This time our busy travel schedule brought us to the Netherlands. Of course my golden dream was to ride the Friesian horse, but… Well, maybe next time.
The internet site of Baarshoeve stables (Manege de Baarshoeve) promised a nice and relaxing 2.5-hour ride on the Zandvoort aan Zee beach, and I thought that it would be great, after riding on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Morocco and the shore of the Indian Ocean in Oman, to add this Arctic Ocean experience to my list.
Zandvoort is located north-west of Amsterdam, about 20 minutes by train. Horse riding is extremely popular in the Netherlands. In fact, Holland has one of the highest numbers of horses per capita in Europe. Baarshoeve is one of the biggest riding schools in the area, stabling over 60 horses and providing lessons to about 200 club members. Funnily enough, the majority of horses have cartoon characters’ names.
Unfortunately, European weather is not that easy to predict. Despite the morning being dry and beautiful and there being almost no clouds when we got to the stables, by the time we’d brushed and saddled our horses (the 15-year-old, elephant-like Obeliks for my husband and 21-year-old Tarzan for me) it was raining cats and dogs. It would have probably stopped us in Bahrain, but there in Holland, where 250 days of the year are rainy, the stable manager, Siska, seemed not to even notice that there was a problem. The only thing she told us was that we couldn’t go to the beach because with the thunder and lightning, the horses were going to get scared and she didn’t want them to be in the open area when and if it happened, so she told us that we’d better go to dunes.
Well, dunes in Holland are not exactly the type of dunes we are used to seeing here in the Middle East. Holland’s dunes were covered with grass and wild berry bushes, which looked like if someone was celebrating Holi, the Indian festival of colors: red berries with yellow leaves here, blue berries with lime-green leaves there, violet berries with bright pink leaves on the next hill. ;-)
I was so overwhelmed with the beauty of these dunes that I didn’t even notice the tiny flashes of lightning and distant sound of thunder, but Tarzan, unfortunately, paid more attention to the weather conditions than I did. If you think that old horses are calm, slow and boring to ride, you’ve never ridden a 17-hand, 21-year-old Dutch Warmblood who is crazy scared of storms. Within a fraction of a second, he did a 180 degree pirouette and jumped few meters left of the path. Yes, he might have been old, but he has better reactions then I do. As Siska told me later, it was a miracle that I stayed in the saddle after this. Later, Tarzan did a few more similar tricks, but I was better prepared so all went well.
One of the most lasting impressions we had was the herd of wild wooly cows which suddenly appeared on our path. Remembering what a single strike of lightning could do to my brave Tarzan, I prepared myself to gallop away from these frightening creatures with sharp horns, but surprisingly, neither did the horses pay much attention to bulls, nor were the bulls interested in confronting the horses. In fact they glared at each other for 10-15 seconds and then bulls decided to give us a path.
Despite being soaked from head to toe, I still consider this ride one of our best – the nature was beautiful, and as well as the wooly bulls we saw some wild rabbits, pheasants, a deer and even a bison. I know, I know it’s not unusual experience for the average European citizen, but in Bahrain, the country of my current residence, the closest you can get to wild life is to see a stray dog or a cat eating from dumpster. :) And I really envy the members of the Baarnhoeve riding school that have the opportunity to ride in such a beautiful place every day.
Manege de Baarshoeve site: http://www.debaarshoeve.nl