My route back to the saddle

I have been an enthusiastic horse lover for the greater part of my life. Since I was 6, I have been going to lessons, and pretty much spent all possible time at stables. Before long I got my parents to buy me my own horse. She ended up being one of the most important friends of my youth. Then, after 10 years together, her journey came to an end.  Afterwards I resulted into renting a couple of horses, until that, too came to an end, as I moved to Belgium.

After the move, life happened. I was busy exploring my new home country and quite some of its surroundings. Then came work, and an utter lack of time, plus I wasn’t exactly thrilled to go and search for a place where there wouldn’t be a massive language barrier. And also, from owning and renting horses, it is kind of a big step backwards to return to a riding school. So, life went on, for almost 4 years, with no horses.

This spring we moved, closer to work, which meant a lot more free time. Additional free time was the key to light the spark again. Somewhere in the summer I started to search for stables in the area and contacted a few.

A couple of days later I got a reply from one of those stables. Welcoming me to a workshop, where I could get an idea of the functioning of the stable and the of the philosophy they follow. I was through the roof!

So, on a warm Sunday morning in August, I found myself sitting in a circle with ladies of all ages, talking about the feeding of a horse; in Dutch. I tried to follow, googled the names of plants and body parts of horses they were mentioning, taking in the smell of sand, hay and horses. There was a welcoming atmosphere, everybody seemed to have the same goal in mind; how to have a healthy, happy horse.

The horses had plenty of space to roam around, which is not always the case in Belgium, where some stables don’t let the horses out at all, so I was happy. The herd seemed harmonious and well cared for. The well being of the animals was clearly the first priority there. Without too much doubting I enlisted myself for weekly lessons. This has been going on for about one and a half months.  Now I have also started to rent a horse once a week. Centered riding is the way of riding here. Everything is to do with breathing and balance. I am excited about this, since I think this will be a great way for me to get back into riding and become better in it.

Every lesson before we even get on to the horse, the teacher busies us with ground work. Which I find also a very smart approach. If you think about teaching a person to ride, without teaching them how to be with a horse, read it and handle it, you are cutting quite some corners short, eventually asking for trouble. By working on the ground first, you get the first contact with the animal on the eye-level. You see its mood and the way it moves easier. And everybody gets a little warm up.

The lessons advance slowly, focusing much more on the thinking side of the whole thing, rather than getting through complicated exercises. So we learn to lead the horse, learn to balance our own energy so, that horse follows and listens. We search for the movement of the horse, while on horse back and try to follow it and see and feel, how your seat affects the horses movement and mood. It all is very slow, the riding skills are really being built from the bottom up, block by block.

I have been happy to notice that this break from horses has done some good for me. I am a fairly reactive and nervous person by nature. I used to have a horse that was the same. Which was not necessarily a good combination if you wanted to stay on top of the situation. But we both had fun, which back then was the most important thing!

Now during this break I think I have matured. I am less hasty. I am not only reacting, but am able to stop and asses the situations before doing anything. I find myself enjoying the moments when I can just watch and see how the horses interact with each other and try and learn from that and interpret it to my own actions with them. I am learning loads more now, than what I was capable of, or willing to, before!

The horse I am renting, she is lovely and ridiculously pretty palomino. She most definitely is not the smartest of the bunch, though some things she learns quickly, others she takes ages to figure out. Plus she is completely new to this way of working. But she is sweet, and trusting and I am very much looking forward to learning together with her.

This is a completely new start for me, to be with horses and to ride. There is a serious bunch of things to learn and find out, of the sport and of myself. I am so very happy I finally got to find a stable to continue my dear hobby. Once again I have a place to forget all the stress of work and just be present and have a horse to develop with!

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Finland and Cottage Life!

As some of you may remember, last year we purchased a cottage close to my childhood home in Finland. We had not been there for the whole long winter, obviously. The place was covered in a deep blanket of snow and had been living its own quiet life.

In the meanwhile it had not been quite as quiet for us. Loads of our friends are really interested about the cottage, some wanting to visit it, some not quite understanding why we even bought the thing. The concept of Finnish holiday huts is not really familiar for everyone. The cottage is now listed in Airbnb too!

Once the snow was gone, my parents took to enjoying the cottage, while we were stuck in Belgium. We ourselves got there last weekend, we also brought around our dear friend Maria, for whom it would be the very first time in Finland! I don’t know who was more excited, her to see Finland or we to show the country for her.

On a Thursday afternoon we headed off to Amsterdam to take a flight with Norwegian to Helsinki.  We arrived a bit past 11 pm, took our car and headed to Kirkkonummi to quickly visit my dear friend Miia and take a little boat engine out of her hands. After the detour, our road trip to the heart of Savo could begin.

We were treated to the beauty of the light of the Finnish summer night. I was tired but too taken by the beauty of the green scenery and the changing colors of the northern sky add to that the eagerness to finally get to see our cottage again, I just could not sleep! I never really grow tired of looking at landscapes passing by a car window.

The morning was well on it’s way when we finally pulled into our own little piece of paradise. I was home! My parents had been kind enough to make the beds for us so we could just crawl under the covers and let the coma take us away. Maria slept in the dedicated sleeping hut, as we dosed off in the main hut.

It had been an abnormally warm May in Finland and luckily we got to enjoy it too, once the sun poked our eyes through the curtains; the temperature had already risen above 20! I was brave, ran to the dock and dipped my toes into water. That send a chill up my spine and I was instantly a lot less brave. Waffle did better, taking a dip and a short swim in the cool lake. And what would I have been, if I did not follow in that, after all.

What a refreshing start it is for a day to have a short swim and freeze your toes off. Our delighted screams of pain and shock lured our dear Maria out of her bed too. She was happy to leave the swimming for us, tipping only a toe or two in the surface waters.

After we all were fully awake, we visited my parents and their new rescue dog Vili. We were fed well over some cups of coffee and got a tour of the garden before going to town to buy some food for the rest of our stay.

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I was half way to heaven. The lilies of the valley were in full bloom, and our whole yard is covered in them. We have starlings nesting in two of the trees and their life is a joy to follow. Every evening we could hear a bittern making its peculiar noise as well as the cranes.  There is a certain sense of urgency in the swiftly passing Finnish spring.

Followed some lovely days of summer. We swam, bathed in the sauna (using the birch whisk in the sauna was something odd and new to Maria), ate, enjoyed the peace and beauty of the nature. Our new boat engine let us explore the further islands, with even more peace and quite on offer. I was feeling positively reborn when the time to go home came, all too soon.

Luckily, we could already start thinking about our next trip to Finland in the half way of June. This time Waffle’s parents are tagging along and we have a luxurious 2 weeks to spend there!

 

 

Uprootings and Other Changes

Fagaras, Hiker, Mountains

The spring is once again here, the days are stretching out longer and there is a little more warmth and a new, vibrant, buzzing energy starting to appear everywhere.

A buzz is going on also in between my ears, as it seems to happen every spring, I realized, now that I looked back to the archives of this blog, for example. Most often it has stayed as that. Buzz between my ears and words on the pages of WordPress. So to be honest, I am a bit hesitant to write anything about any of it this time. It might still just remain as a buzz.

But since I have no impulse control, I find myself blurting.

Well. I was not completely honest right there. You see, something has already happened, so this all can’t stay just a buzz anymore.

We are moving. For real. We have found an apartment closer to Brussels, with a completely tolerable commute to work for the both of us! To get this far has been a bit of a process. Waffle has long roots in Rupelmonde and the surrounding area, so it took quite some mulling over to get to the point of actually moving. Sure, we wont have such an area rich in wildlife right at our door step and yes, we are leaving behind a lot of memories but hopefully all of this will bring some improvement to the overall situation and life quality.

We have the keys at the end of this month, so we have plenty of time to go full KonMari and let go of everything we have gathered. Waffle has been living in the house for 10 years now, so you can imagine there is some accumulation. We are sincerely looking forward to moving, to gaining an hour of extra time every day. An hour less spent on the road, every day. Whoop! And we have been thinking to start going to work by bike,  and getting those killer butts everybody is always dreaming about!

The increased amount of free time is hopefully going to change our daily lives. I am  wishing to and looking forward to finally getting back to horses, back to the saddle! Maybe we’ll be running a bit more the both of us. And Waffle is looking forward to further developing his extensive knowledge of the computer things he does. I am afraid we will be having just extra time, but way, way too much time in our hands which is going to lead to more and more travel plans, plummeting us into bankruptcy and eventually forcing us out of the country and moving to the Azores. Is this the silver lining to every cloud, people keep talking about?

At the same time, I am having the regularly occurring existential crisis. This time it is rather loud and demanding. Partially it probably stems from the fact that I am turning 30 in less time than I would have hoped. And I have a nagging feeling that I should have achieved something in life by now. What that something might be, I do not have a clue.  Partially the roots of this crisis are on the work front. There is some turmoil going on internally. New hires etc. I have kind of promised myself, that once the result of this shifting is clear, it is time for me to figure out where to go.

Ever since I moved to Belgium I have kind of been floating, I left my roots behind me in Finland. Now we are just planning ahead trip by trip, but nothing much deeper than that, it has been quite enough until now. But slowly I have been developing a need to root down to something. Create a meaning for my existence. Possibly not the most unique set of feelings in the life of expats.

One reason to get these thoughts on the move is that lately we have met and surrounded ourselves by some inspiring, brave and curious souls. People who have been and are brave enough to live the life they want, no matter what the people around them think. They have given me some seed of thought.

Maybe work should be something more than just means of earning money. Maybe it would be important to feel that you are doing something meaningful. Maybe it would be good to actually enjoy the work you do and feel that you can be good in it. Maybe. What do you think? It puzzles me, that it took me so long to get this idea.

I might finally be brave enough to actually do something about this nagging feeling. Take and tackle those maybes and get going. Now the challenge is to fit some studying into the schedule, and take a step to the direction without ending up bankrupt and living in the Azores. Hopefully I’ll be able to put some more concrete plans on paper in the near future.

Oooh, what a cliff hanger!

Mediterranean