Our ride in Poland can be easily added to the list of Christmas miracles.
Less than a week before our trip, when I was almost desperate to find a ride in Poland, I got a message from my Instagram friend Magdalena Zoladek asking if I’d already found a place to ride near Warsaw. It was a true blessing, as not only did my Google-found contacts not reply, but I also had a very short stay (less than 10 hours) in Warsaw on my way from Helsinki back to Bahrain.
But Magdalena made the impossible. Not only did she find two horses for me and my friend, but she also picked us up at 6 a.m. from the Warsaw Old Town so that we could beat the busy Warsaw traffic and have enough time for a ride in the frozen forest and also later dropped us back exactly on time for us to catch our planes.
And oh boy, what an eventful ride it was!
First, we were introduced to our horses—a Friesian cross mare and a Hucul pony gelding. As much as I wanted to ride the half-Friesian mare, I was absolutely sure that it might be my only chance to ride a Hucul horse. (This breed is only present in Ukraine, Romania, and Poland) So, I ended up with Rusłan.
While I brushed his thick coat and mane and picked his hooves, Rusłan made all possible efforts to find sugar or carrots in my pockets and even chewed my sleeves as a last desperate attempt. I felt very guilty for not having anything for him :-(, so I attempted to bribe him with some hay.
Magda, Agata, and I had finished saddling our horses when Katya confessed that one woman’s strength was simply not enough to buckle up a single girth strap of Western saddle around the enormous Fryzia’s barrel. All four of us tried to do it in turns—with no luck. We tried combined efforts—one pulling the leather up while another tried to push a pin in the hole—zero effect.
A strange thought came to my not fully woken-up mind: Fryzia, whose shape reminded me of a Dala horse at a first glance, was indeed made of wood.
We thought that it might work if we changed positions: Magda pulling, while I pushed; Katya pulling, while Magda pushed; me pulling, while Agata pushed . . . but as you can imagine, six of one is the same as half of a dozen. :-)
Eventually, team human won. Agata climbed the stable wall and mounted the mare, while three of us in a combined pulling and pushing effort managed to buckle that sturdy girth on the completely indifferent Fryzia. Hoorah!
And on the road again!
I’m sure that in spring and autumn, this place can serve as an inexhaustible source of National Geographic photos, but even in the middle of a snowless December, it looked pretty awesome. It was like nature had a degree in design and color combinations and had deliberately selected complementary colors on the color wheel to make the best possible combinations.
I enjoyed looking around so much that I missed the moment when Rusłan stumbled and I made an unexpected somersault over his neck. I landed right in front of him, still holding the reins in both hands. Surprise!
Luckily, my fluffy mount didn’t have any intention of running away and just shuffled to the nearest bundle of last year’s grass and started munching it apathetically. Magda helped me to mount back on, and we continued our ride.
We cantered deeper into the forest when large, fluffy flakes of snow started to pour from the sky. That was the moment when I finally realized that New Year was just around the corner, and the time of Christmas trees, gingerbread cookies, carols, and gifts in rustling wrapping paper had come again. Although, I thought, some of the most memorable gifts come without any paper and bows. They come covered in dried mud and inspect your pockets for treats, take you to yet unknown places on their backs, and turn their black, hairy ears back to you as if trying to listen to your thoughts. These gifts are among some of the most valuable ones in my collection.
Suddenly, my blissful meditation was interrupted by Katya’s horse, who decided to add some adrenaline to our so-far tranquil ride.
Fryzia picked up a canter and rushed across the resting field towards the stables, paying no attention to Katya’s attempts to stop, or at least turn, her. Magda’s Quarter Horse Magik and Rusłan followed her. Only Agata’s ¾ Hucul Punio was calm and mature enough to stay on the track.
Later, we learned that Fryzia’s owner likes to canter her back to the stables. So, according to Fryzia, she behaved like a really good girl and an amazing host. :-)
If you think that was enough for one day, think again!
Thanks to Agata and her trusty steed Punio, I tried something that I had wanted to try for ages but didn’t have the heart to do on an unprepared horse.
Agata told me that Punio is used for hypnotherapy so he is absolutely bomb-proof and is ready for anything. For example, he is okay if a kid sitting on him tries to catch a thrown ball, he is fine if someone stretches from the saddle over his neck and places rubber rings on his ears, and he knows to stay still if someone stands on his back.
Of course, I couldn’t deny the offer to try it. Surprisingly, it proved to not be too difficult, and although I don’t look as chic and glamorous standing on a horse’s back as Taylor Swift in the “Blank Spaces” music video, I still think it’s one of the best pictures from my travels :-).