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Both the tallest horse, Big Jake (measuring 210.19 cm without shoes), and the shortest horse, Thumberlina (43 cm tall), live in the USA. Big Jake lives at Smokey Hollow Farms in Poynette, Wisconsin, and Thumberlina lives in Ladue, Missouri.

EquiGuess #5

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That’s true, and despite seeing hundreds, if not thousands, depictions of carriages pulled by one, two, and even four horses on Egyptian frescos and papyruses, you won’t be able to find a mounted horse or a horse pulling a plough.

EquiGuess #4

EquiGuess #3

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Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan. It is beautiful, but unfortunately, it is not a widely known country in Central Asia. It is named after the churn used for kumys steering. Kumys or fermented horse milk is an iconic beverage which was used not only for quenching but also for curing a number of diseases, including lung and gastrointestinal tract diseases. Another interesting fact I found while reading about kumys is that it’s the only low-alcohol drink which is not banned by Koran (although I’m not sure if it’s true).

In the Service of the Danish Crown or the Box Full of Gems (14 Curious Facts I’ve Learned in the Royal Stables)

Finding Danish Royal stables felt like a treasure hunt. The map led me to the Christiansborg Palace complex, but then I had half- run, half–briskly walked around the central arena trying to spot any signs of the museum. Nothing around looked like a stable, and no one was there to ask, and there was only Christian IX looking indifferently at my frantic attempts from the back of his greenish bronze stud.

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“Where is it?” I asked him aloud.

The very next moment, I noticed a modest waist-high sign: “KONGELICE STALDE OG KARETER.”

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Vielen dank,” I whispered in German. Don’t ask me why.

It was like finding an inconspicuous box full of gems.

I had a really short visit, so no full review and just a few interesting facts which amazed me:

The Museum:

1 – The museum is literally located in the stables, or should I say, the stables were located in museum? And it consists of three parts: the stables, the carriage room, and the exhibition room.

2 – The stables were first built in 1745, and despite still playing an important role in royal ceremonies, stables shrank significantly over the period of the past 250 years. Initially, it was inhabited by 250 horses and 100 people, while nowadays, there are only 14–16 horses served by five grooms and one stable manager.

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3 – Exhibits’ captions are adorable. Not only do they provide you with dates and names, but also they tell you curious, funny, and sometimes unbelievable stories of monarchic riders. The first thing to see when you enter the room are two staffed horses. Both have great stories.

1) In 1684, the Crown Equerry made a bet. It involved an English ambassador choosing a horse from the royal stables, which Haxthausen then guaranteed would run from Copenhagen to Hillerød (35 km) in 45 minutes. The horse arrived in 42 minutes, but it dropped dead on the spot. It was stuffed and put in the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities and is today the oldest stuffed horse in Denmark.

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2) Perlen was Frederick VII’s favorite horse, and it accompanied the king wherever he went, including in the Schleswig War and in his trip to South Jutland in 1863. Perlen is one of the last white horses from the royal stud at Frederiksborg Castle to have carried a Danish king.

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I’m not entirely sure, but this looks like King Christian VII, astride Perle, and his wife Caroline Mathilde.

Royal Riders

4 – Remember how Rita Mae Brown said, “If the world were a logical place, men would ride sidesaddle?” Let me introduce you to the most logical man then. Frederic VI, while being a child, was wearing dresses. Therefore, it was more practical for him to ride in the sidesaddle, into which he was even strapped to, so he could even fall asleep without falling off. Lately, he became a perfect rider and preferred to be seen on a horseback because his childhood illness has resulted him to be small in stature.

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5 – One of the exhibits I really liked was a poster showing “all the Danish kings’ horses,” where 14 monarchs were depicted on a horseback, starting from Frederic II.

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6 – There are a few intricately made flamboyant saddles in pretty good condition that you can still see in the museum. While I absolutely adore the look, I don’t think I would ever want to ride in one of them. Look at the stirrups. Any idea what the correct sitting position should be?

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7 – Talking about sidesaddles again: surprisingly, Queen Ingrid was the first Danish Queen after Caroline Mathilde to ride astride, and it was pretty unusual in the beginning of the 19th century.

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Caroline Mathilde, the wife of King Christian VII, enjoyed riding like a man – astride and wearing men’s clothes

8 – Believe it or not, there was a time when it was horse fitting for saddles rather than saddle fitting for a horse. Be it because of the high cost of saddles or the low cost of horses, but Princess Alexandrine brought her sidesaddle from Germany as part of her dowry when she married King Christian X in 1898.

9 – During the German occupation, Christian X of Denmark became a symbol of resistance because he rode every day through the streets of Copenhagen unaccompanied by guards.

Stables:

On the day of my visit, there were eight light-gray Kladruber horses on the shift.

10 – The white Kladrubers you can see in the stable now were imported from Czech Republic. Horses are trained daily not only on the riding ground but also in the city streets, but you will have very slim chance to see them if you visit Copenhagen during summer as the horses are put to graze from mid-June to the beginning of August.

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11 – The main job of the royal Kladrubers is taking part in parades and carrying newly appointed ambassadors to the audience with the Queen Margrethe II.

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12 – It’s hard to imagine 250 horses being able to live in this place, but centuries ago, animals’ well-being wasn’t considered too important, so stalls were much tighter. However, in the 20th century, a new animal rights law was introduced, so the remaining horses get to enjoy pretty- spacious boxes.

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Carriage room:

13 – Some carriages were made more comfortable than today’s transport. For example, the coach of Duke Frederick Christian of Augustenborg had a toilet built in the back seat. Very thoughtful!

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14 – Not all the couches in the museum were built to be pulled by horses. I bet you won’t be able to guess who pulled this tiny jewel. Not ponies, not donkeys, not even dogs. The cotillion coach presented to Christian IX by Copenhagen florists in 1888 was pulled by kids. For the last time, it was used for Queen Ingrid’s 70th birthday, and her grandchildren pulled it and handed out red roses.

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I hope you’ll have a chance to visit the museum when you are in Copenhagen next time and pass my regards to Christian IX.

New week – new country!

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And the answer is: Denmark. That’s right, during World War II, Christian X of Denmark rode through the streets of Copenhagen daily unaccompanied by guards. Next time you are in Copenhagen, don’t forget to visit the Royal Stables museum at Christiansborg Palace.

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EquiGuess #2

The Year of EquiGuess – #1

Hi Everybody,

I’m starting something new this year:

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And the first question is: eg1

And the answer is:

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Two of Saudi Arabia’s three Olympic medals were brought by the show jumping team. Khaled Al Eid got an individual bronze in Sydney in 2000, and the team won bronze in London in 2012. An interesting fact is that one of the team riders, Abdullah Al Saud, is the member of the Royal House of Saud. Equestrian is a royal sport indeed.

Country #37 – Denmark: Copenhagen’s Bronze Herd or Icelandic Gods in Royal Forests

Days off and short breaks are meant to be relaxing, right? Wrong! :-) Whenever I manage to get them, I like to squeeze in so many things that I need another break afterward.

One time, I had to go on a four-day business trip to Bonn, Germany, and took an extra day in order to travel to Denmark afterward. I had less than 20 hours to stay in Copenhagen, and I hoped that it would be enough to see the center of the city, visit the Royal Stables, and ride in the forest with Amager Rideterapi.

Reality exceeded my expectations. First of all, when I posted my plans on Instagram, I was contacted by the @TrendyDonnaLegWhear account, which sells tights for girls with passion. :-) The owner of the company happened to live in Copenhagen and managed to design a short walking tour around the center of the city for me.

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I love strolling along the streets of unknown cities guided only by a map. And I would rather get lost than ask for directions. I agree that that’s stupid, but I like it that way. :-)

Copenhagen at 7 A.M. on a Saturday morning was absolutely stunning: the empty streets and squares were perfect for taking panoramic pictures; the beautiful shop windows made me lose my way more than once; I was the only witness of the morning national guard shift change; and parks were conveniently already open at that early hour. It felt like I had the whole city to myself; only rarely would I meet a jogger or someone walking their dog.

If someone were to ask me what color Copenhagen is, I would have to say that it’s brick orange and copper green. As I love all things related to horses, I take pictures of mounted sculptures wherever I go. And I have to admit, Copenhagen has the highest rate of mounted sculptures per square kilometer. :-)

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About two hours and ten kilometers later, I got back to the central station, ordered some coffee with Danish pastries, and waited for Lenna, the owner of Amager Rideterapi, to pick me up. Her small company specializes in hippotherapy for people with mental, musculoskeletal, or eating disorders. It was really interesting to learn about how connecting to horses can help people become healthier.

The trip to the stables took about 30 minutes, and upon arrival, we were met by a friendly group of Icelandic horses.

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Oh how I miss those fluffy little darlings. I got a 13-year-old bay gelding Baldur, named after one of the main Icelandic gods. It was such a pleasure to brush his thick coat and run my fingers through his hairy mane.

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Then Lenna brought the tack. Both the saddle and bridle were unusual for me: the bridle consisted of two separate pieces (Lenna told me that it’s more comfortable on long trips to remove one of the parts and let the horses graze), and the saddle had pretty short flaps and a girth that was probably twice as short as usual.

While I was excited about the ride, I was a little bit nervous as well. At that time, I hadn’t properly ridden in about three months. Well, I guess a little flashback would be necessary to explain why my rider self-esteem had been crushed into tiny pieces.

Back to Bahrain: I’d retired my own horse Dream and stopped riding Romeo, the Andalusian stallion I was competing with before. The reason was that I couldn’t control Romeo around other horses: he would back, rear, and behave dangerously pretty much every single day we took him out to other stables. The owner decided to give him to another rider. Thinking about my failure with Romeo day after day and blaming myself for not being a good enough rider to reveal his talents, I couldn’t shake the sad feeling that I hadn’t progressed as a rider over the previous few years and had, in fact, became worse and maybe should quit riding altogether. I was offered other horses to ride, but frankly, I was simply too afraid to get in the saddle again.

So, when we went off on a ride, I thought that I indeed needed a therapeutic horse to cure me of my fears. And after riding the very dependable Baldur in walk, trot, canter, tolt, and even pace (by mistake :-)), I thought that even though I’m not the best rider and might never reach a reasonable level, I still can enjoy riding.

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And, even better, during those “rideless” months, I didn’t completely forget how to keep my balance in the saddle.

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We rode along the rural paths of Kongelundsskoven, which is located near Copenhagen Airport. Planes were taking off right above our heads, but the horses didn’t care. Every step my Baldur took, I fell in love with him more and more. His trot was amazingly comfortable, and he listened to the slightest changes in my balance and even to my every thought. For the full two hours, he was full of enthusiasm, nothing scared him, and he was mentally with me the whole time. We went through the Royal Park, climbed hills, and cantered on the beach… and I’m forever thankful to Lenna and Baldur for this therapeutic ride.

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Taking off from Copenhagen Airport just four hours later, I had a second chance to see the route we had taken, only this time from above. I closed my eyes in an attempt to grab a little nap. My 20-hour-long trip to Bahrain had just started.

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Useful links: @amagerridetur on Instagram

Country #36 – Luxembourg: WordPress Meet-up and Learning to Ride with Your Mind

Horses, blogging, and blogging about horses changed me dramatically. From an introverted homebody who panicked every time she needed to leave the apartment or even call or ask a stranger about something, I turned into introvert who is more socially functional and who can, if you can believe it, get and accept invitations to meet up with fellow bloggers who she has never met in person before. :-) And even though I still feel a bit awkward while traveling to the new places or meeting new people, I always remember this phrase I heard somewhere: people are the same wherever you go, and good people prevail. And in my experience, that is especially true for equestrians. I’ve already written a story about my Instagram meet-up with Matilde Brand last year, and this story is about my WordPress meet-up.

About a year ago, Aoife commented on my article about visiting the living museum of Ardennes horses.

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Aoife records her daily adventures with her beautiful mares Kika and Nancy in her blog Pampered Ponies here on WordPress.

Naturally, when I got invited to Germany for a conference, I decided to fly in a couple of days earlier and finally tick the “Ride in Luxembourg” box off my wish list.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as I not only met Aoife and rode Nancy in a Luxembourg forest but also got to participate in a theoretical part of the “Ride With Your Mind” clinic.

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The session was packed with eye-opening ideas, great examples, exercises with a gymnastic ball, and fun (especially when someone was asked to pretend to be a horse for another person). Elaine has a ton of experience, so no riding questions were left unanswered. As Aoife is a far more disciplined blogger than I am, you can check out the details of the clinic on her blog: http://pampered-ponies.blogspot.my/

The next day, I met up with Aoife at about noon, and we brushed and saddled the big, sleepy girls and went out to explore the Luxembourg forest.

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Impressed by the previous day’s lecture, I was trying to keep my back straight and sit bones down and plugged in, but I guess while chatting with Aoife and admiring the blossoming Luxembourgish spring, I lost focus quite quickly.

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That perfect day was another confirmation of a universal law: all our dreams come true sooner or later, one way or another. I had hoped that Luxembourg would be my country #20, but if it had been, I would have definitely missed that awesome spring day and a chance to make another equestrian friend.

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I’d like to finish this post with a bunch of thanks:

A million thanks to Aoife for leaving that comment on my post, inviting me to the RWYM course, and allowing me to ride Nancy.

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Thanks, hugs, and kisses on the nose to Nancy, who was a perfect host and allowed me to see Luxembourg through her ears. :-)

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And big thanks to Elaine, who helped me to understand some riding principles better.

I’m Back

I’m a terribly inconsistent blogger. Sometimes, I disappear from WordPress and Instagram for ages, and I finally figured out why.

When I was little and lived in a country with zero chances to buy fresh fruits or berries in our properly cold winters, my parents prepared preserves every summer. Dozens of jars filled with pickles, mushrooms, and jams filled the shelves in our cellar. Later, when the snow drifts on the sides of the road piled up to five feet high and it was so cold outside that you would feel that even the insides of your eyelids were frozen, came the time for a special treat. You’d go down to the cellar, take one of the jars with plum jam and almonds, wipe a thick layer of dust from it, open it with a can opener, pull off the lid, and lavishly spread the jam on a piece of toast. Then you would take a bite, savor the somewhat sour taste, close your eyes, and imagine yourself back on the very day you picked those plums, cut them, put them into the large copper bowl, and stirred them with an enormous handmade wooden spoon. I used to call these jars “canned summer”; they felt so warm, so divine, so nostalgic.

Recently, I realized that it’s the same with my stories. I want them to be “cooked” in my head, be stirred and mixed with other stories and associations. And then, after a few weeks or maybe months, when I feel they are ready, I share them. As this summer came to an end, I’m ready to open jars of memories I picked this spring and summer in blooming Luxembourg, rainy Copenhagen, melting hot Greece, stormy Tunisia, sunny Malta, and breezy Portugal.

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The Neigh Club: Staybler – Back to the future or Airbnb for horses

No other animal had such a tremendous impact on the history of humankind as the horse. Horses fed us, plowed our lands, accompanied us to battlefields, and most importantly served as a means of transportation.

Less than a hundred years ago, no hotel or inn was imaginable without stables. But with new technologies, horses disappeared from the streets and trading routes. Guest houses and stables naturally transformed into parking lots. Yes, some hotels do mention “pets are welcome” in their ads and on their sites, but they don’t mean horses, or even ponies, right?

So, what if you need to travel for a competition, or wish to attend a clinic abroad, or just don’t want to part with your horse when going on well-deserved vacation? There were not many options until Staybler – an online platform offering stables, yards, and paddocks in Europe – appeared on the market.

Some say that all new ideas are well-forgotten old ones. I spoke to Jean-Baptiste Luce, co-founder and sales manager of Staybler.com, to learn more about their project.

YF: Could you please tell us more about yourself and the other two co-founders of Staybler? Where are you from, what is your profession, how did you get involved with horses?

JB: The three of us are from the South of France, with different backgrounds. Clemence is originally from Montpellier – she studied marketing and communication. She has ridden since the age of three in the jumping discipline! Guillaume and I are originally from Antibes. Guillaume studied law, and I studied aquaculture. We do not ride horses, but we really enjoy all disciplines and the equestrian industry. We have gone to a lot of show jumping competitions over the years, such as St. Tropez, Monaco, Geneva, and Cannes, to watch the best riders.

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YF: How did you come up with the idea of an Airbnb service for horses?

JB: Clémence has always wanted to work in the equestrian industry. She did a previous internship with Devoucoux, and afterward, she was always talking to me about finding a job with horses.

Guillaume and I have always wanted to create a startup in the web industry, so we started to think about a new online service!

One day, three of us were talking about a new startup in the equine industry. We started to think about what is actually missing in the horse world. Clémence mentioned that her cousins always had difficulties when looking for overnight or short-term stabling when they were traveling with their horses. That was it! We decided to create a marketplace like Booking.com and Airbnb adapted to the equestrian world.

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YF: How do you share the work? Who is responsible for which parts of the project?

JB: Clémence is responsible for all the marketing and communication (social networks, ambassadors, booth displays, communication tools, etc.). Guillaume is in charge of all the finance and legal support.

And I look after sales and partnerships.

YF: Who are your customers? What would they miss if there were no Staybler?

JB: We have two distinct kinds of customers. We have riders (professional and not), grooms, and horse owners looking for short-term stables, and we have owners of stables, equestrian centers, and yards, who register their stables online to host horses and riders. The second group of customers has to hold horse insurance to be registered on the site.

Without Staybler, horse riders would still lose a lot of time searching for the perfect stable for their horses! Before, they had to spend hours on Google to look for a stable in a specific city! The difficulty is that some stables don’t have a functional website, but only ads with poor descriptions and no pictures. Staybler offers stable owners an opportunity to have their own well-structured pages with photos, detailed descriptions, and comments. Our website increases their visibility and helps them to build a positive reputation, and offers an international openness. It’s a great management tool for booking, and it allows them to profit/benefit from their available space. And it facilitates the search that every rider undergoes when traveling for horse shows, holidays, or any other reason.

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YF: What is the most common question or request you get from your customers?

JB: Requests and questions vary a lot. Stable owners are never sure what price to set for their stables, yards, or paddocks. And riders want to ensure that newly-listed stables without comments are comfortable and safe enough for their horses.

YF:  From your Instagram account, I’ve learned that you have quite a number of brand ambassadors. How do you select them? What does it take to be a Staybler ambassador?

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JB: We select our ambassadors based on their motivation to be part of the team. If they are ready to support a young start-up and fun enough to participate in some challenges, then they are in! We also select them according to their equestrian disciplines. We want to represent every equestrian discipline. Being a Staybler ambassador means being part of a young and dynamic community.

YF: You are in your first operational quarter. How does it feel so far? What drives and motivates you?

JB: It feels great because we have more and more challenges and new goals every day. We launched the platform in January, and since then we have hundreds of stables and horse riders registered. In the second week after opening, we celebrated our first booking, and it keeps going on with the horse show season starting as well as holidays coming soon. It is growing fast, but we want to make sure we are offering quality services. Our team is also growing little by little, and we are already working on new services (but we prefer to keep them secret for now).

YF: Booking.com and Airbnb have quite complicated rating systems. Do you have anything similar? Can customers share their thoughts about locations? Or can property owners rate their guests?

JB: Our grading system is similar to the Booking.com and Airbnb ones. Customers have to leave comments and rate each other.

YF: It’s mentioned on your site that property owners verify horse owners’ profiles before accepting requests. How is this done and how long does it take?

JB: Once a request is received by the stable, the owner can check the profile of the requestor. They can see all the information provided by the rider: photos, disciplines, horse information, ID, phone number, and previous comments, if any. It does not take more than a minute to check – it’s really quick! If the stable owner is satisfied with a rider’s profile, then they can accept the request!

YF: You have 24-hour support on your site. I wonder, what was the most interesting, memorable, weird, or funny request you ever received?

JB: Luckily, for now, we have not yet had any weird requests. People are more curious about the service itself, such as how it works, what the benefits are, whether it is free, etc.

YF: You participated in the Salon du Cheval and Equita Lyon last year. Where can we meet the Staybler team next?

JB: For sure, we will go back to the next Equita Lyon. We don’t know yet for the future booth, but we are always at big horse shows! We can meet all people curious about the service there. We were at the CHI of Geneva, the Saut Hermès in Paris. We will be at the GPA Jump Festival in Cagnes-sur-Mer and many others.

YF: Give us some statistics. What are the cheapest and the most expensive properties one can find on  Staybler?

JB: The cheapest is €10, the most expensive – €65 (€70 including rider’s accommodation), and the mean is about €25–30.

YF: What is your most popular destination so far?

JB: The South of France for the beautiful weather and great shows, I guess!

YF: Right now, Staybler services are provided in Europe only. Do you have plans for expansion?

JB: Sure, we want to expand and grow internationally, but it takes time.

YF: I wish you the very best in your journey.

And to our readers – ride on to your dreams!

Useful links:

Staybler site: https://www.staybler.com/

Staybler Instagram account: @stayblerbnb