That first time you are placed on top of a horse as a child has a huge impact. This was also the case with me and in a positive way. I have not been able to let go of horses anymore and after that first ride I kept riding. I mostly loved trail riding with my horses and I still do.
My horse history started in the Algarve in Portugal. As a six-year-old girl, I was on holiday in the Algarve with my parents and sister, just like every year. Portugal was my parents’ favorite destination, for 14 years we went there on holiday at least once a year, most of the years twice or even three times.
On this particular sunny morning in 1987, I went with my mother to the bank to get money. ATMs did not yet exist and you still had to get cash from the bank. Because there was a malfunction at the bank, we had to wait for more than 2 hours. There in that Portugese bank we started talking to a Dutch couple who had recently set up an equestrian centre in the area. We were invited to visit them…
The warm sun, the dusty sand and the smell of horses. What a paradise! There was talk of a mountain trail ride, my father had learned to ride horses in his student days, but whether I could ride had to be seen first. I had never been on a horse before, but was not afraid and found them extremely interesting.
So the sweetest bay mare was taken from the stable and I was placed on top of her. After riding on the lunge for half an hour, I was labeled “natural talent” by the Dutch stable owners. So my father booked the mountain trail ride with the horses for the next day.
Early in the morning we went out into the mountains. I rode that sweet bay mare again. I was so proud! This amazing mare carried me over narrow rocky paths, in walk, trot and canter. We jumped over creeks and halfway through the trail ride we had a break in a typical small cafe where I drank a delicious Sumol. Which is a Portugese orange soda.
When we got home I was registered at the local riding school where I then took lessons twice a week. On Fridays together with both my parents and on Saturday in the children’s lesson. In the summer time we often went out on trail rides which I loved most of all.
Because we regularly moved with my family due to my mother’s work in my youth, I rode at various riding schools. At these riding schools I rode dressage, jumping and cross competitions and I went to pony camps every year. The different instructors and horses have given me a lot of insights, which has taught me to be a better rider.
As a student I registered with the student equestrian association Hippeia in Utrecht. Once a week we had lessons or went on trail rides with the horses and a few times a year we held meetings with other student equestrian associations in the country, we rode competitions and partied afterwards.
After my student days I rode several horses from friends and taught children and adults. Teaching means that you have to think about what works automatically for you when riding. What exactly do you do and how do you explain it?Definitely an experience that made me much more aware of my own riding skills, my seat and aids.
My father did not want a horse of his own and he wanted me to learn to ride as many different horses as possible, which is why I bought my first horse as an adult. Since Juno, my first own horse, I have had private lessons and attended seminars from various instructors.
– The sweet brown Portuguese mare who carried me through the mountains and gave me a great first horse experience, which got me hooked on trail riding.
– Binky, the palomino Welsh pony from Manege Annen. Binky launched me three times while warming up for my very first dressage competition. Despite that, we still finished first.
– Master, the sorrel stargazer of Manege Any Dale. Master has long been my regular pony during the lessons. Riding a pony in collection was not my interest at that time, jumping and crossing however was. Master gave me the escape as a stargazer so I didn’t have to focus on collection in the lessons.
– Tiny, the little bay gelding from Manege Any Dale. Tiny gave me a lot of bs during a cross race, by taking the bit between the teeth halfway through the course and galloping straight back to the start. Disqualification as a result. I was so pissed off and dissapointed I could not finish the track.
– Harvey the sweet and smooth moving sorrel of Manege Laren. A wonderful horse to ride out on a trail.
– Nozem the explosive black gelding of Manege ‘t Hoogt. Over the years I have not often fallen off a horse, but the most unexpected and awkward fall was from Nozem. Stepping around in the outside arena, he stepped sideways in the corner and I hung around his neck so far that I could not get back into the saddle. As tradition dictated at Hippeia, I had to treat the others with cake the next lesson. So I did. Nozem has passed away, his skull has been preserved and now serves as a teaching object for the new generation of riders of Manege ‘t Hoogt.
– Hekla the black Icelandic mare, the lead mare of the small herd and super stubborn. We went on many trail rides together and unfortunately she passed away in 2018.
– Juno, my first own horse. Bought as yearling from the breeder, A Royal Dutch Warmblood gray mare by Sydney x Nassau. Grandprix jumping blood with a matching character. I learned from Juno what a dominant mare entails. She taught me how to overcome myself to become a better leader. She held up a mirror to me daily. After my divorce I sold her and Juno has entered the show jumping competition since, just like her father and full sister.
– Nina the gray Welsh mare, also bought as a yearling from the breeder. She was Juno’s best friend, our little princess. Nina taught my children to ride and drive a carriage. Now she is teaching another little girl how to ride.
– Rinse the big bay teddy bear. My Hanoverian gelding who put me back in the saddle when Juno once again made me feel very small and incapable. Together we went on wonderful trail rides. After my divorce Rinse retired as a riding horse with his past owner whom was happy to have him back with her again.
– Lacos, my Spanish boyfriend, as I affectionately call him, is my current horse. What a Ferrari, so fast and so sensitive to the leg aids. Definitely the horse of my dreams. You will see him in most of the pictures on this blog.
Please check out the video of the 2-day trail ride with Lacos along the river IJssel. You might also like to read about How to open a gate without dismounting your horse
What is your first horse experience and are there any special horses that have made an an impression on you? Please share it in the comments.