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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Back in to the buggy

For the first time this year, we dragged ourselves to the beach in Les Hemmes, France in the early days of July. It has been a hectic spring, with moving ourselves and friends, going to Finland and such, that we actually did not manage to catch a coef before this July. My dear.

It was such a nice feeling to get a taste of the sea breeze after the hot, suffocating city air. Though the sun had turned some of our friends already into lobsters, as they were making their way into happy tipsiness. Waffle attacked our load, and built the buggies ready for the following day.

Soon enough the hippie feels of the true Les Hemmes lured Waffle too among the rest of us. Guitars were brought out. Some songs with non-printable lyrics were sang until the beer quota for the night had been dealt with. All of us headed to our own abodes to sleep for the night. The wind next day was promised to be steady and mild.

I had not been driving a buggy for 2 years, ever since my wrist broke, by a freak accident caused by unseen moment of stupidity. Partially because of the pain, partially because I am a chicken with things related to getting back to saddle. Calm steady wind was good news to me! (The scared chicken side of me did not agree).

The morning came, Waffle and I made it a late one in our extremely comfy trailer. Everybody else in their tents or cars were up well before us. We ended up exploiting the situation, since the early birds had the coffee and breakfast ready and we just hopped from bed to table. Feel slightly bad about it.

Soon enough I had to face the realities and drag my buggy onto the sand. The beach was as close to perfect as it ever gets. The water had been minding its own business down in the sea for quite a while, so the beach was dry, smooth and firm. Buggy people were understandably very excited and most of them swooshed away with the wind in nanoseconds.

The wind wasn’t too brutal. Quite some of the people were dragging out their absolute biggest sails. To me Waffle dag out the 4 meter, as I was insisting I would definitely, absolutely not drive a 5. I was fairly scared while pulling up the harness and pressing down the helmet. My hands were shaking. At that moment I knew I was not gonna chicken out, I was gonna drive.

I soon had the kite hanging up in the air, and my butt wavering over the seat of the buggy. And surprisingly I was driving. I managed to figure out the direction of the wind and was off. It was such a leap over my barrier of fear, that I broke into tears.

I was heading to the seaside, and at some point I realized there was no recollection in my head of how to turn around.  Which was kind of a problem, since I was approaching the sea at some speed.  Thankfully the nature has given us something called muscle memory, which kicked in and I managed to safe myself from drowning, and headed for the dune again. Then I still had the task to figure out stopping. I managed, I didn’t kill anyone and didn’t hit a dune. I would call that a raging success!

As I had gotten the feels for it, I kept going to do some lines just to have it sinking in, getting myself feeling secure in driving again. And of course enjoying the wind and the smooth beach. Two years it took for me to get back to this point.

It was definitely a great feeling to get back into the buggy. Such a barrier I had built between me and driving. Now the easy wind and good wide beach made me confident enough to climb over it. I was proud of myself. Waffle was proud of me, running and shouting all over the beach like a mad man. Such a happy day!

The wind was dying towards the evening so we got our excuse to leave the beach and hit the roads before traffic jams.  Monday would be a working day again so getting home at a humane hour was a good idea.

 

 

 

 

Building a Caravan – The Walls and What Goes Within

caravan, DIY, Project

Parts one and two of this project are here: #1#2

So, now we have acquired most of the stuff, so much so, that we have been able to start the actual building of this thing.

In the midway of April, with Waffle’s dad’s determined leadership the walls begun to rise. The walls obviously are the biggest and most visible part of the whole thing, and do require quite some time to get perfectly right.

We started with the outer wood structure at the front and carried on to measure and cut the sides.  The curve was calculated so, that the straight part of the wall would reach 70 cm of height, which would guarantee useful inner space as well as functional aerodynamics. To the sidewalls we got the profile of the curve simply by estimating the length of the straight part of the roof and then pending the flexible plywood between the point of 70 cm of height in the front and the ending point of the straight roof at 250 cm. Waffle had drawn sketches too, to give direction to the desired shape.

The holes for the windows were cut too. The positioning was thoroughly considered in relation to the TV and the sitting position and bed location.

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This is how we ended up with a wobbly structure of a front panel and two side walls. At this point I think it is rather acceptable to fall into despair and tell yourself that you are worthless and your great plans will never become reality.

After the sudden drop of confidence we gathered our minds and pursued our dreams again. Some screws and supporting skeletal structures later the walls stood up in a lot sturdier fashion.

Especially the curving part is well supported, since the bendable plywood is relatively skinny. There we used the skeleton studs as separators, so the space between each stud is 4,4 cm.  They are directly screwed onto the outer walls, from each end.  For the roof part, the studs stand about 25 – 30 cm apart. On top of that structure we placed another plywood, 15 mm in thickness to serve as the roof.

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The walls are studded lengthwise, again each horizontal stud is about 25 – 30 cm from another. In between them there are vertical bars to ensure stability,  the window hole is supported of course too.

At this point we needed to stop and think through the electricity installation. We needed to drill holes for all the cabling in the studs, so that the wires would be nicely hidden behind the insulation and the inner walling. Before putting in the said insulation and inner walls.

First of all there is the charge controller which regulates the power input from the solar panels on the roof to either the battery, or the appliances and lighting. We will install a set of witches for lights, and a few sockets charging batteries and for things like TV and fridge (or well, a cool box). Maybe also a main switch to cut off all the load from the system, just in case.

Followed a mission of drilling, passing wires and re-drilling and passing wires again. After that we had a mess; wires and cables running through the floor and the ceiling into walls and out of them. At that point we learned the importance of labeling, and counting.

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You see, if you don’t check which wire ends where you’ll end up with a total mess once the inner wall comes up and you can’t follow the length of the wire anymore. C’est du caca. Also you want to make sure, that all the wires that leave from the charge controller and switches, come out of the wall in the appropriate place too. Otherwise C’est encore du caca. After all the labeling and follow up on wires was done, we finally got all the mineral wool insulation (4 cm thick wool plates) in place and screwed the inner walls tight.

Getting it all right took about 4 reruns. There was every time something wrong,  wrong cables in wrong places, cables missing etc. We even noticed at the last minute, that the cables from the solar panels to the charge controller were not sufficient. You need cable made especially for solar panels.

Now we have an insulated wooden box in our hands, spewing wires out of its walls. The next steps will be mounting the interior. So structures for bed, cupboards and so on. And of course finishing the outer side of it, caulk the screw holes and seams, get the aluminium, mount the solar panels, make a door, give it a name etc. More on these things later!