Be open to the world, and the world will open up back to you. That’s what my friend told me when I had just started blogging. And I keep seeing proof of it. For instance, six out of the 10 countries I rode in this year I found thanks to my Instagram.
My Norway ride was yet another story that started in the virtual world. About a year and a half ago, I first found Matilde Brand’s account. Her pictures were full of life, and her bond with her strikingly beautiful Frisian horse Batman looked almost impossible and magical. Her ability to ride tackless was (and still is) pretty much beyond my understanding.
Naturally, when I decided to visit Oslo, I sent a message to Matilde, and a couple of weeks later, we were on the train from Oslo to Moss chatting about digital marketing, horses, vegetarian food, Nevzorov Haute Ecole, positive reinforcement, and dozens of other topics.
Upon our arrival at the stables, we went to meet Batman and Takawi (a Friesian KPWN cross that I was supposed to ride later that day). Having a bag of carrots, I was immediately surrounded by gentle giants politely but persistently asking for their treats.
We led Batman out and brought him to the tack room to do some serious brushing. 8-O
The location of the stables allows horses to wander in the woods and communicate freely in their small herd but also stay under the roof in harsh weather should they decide so. Naturally, they use this opportunity to the fullest, and cleaning them up can easily serve as both a warm-up and a weight-loss workout.
Before Matilde allowed me in the round pen with Batman, she gave me a master class on communication with him.
Then, I was given a carrot and ordered to give Batman a chunk of it every time he did what I asked. “Bite them really small; you’ll need every piece of it,” she instructed me.
We started with ground work. Batman followed me..;
he made turns on request..,
kissed me… :-)
and hugged me with his strong neck..,
and posed for pictures…
And you know what? It didn’t feel like he was doing it for the carrots, but rather for the love of a game.
For the next step, Matilde explained to me how to make Batman canter next to me.
I don’t think I will ever find the words to adequately explain that sensation. Imagine pure energy in the form of a long-maned Frisian willingly following your moves and tangibly enjoying it.
After half a carrot was gone :-), I mounted Batman and walked him with the halter for a couple of rounds, then I removed it the same way Matilde had done before and tried to trot him completely tackless. It wasn’t difficult to make him trot, or even canter, but keeping him next to the fence was a challenge.
With Matilde it had looked so effortless, so simple, as if Batman was reading her mind. But when my turn came, I realized how much I still needed to learn, how much fine tuning that type of riding and communication with horses requires. Later, I progressed to paying more attention to the position of my body, hands, and head, and it immediately had an effect on Batman’s moves.
I would say that the most important insight of that day was the fact that riding horses without bridle and saddle is possible for everybody. And although it requires a lot of work, it also gives an incomparable level of satisfaction.
After we finished my first (and hopefully not the last) tackless riding lesson, Linn brought Takawi, a 182-cm-tall Barock Pinto gelding, to the tack room for brushing and saddling.
Takawi was the first horse that I have ever ridden that was taller than me.
He always has a few pieces of shavings on his extreme points, as no one can reach them when brushing him :-).
Saddling him looked like a separate sport discipline, as Linn had to take a swing before placing the saddle on his back.
Mounting Takawi takes a table, not a bench or a stepstool.
And, he is one of the sweetest and kindest horses that I have ever ridden.
We rode in a circle on the slippery fields that were yet to be covered with snow, and it felt so peaceful and safe on the back of this 18-hand giant that I secretly hoped that the ride would last forever.
And, I’m a little jealous of Matilde and Linn, as they can ride in this beautiful place all year long.
to follow Matilde and Batman journey join them on:
Facebook: Matilde Brandt
You can also find more about Linn, Takawi and Linn’s another horse Prinsen on Instagram @imaginetakawi