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The great Cumbrian Heavy Horse experience

Our dream of riding the gentle giants – Clydesdales, Shires or Ardennes – came true in July 2012 on the one-week “Cumbrian Classic” riding tour of the Cumbrian Heavy Horses in Lake District, England (see also Facebook). After an eight hour drive from Frinton on the eastern coast to Broughton-in-Furness near the westrn coast and spending our first night in Cumbria in a cosy little pub-inn called Old Kings Head we finally arrived at Annie Rose’s farm.

I wonder if it’s possible not to feel how I felt upon standing next to one of those breathtaking creatures for the first time: if not scared, at least a bit worried and very very small. How was I supposed to even climb on Marmaduke – a 180 cm Clydesdale, Duke for short – the towering mass of horsepower on four legs that I was to ride for the week? But soon all my worries were gone. I became used to keeping an eye on those plate-size hooves and keeping my toes out of their way, strecthing my arms a bit higher than high when brushing Duke’s back or lifting the saddle up there, and climbing on the bonnet of Annie’s four-wheeler to mount him. I came to understand that these horses are not that different from other horses, but neither are they called gentle giants fot nothing, as I had many occasions to witness their incredible power to move our bodies but also our hearts. Indeed I saw many tears shed because of them during the week, but it was only for the tender emotions they induced in us, their ability to touch. Already the famous beach gallop on day one, which we all must have been anticipating more or less anxiously or enthusiastically, brought tears into some eyes, and no wonder.

The famous beach gallop on the first day of the 6-day trail
The famous beach gallop on the first day of the trail

After Duke’s first high, bouncy trot on our way to the beach I knew I’d have to shorten my stirrups in order to not loose them in case the gallop was anywhere near as high and bouncy. And it was high and bouncy, but it was also so heavy, impressive and awesome in a way that is difficult to put into words, but I can say that it made me feel proud, priviledged, majestic, exhilarated, and very happy about being able to spend the week ahead with Duke.

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Our friends Jake and Duke
Down towards the sea again
Listening to the heavy, solemn sound of those hoofs one could imagine war-marching on the giant elephant-like creatures of the Lord of The Rings movies.
Time to ride the horses bareback to their paddock and say goodbye
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