Silva Project Video is on YouTube

The video I made with Franklin Levinson is now on YouTube. This video is about the Skyrian horses at The Silva Project. Click here to view this video.

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FIRST REPORT from Kerkrya and The Silva Project.

After a week I’m beginning to know my way around the Project and my jobs. For starts the Estate is beautiful…it’s located on the end of a little peninsula that runs south of the town of Kerkyra(Corfu) in an area known as Kanari or Cannon because it is a great place to defend the harbor. The cannon is still here. The area is considered one of the most beautiful in town.

From the estate, there are views to the east, south and west. Beautiful views. The estate has existed in some form for several hundred years and the main house is over 200 years old. There seems to be 25 or maybe even more acres. The grounds are lush with a mixture of natural and formal gardens.

Sylvia Steen owns the estate and is founder of The Sylva Project.

Just a short walk away, down a long set of stairs there’s the beach, lovely for swimming and in a few more steps there’s a little cantina (of course it’s not called that here) where a co-volunteer and I just had a beer. There is a little church on a little island which you can walk to. If you look closely you can see a plane coming in for a landing! (I shot this pix from the deck of Starbucks just down the street from the Silva entrance!) And on a longer walk you can cross to the other side of the bay that separates our peninsula on an old concrete walkway that has little bridges to allow for the movement of water.

The town of Kerkyra is about a 15 minute bus ride. Predictably the “old town” is the most interesting. I’ve only been there a couple of times, so there is more exploration to be done.

There are about 12 of us living and working here. There are some people who are here for an extended stay and then there are volunteers like me who are here for a relatively short time…a month or two. Most, but not all are in their 20s and come from the North America and Europe.

As it turns out, all the activities except the Kiwi farm are run here at the estate, including the horse program. The planned Equestrian Center is unfortunately still planned, with permits somewhere in the labyrinth of the Greek political system. So the equestrian part of the estate is pretty crowded. There are about 30 horses (including two Icelandics) and about 20 Skyrian horses. (See the first blog for a description of these horses.) We have two training rinks and a few short trails. The down side of this for me personally is that long trail rides probably won’t happen.

The Skyrians horses are amazing. As their pictures show, they are truly miniature horses…perfectly conformed with wonderful personalities. Of course, each horse has their own personality and I’m beginning to learn them, like Sunshine is lazy and nips and “be careful of Iggi, he eats anything.” And he did try to get my gloves out of my back pocket.

We work about six hours a day six days a week. So far my days have started with helping to feed the herd, mucking out the paddocks and a general cleanup. Then it’s on to tacking up the horses (getting them saddled) and ready for lessons. With some lessons I work with the instructor, leading the horse with young inexperienced riders. Students are as young as 3! There’s good opportunity to learn new things…like Tuesday I learned long lining. Long lining is where you control a horse with a normal bridle. The rains run through loops on a little piece of tack that is where the saddle would normally be and then on out up to 20 feet. Walking (or running) behind the horse, the trainer uses the rains and voice commands to control the horse. It’s great for working with a horse that isn’t saddle trained yet. And since most adults are too heavy for the Skyrian horses it’s a way for us to give them exercise.

My first ride was on Rodi, an Icelandic Gelding. Note I'm riding English with a "cute" little helmet...I tried to get away with out it, but...

I've only ridden English a couple of times before. Guess I'm gonna learn.

I’ve watched one of the instructors, Luciana work with students to improve their balance while riding. Having them close their eyes, the students move their arms, forward, backwards and upwards. I gotta try that the next time I’m riding. Luciana has said that there is no breed of horses that is better suited for working with children. I’ve also seen some of the techniques Monty Roberts (The Man Who Listens to Horses and Shy Boy) writes about.

And we’re encouraged to help in the kitchen, and since lots of neat conversation occurs there…usually with Sylvia…I’ve been enjoying that. And speaking of food it is varied and pretty good!

Since I’ve only been here about a week it’s hard to say how my job will evolve. But so far, it is interesting and challenging. I'll put up another post in a week or two.

Here are somemore pixs.
A frisky year old.

Two Islandics

First time with a halter

My first new friend

Nap time for Perly


Mostly Pictures...from the Estate and Kerkrya

Pictures from around the estate.

An beautiful old lemon eucalyptus tree at the estate entrance.

An old Banyon Fig Tree in the "back yard" of the house.

Me mucking out. 'Bout a bag/Skyrian/day, 2 bags/full size horse/day, 1/2 bag for the donkey. There are 30 Skyrians, 7 full size horses and one donkey. You figure it out. (I only do about 4 little corrals...not to bad.)

Pearl feeling her oats, or what ever is in the stuff we feed her. Everyone was out of the training area so she went in and did self directed lunging! She's about 20.

Jumping exercise. There are a group of advanced students. This girl has her own beautiful horse. I don't think the horse would do that well in a western enviroment though.

Colt nursing. We have 3 or so yearlings.

Alexia working with Captain, a Shire draft horse. I jumped on him bareback. He's so big it was impossible to grip with my legs.

A little Greek Orthodox Chapel on the estate. Not that old...70 or so...but build to the plans of an old chapel.

Inside (of course.) For you Photoshoppers, I combined two pix and added the ceiling.

Looking back at the estate from the little monastery in the bay. The estate mostly faces south and east. We're looking east in this pix. The buildings you see half way up are a little bar and Starbucks.

The large fortress protecting Kerkrya dating back over 2000 years. This is a big peninsula coming out east of Kerkrya.

A clock tower...a relatively recent addition at the fortress, looking back towards Kerkyra

More to come. I have some great photos taken on a motor scooter trip to Western Corfu last Monday. The views were spectacular!


A motor scooter trip to the west coast of Corfu

Last Monday I rented a motor scooter. I was a little disappointed...I wanted a motorcycle, but as it turned out it was the best for what I was doing. As motor scooters go, it was big...200cc and anyway I never went faster than about 50mph. And most of the time, because of the roads, I was going slower. The Island is very hilly and the roads have very tight tight that many switchbacks have mirrors so you can see what's on the other side of the curve! The scooter had an automatic transmission...I've never ridden anything with an automatic. Even horses have at least three "gears." Anyway the scooter was a total blast.

The island isn't very big...maybe 4 times the size of Orcas. I headed west by northwest to the coast on the other side of the island. It took only half an hour or so to get to the west coast. The first stop was an area called Gilifada. The beach was beautiful and there was a bit of surf as well. I didn't swim there though. Pretty cold.

The next stop was a village called Pelakogotpitoa. I of course had a map, but it was confusing. There are no road numbers, and the map looked like someone dumped a bunch of spaghetti on it. I had to rely on signs saying thus and so village 6. I got a little lost a couple of times, but of course that's part of the fun. Anyway Pelakogotpitoa was the high point of the trip.

There are two beautiful bays. The larger one has a marina and some larger hotels, the smaller has a couple smaller hotels and a beautiful beach.

The small bay

There were several restaurants to chose from around the small bay. This one was tucked at the end of the cove and I walked on the beach to get there. Nice meal...a fetta cheeze omelet. After lunch I decided to go for a swim. The water was cool but not cold and the air temp was probably in the mid 80s. Very nice.

On the other side of the bay is a beautiful Monastery.You can see the name here along with "guidelines" for visitors. I don't know what "respectable" means in this context. But there were a pile of clothes for those who needed help being respectable.

Just outside the Monastery are fantastic views.

and another cannon.

I continued on to a town called Kirini, going up probably about 2,000 ft. on a narrow very twisty road. Going through a town on the way up, they had traffic lights at each end making the main street an alternating one way road.
Kirini was a beautiful, quiet and very clean village.

I continued from Kirini to this spectacular view point. Honestly the picture doesn't do it justice. this view, like so many I saw though the day were truely extrodinary.

It was a great excursion. I suspect there will be at least one or two more.


More Adventures

Franklin Levinson at Silva

On Sunday May 24th The Silva Project hosted a workshop in horse training lead by Franklin Levinson. Franklin, from Colorado has been an equine professional for 42 years and has trained thousands of horses and taught thousands of humans.

Here Franklin talks to the group about a problem horse (in the background.) He continued by working with the horse and coming up with exercises that can be done on a regular basis to "improve" the horses attitude!

Here, Franklin works with the young owner of this beautiful Thoroughbred.

"I teach all horsemanship as a life enrichment process for the human and the horse" says Franklin. "If we bring our best to the horse (without ego) the chances for success are greatly enhanced."

During a break in the workshop. Sylvia, Franklin and me.

Durrell School of Corfu visits the Silva Estate.

The Durrell School of Corfu offers adventurous minds a learning environment steeped in history. Gerald Durrell was an author, naturalist and spend many years of his life on Corfu. I'm in the middle of his book My Family and Other Animals. A fun book. He wrote this about his young years on Corfu. The School held a conference in Corfu a couple weeks ago and I was able to go to some of the programs including a lecture by David Bellamy the famous naturalist and controversial figure on the causes of global warming. Then the whole group came to the estate to see the many plants and insects found here as well as the Skyrian horses.

Sylvia (center left) and Rachel (left) who's in charge of the horses talk to some of the guests from the School.

David Bellamy meets Iggy.

Two conference participants hug the Lemon Eucalyptus tree.

The next day The School chartered a boat and Sylvia and Mark (another volunteer) and I joined them for lunch, a hike and a boat ride.

Looking towards Albania with Mark.

The boat stopped at a place there was a little church that was a favorite of Gerald Durrell.

The skipper said "Anyone for a swim?" Mark and I and about 4 others didn't need a second invitation. Without doubt one of the most beautiful swims in my life! I forgot to ask someone to take pictures when we were in the water. Probably looks better with out people anyway.

Returning to Kerkra (Corfu Town.)

We deliver the colt Airaos to his new home.

Sunday, 31 May, Rachael, Sylvia and I took the yearling Skyrian colt Airaos to his new home. In an early morning departure, the three of us, Airaos and a puppy took the ferry and headed to Aetoraxn. Aetoraxn is on the mainland about an hour and a half drive east from the ferry dock and into some amazingly beautiful country.

I drove the van!

The mountains around Aetoraxn were beautiful. There was still snow on the higher peaks.

Here Aireos meets his new master, Eleni who owns Aireos' home the Ippostrouth Farm a day resort with horses and many other animals and a very nice restaurant.

Aireos' first friend...a month old filly.

Hi neighbor. This gelding was fascinated with Aeraos and made all sorts of non-gelding sounds. The puppy also is staying at the farm. Sorry no pix of him.

So I'm in my last two weeks here. The first month has been exciting. I had no way of knowing how diverse my experiences were to be. Sylvia and the rest of the people at The Sylva Project are great.

And what's in store for the last days...well a trip to Athens next Tuesday for sure. And then who knows?