THE FIRST STEPS
New Zealand 2009: the very 1st rides
I started horse riding with my husband in New Zealand in 2009 during a car tour, while visiting the north-western corner of South Island. The riding tour company was called Cape Farewell Horse Treks, and it was situated near the famous narrow peninsula called Farewell Spit (see also in Facebook). The 3-hour+ ride we chose headed to the Wharariki beach, and it was lead by a young guy from England, energetic and unbiased, who in a very simple and logical way taught us the idea of rising trot, and when we reached the beach insisted on us trying the gallop as well. Had I not experienced that amazing gallop on the sand, my first ever, I doubt I would have started riding at all. The header photo of this page was taken from that trek.
We did go riding again during that same trip to down under, but it was on a different farm on the North Island in the Stables on the Park in Queen Elisabeth Park, Kapiti Coast, and, although there was a lovely beach there, too, we didn’t get to gallop on it. Instead we walked and trotted through some grassy dunes that had reputedly witnessed the filming of some scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, July 2010
Our next memorable ride happened in Chile in July 2010. We rented a four wheel drive from Calama airport and drove to San Pedro de Atacama in Northern Chile. One day we decided to go on a guided horse tour in the moon-like Valle de los Muertes, organized by a company called Rancho Cactus.
After that non-stop 5-hour ride – which included ascending and descending steep rocky hills, riding through sandstorms, trotting on grassy paths, and a wild gallop by surprise – I could tell there were some muscles in my body that I had not used for most of my life. The one and only time I climbed down the horse back (because of my natural needs) during that journey nearly caused a catastrophy because, as I climbed back to the saddle from a stone clumsily, with my legs stiff after nearly four hours of walking and trotting non-stop, I somehow caused the horse to steal off into a gallop along the track road with me dangling precariously on the saddle, feet off the stirrups, hands desperately grabbing the saddle bridge, the horse’s mane and the rein that I had luckily managed not to lose. After a good stretch on the road, with the guide following us on his horse and yelling “controla! controla!” I finally realized he meant that I myself had to see the trouble of stopping the horse somehow. So I eased the hand with the rein still in it off the horse’s mane, and pulled until the horse slowed down and stopped. In afterthought it may have been the most important lesson I’ve learned about horse behavior in a horse-human relationship.
BEGINNING FOR REAL
August 2010: A riding camp in Husö, Finland
It was only after returning from Chile that we really started the new hobby for real. The beginning was a one week riding camp with half breed and Finnish horses in Husö Riding Centre (also in Facebook) in August 2010. The camp was meant for adults, with one group for near novices like us, who were also the oldest participants. During that week I learned to tidy and harness the horse: brush it, put on the saddle, the bit and reins, clean the hoofs. Most of the riding was done inside the arena, one hour at a time, twice a day, but sometimes we escaped the closed arena and finished the lesson trotting on a forest track. We also went for a magical ride through the forest in the moonlight one night, and one hot day we rode the horses bareback to the beach for a swim. We never once galloped…well, that’s not quite true: my horse did take a few galloping steps whenever the instructor, who was standing in the side of the arena, helped by making clicking noises with her mouth as we neared and passed her, after which my horse immediately dropped to walk or trot. Actually, I did have yet another opportunity to gallop a little – and that without the saddle, stirrups and reins – when all the groups gathered to the arena one evening to try out some horseback gymnastics (“vikellys”) to celebrate the nearing end of the camp.
All in all the week was very important and useful for me, teaching me a lot about horses, about caring and being with them, about riding them, sitting on them, finding the balance, and about the Finnish horse riding culture, particularly it’s dressage orientation. After that week I knew I wanted to carry on riding somehow, but with the memory of the long ride over the grassy hillocks and the gallop on the beach in New Zealand the idea of just riding round the arena and making the horse do various controlled patterns once a week for an hour seemed a bit of an anti-climax. So, one of the lessons learned in Husö was that dressage was not really what riding was going to be about for us.
So, what kind of riding was ‘our cup of tea’? Stories about our later horse experiences can be found behind the links below.
RIDING ICELANDIC HORSES IN FINLAND – (Some Icelandic horse stables in Finland)
ICELAND – (Horse trekking in Iceland)
CHILE – (Horse trekking in Chile)
FINNISH HORSES – (Trekking with Finnish horses at Prerya stables, Finland)
ESTONIA – (Trekking with Estonian horses in Tihuse, Muhu, Estonia)
HUNGARY – (Horse trekking tours in Hungary)
ENGLAND – (Trekking with heavy horses in Cumbria, England)
MEDIEVAL RIDING AT ROHAN – (Learning medieval riding and skills at arms at Rohan stables, Kemiönsaari, Finland)
RIDING LESSONS, AFTER ALL – (A riding camp in July 2013, Western riding since September 2013)
– Getting to know a few more Icelandic stables: 5G Stable, Alfur
Some great horse adventures yet coming…
– Another 6-day horse-trek in Hungary in May 2014, starting from the stables and ending near the boarder of Austria
– In July we will be horse trekking in Saltvik, Iceland, further north than before
… and dreaming about
– Another 3-day to a week long ride with The Cumbrian Heavy Horses
– Taking some horse jumping lessons, if only to get a better idea of and some practice in how to jump over tree trunks, ditches etc.
– Riding in Mongolia with Mongolian horses, exploring Patagonia with Chilean or Argentinian criollos, a 3-week riding tour for experienced riders in Kyrgyzstan…