Sink or Swim

So many of these learning experiences in my life are related to horses. This particular one, has to do with the very first steps of owning one of those magnificent animals.

I got her when I was 12. She was 12 too. I had 6 years of experiences about life among horses, mainly in riding schools and private stables. She had full 12 years of experience in being a horse. Here we can find a small disadvantage on my side.

I soon noticed, that owning a horse, it was very much a different deal than going to stables to learn to ride them. Owning one is much more, well, wholesome experience. In the very first steps becomes the realization, that a balance and leadership must be attained. This is the game of either sinking or swimming.

You swim, if you manage to win the trust and friendship of the horse. You swim, if the horse understands, that you are worthy of guiding and leading the pack of you two. You swim if you are firm and fair.

You sink, deep, if you are scared of the situation, scared of the half tonne animal, who is now sharing your life. You sink, if you are unfair, if your guidance leads to pain or fear. If you are unreliable, honesty is the key.

The narrow strip between victory and failure is sometimes narrow. It requires a fine balance. As a newbie horse owner, you make mistakes,  sometimes costly ones. You might let the horse push her own mind too far, tripping you down from the leaders position. No fun. You might lead her to a situation that causes her fear, too much pressure or pain. Gaining back the trust from there, is a hard and rocky road, one that has to be walked.

Sometimes you get it right, you reach the surface again and swim. You got her motivated into learning something new, find the excitement in her.  You find the way to get her into a relaxed and open minded position. Lead her to over come a fear. You are her friend and companion, at best. Those moments are wonderful. You find a flow, not just on your own, but you share it with her. You join with that horse, and work together. This is what gets you hooked into this sport, the beauty in those moments.

Yes, I am still missing her.

Thanks to the Prompt of the day: Sink or Swim


Safety First – Or maybe not

The moments I have felt the least safe, are most somewhat related to horses, and the high probability of sudden injury – or death. 20 years spent in the stables, gets you to plenty of not so safe situations. Trust me on this one.

Well, my horse, Hiksu, she was known for being a bit stubborn and mean, my special one. Sometimes trying to get rid of the rider, or at least scare them so hard, they would not dare to ride her again. Just for fun, apparently.

Sometimes she also got really scared herself. One of these times was, when we were returning home from a short cross country ride. We were approaching the road,  covered in ice. Just as she stepped onto the road, turning towards home, there was a tractor appearing from behind the corner. A particularly noisy tractor, with chains in the tires, for better grip. That noise my dear mare had never heard before, her solution was to panic. Blinding panic.

The direct outcome of that panic was speed. Quite some of it. Hiksu headed away from that tractor, at full gallop, on the icy and slippery road. I could not see anything, thanks to the snow, flying into my eyes, stinging, cold air biting to me cheeks. There might have been cars, or who knows what, coming from the opposite direction. At this point I think I started to get a bit nervous, afraid for the safety of both hers and mine.

She had lost her ears, no matter what I yelled, no reaction followed. She had taken the bit tightly between her teeth. So I basically had no brakes. At one corner I heard one of the shoes flying off. Not that it seemed to be of any interest to Hiksu, we were just slipping a bit more.

Picture from here.

She pushed on for about 5 km, not showing any signs of slowing down. I had lost all hope of getting her listening to me again, and basically just hoped that nothing too bad was lurking behind the next corner, and holding onto the saddle. The only thing to do for me, was to make sure I would not fall off.

Finally there was an uphill, which ate her speed. The tractor was long gone too. She was foaming from sweat. I was shaking out of exhaustion, too. She turned around, head held high, nostrils wide, ears pointing sharply to the direction we had come from. I was genuinely worried what would happen if the tractor would appear again.

I slid down to the ground. and started to lead Hiksu back home on foot. She was still very nervous, taking a good look at every moving thing. I was talking to her, to make her calm down and to focus on me, rather than on a moving leaf. She was not willing to let me walk too far, but kep her head right next to me arm. Except for a couple of nervous jumps and side steps.

That day I almost became religious. I was so happy to get to home safely, I even found the shoe, we dropped off, hanging on a tree. Long walk had relaxed us both and I was feeling extremely tired. After a good brushing and check up, Hiksu stayed at her pile of hey, and I dragged myself to the house. Just giving mom a yelp to let her know, I was home again.

This was not the first, or the last time, Hiksu arranged some excitement to my life, but this must have been one of the scariest.

Safety First

The love of my life – The tale of a Finn horse

Now the time has come. I have been away from all kinds of horse related animals for almost a year now. That is too much. Way too much. So I started to miss them. Right now.

I was 6 when I climbed on top of a horse (pony) for the first time. The legend tells, I was talking about it ever since I saw a horse for the first time. Something in them was drawing me towards them. You can imagine the joy of a six-year-old, when she finally gets to climb onto a pony and ride around the court with teacher yelling advice you understand nothing of. But the pony walked diligently alongside the fence, to the right direction with the small girl bursting with happiness. Ah.

There it all began. I was sold and in love. I found the purpose for my life. I got to go to the stables once a week. I got to know the horses and of course developed a set of favorites. It was still that time, when riding school teachers were authorities and held an army-like discipline in the stables. The small girls went straight up to the seventh heaven if they got to clean the aisle, groom a horse or as much as get horses for walks after they had been ridden. After shedding enough sweat and tears, you might get the chance to ride for free!

Years passed. I did not develop too quickly as a rider, but I did develop strong relationships with those animals. When I was 10 I was totally ready for my own horse. I told so to my parents. They laughed. I reacted with the stubbornness children develop when they are grown up on a farm where nothing comes easily or for free. So I kept reminding (to put it nicely) my parents about how good of an idea it would be to buy me a horse. It would be handy in so many ways. It would help us get rid of all the loose money, it could work as a cattle horse and in forest works with my dad (Yeah, right).

Two years went by. I was 12 with a mission. Get a horse one way or the other. Finally my parents crew tired of my pleas and demands. Came the serious talk. I would get a horse on some conditions. I would have to be the one taking care of it. Always! I would have to attend in making the stable for it and make sure my school life did not suffer from it. DEAL!

Began the search for the right horse. We thought it absolutely should be a Finn horse. That horse would be a bit similar to its new family, you know, hairy and short legged, steady and sturdy thing. So we went through the sales pages on news papers, internet and played the jungle drum. I saw a few horses, only two of them took my breath away. Other with terror, by deciding to take me for a run. Long and fast run. I was in love. The horse was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Light chestnut in color, with long, white mane and three white socks. My parents thought he was dangerous, so I did not get him…

There was anger in me for that. Right up until the moment when a horse seller called, to inform us, that he had just the thing we were looking for. I leaped into the car and we drove. The moment I saw that mare, I remember it so clearly still. I almost produce a tear in my eye writing this. You know those moments when you have the feeling that something was meant to be?

last summer

She was this small furry thing. Looking at us with her clear eyes, huge ears pointed forward. I am almost sure she knew how to sell herself. She behaved nicely, did everything she was asked to do and even licked my hand. That was about all she had to do.

The sale was sealed and two weeks later a horse named Hikkor arrived to her new home. The horse seller dropped her leash onto my hand, stated bluntly “It is yours now” and left. I did not believe my eyes for the first week. There really was a horse in her paddock every morning. It did not disappear during the night. It was still there waiting in the afternoon when I came home from school. She was mine!

That autumn I was swallowed by all the things a fresh horse owner faces. Buying all the gear and making sure all the facilities are functioning. But most importantly building the relationship and trust with the horse. We soon found out, that Hiksu had been changing owners a lot. I was the 9th name in her papers. Building trust with a horse like that. Well, there are easier tasks for a 12-year-old girl to do.

After maybe a rough start we got it going quite nicely. I learnt to know all her tricks, and she invented more of them. Mares, at a mature age, can be surprisingly innovative. She became Houdini, escaping from just about anything, to get food and attention.


Even though she had her strong spirit, ideas and misdemeanors, I could trust her in the worst of places. She took me through anything if it came to that. She was better friend and companion I could have ever imagined, she gave me wings.

Her Majesty in her Kingdom

I loved those times when we went for a ride in the dusk, through the forest. I let her decide where to go and when to return. The winter nights with the light of a full moon, galloping across the frozen lakes. Or just being there with her. Listening her breath when she hang her head close to mine. She taught me a lot. Patience and understanding, leadership and responsibility. How to bear pain and prioritize the well being of another above your own.

After all that, our paths separated. I had to move away and go studying. I needed to find a new home for Hiksu. My life changed. After 8 years of having a horse at home, suddenly she was not there anymore. We leased her out to a family where she stayed during my studies. She seemed happy there. Fooling the people around her and doing what ever she pleased.


There is this one story I have been laughing with every now and then. Apparently the bottom leaves of thistles are very very tasty. My food loving Hiksu knew that. One afternoon she had been taken out from the paddock after a heavy lunch of thistle leaves.Thistles have this other quality in them. Which is growing spiky balls that get easily tangled into the mane of a hungry little Finn horse. Apparently there was a huge ball of those things right on top of Hiksu’s head, alongside her mane and tail too. Oh, she had been so happy to get all the girls around her, grooming those spiky balls out of her hair. She did love attention more than anything.

The end result though was a very happy, half bald horse.

I had my dreams on getting her back home after I finished studying, but that never happened. She had had small signs of the horse version of asthma, nothing major, but a cough every now and then. One spring it got worse, she could not breathe without being medicated and was tired all the time. Decisions needed to be made. Whether her life was good enough or not. Finally I thought, that it is better to let her go now, rather than later. It is always hard to tell how much in pain an animal is.

We brought her home, for the one last time. It felt like she knew what was coming. We spent those few precious days walking through our old cross country routes, swimming and eating as much apples and green grass as possible. I cried a lot. After three days of saying good bye, I was not ready at all, but I had to let go. Dad took out the gun and with one bullet she left us for good, with a mouth full of oats and apples.

Those were maybe the hardest days of my life. Saying goodbye to a friend you had thought you could keep for so much longer. Questioning whether my decision was right or wrong. If she would have been treated better, put into a better environment, could she still have lived a happy life for a few more years. The life of her was on my responsibility, and at those moments, that responsibility is not light to carry.

Hiksu is no longer here, but I have my memories of her, so she lives on. No horse yet has been able to replace her in my heart. I do not think there ever will come another one who would be able to do so.

Last moments together

To Hiksu, where ever you are.