ago when I was a teenager, I decided to go along and give it a try.
It is a wonderfully ramshackle place. When you open the gates to enter the stables, you are met by a collection of equally ramshackle dogs who are very pleased to see you. The welcoming committee includes a boxer dog with only one tooth protruding sexily from its mouth, a Labrador who is rather advanced in years and a sheep called Oscar with something of an identity crisis.
I thought that my Italian language level was sufficient to cope and after an very unelegant scramble, I climbed aboard a bareback and barely amused Campero (see photo), my ride for the day. When he was not sleeping, which was anytime he was left unattended for more than twenty seconds, he begrudgingly walked and trotted around in a circle, completely oblivious to the dog/sheep combo that were running through his legs. At one point I was in the lead of my little group of 4 students when I realised that suddenly no one was behind me because they had all turned and started going the other way. Campero turned his head to give me a rather hard stare and sighed, exasperated with my lack of ability to understand what was to him, a simple Italian instruction.
Several lessons later and I can now turn a circle, and just about conduct a conversation with my horse, although as a language exchange student, I have to say he is making more progress than me and has almost perfected his Manchester accent.
Ciampocavallo is a charity that works with children and adults with physical and mental disabilities, as well as those with language learning difficulties like myself. It’s the perfect environment to go and make a fool of yourself, and all are welcome, including confused sheep.