Kerstin and Twist
Why cross the river for water ? My friends asked me - why cant you find a horse in Sweden ? Why being so complicated ? But if I had not crossed the river I would never have met Twist.
After 30 years work in cities, Gothenburg and Stockholm, I decided to move to our family farm on the countryside in southern Sweden. This included forests in a rolling terrain to look after. I have two dogs which makes me company on my long walks, but I was missing a friend that could make it easier for me to get around in the sometimes quite difficult terrain. And make it more fun. I rode when I was young for quite many years, but got scared and stopped. I dont really know why I got scared but it was a ruff social environment in the stable and the only thing that mattered was tough riding. You never learned anything about horses or how to understand them or take care of them in the best way. And if you wanted to be with the horses more than during riding you where a sissy. It was a terrible place if you didnt like this. So I stopped going there. But in my fourties I started to go on longer riding tours with Icelandic horses mostly. And that was a totally different riding experience. You rode and walked outside in the nature and the horses was much more harmonic than the school horses that mostly walked, trotted or run round and round inside the riding house several hours every day.
Since I moved back to the countryside I have been thinking of horses more and more. The last year I started to ride and to drive sledge/harness two to three times every week in a nearby stable, on an Irish Tinker and two Northern Swedish horses. And Malyn, the woman who owns them, have a totally different view of horses and riding. It should be fun for both the horses and the humans. And I really enjoy it ! The horses are all cold blood and perfect companions for someone that is a bit afraid. And now I am much more confident. And I love it.
Last Christmas (2009) I was watching internet and looked at horses which I had done a lot the last year. And on Wikipedia (free encyclopedia) I found a new horse race that I have never seen before. Merens from France, which looked a bit like Fell or Dale pony from England. They wrote about them as calm, friendly and safe on foot by being used to walk around in the Pyrenées. The swedish cold blood are calm and friendly but a bit too clumsy to walk around in my area. And I searched on Google to read more. And the first place I opened was www.merens-ariege.com, the homepage of Christine and Jean-Louis Savignol at Haras Picard du Sant in Lasserre. And I liked it immediately. They spend a lots of time with every horse from they are born and the horses are living outside year around with summer pasture in the Pyrenées for 5 months every year. I saw a lots of other websites from other breeders too but I went back to Savignols all the time. And finally I contacted them.
Me and my niece Sinéad went down to Lasserre in May this year to meet merens horses for the first time in our life….
Sinéad living in London had horses when she was a teenager. And when she heared about my interest in merens she told me that as a young girl she had found a picture of a merens horse and had dreams about them for several years after that. So she was very curious of the trip too. And we were not disappointed when we came down. Jean-Louis and Christine were so sweet and helpful. And fun ! They spend a lots of time with us and we could spend a lots of time with the horses. These beautiful and friendly horses meet your heart immediately. We cuddled with the foals and the mares, and the young and the old, and last the big herd of the horses from three years and older. And in that herd was Twist. I had read and looked at pictures of him many times at the homepage. I don’t really know way I often ended up on his page. And in the pasture I saw him quickly. And he was so beautiful. And friendly. But only three years old. And just broken in (terrible word in English) both in riding and driving. And both Sinead and I thought that he perhaps was too young for me. But I still wanted to try to handle and ride/drive Twist and some of the other horses. And Jean-Louis was very patient and let us stay with the horses a lot.
It was amazing to ride and drive so young horses (3 to 6 years old) which had been ridden and driven so few times with long periods of freedom and pasture in between. They were so calm and confident. And young Twist was one of the coolest. Every morning before breakfast I was down with the horses and Twist was always there to be cuddled and played with. The last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I had become fond of Twist. But he was so young. Could I, with my limited experience take care of a three years old gelding ? What would happen in Sweden ? He had live in Lasserre his whole life, would he be as calm and feel safe with me in Sweden. The other horses were fantastic too. But Twist was, and is, special.
The next morning I asked if I could ride Twist and two of the other horses again (we always rode three, one for me, one for Sinead and one for Jean-Louis and then we switched). When Jean-Louis visits the horses they all come and meet him. He is the head and daddy for all of the horses. And when we went down to fetch them I desided : I have chosen Twist, if he chooses me I will ask Jean-Louis to buy him. And to my luck, big surprise and happiness Twist walked towards me…and the choice was made. And Jean-Louis and Christine said yes ! They said it was the best choise I have made, and perhaps the only one they had agreed in.
That evening Sinead and I left Lasserre and France. I felt very calm and very happy. And the next days in Sweden I started to check the procedures to import a horse. And since we are member of the EU it is not so complicated nowadays. And Jean-Louis and Chistine has experience in selling and sending horses to other European countries. No one to Scandinavia before though. And they are using an English horse transportation business which they trust and which is carrying race horses up to Scandinavia on a regular basis.
And only two weeks after we left France, little Twist were starting his long journey up to his new home in the forests and my farm Granhult (“spruse glade”) in southern Sweden. 6 days later and 2800 km further he arrived at my friends farm 10 km from my own. I wasn’t ready with the pasture fields yet so he had to stay there for a couple of weeks. Malyn has the three cold blood I have ridden the last year and they are nice and calm horses of Tinker and North Swedish origin.
Twist was staying in his own field the first days. The other horses were in the adjacent field so he could see them and they him. He was tired and needed to rest, but was still surprisingly alert. I was with him nearly all the time except for a couple of ours I went out with my two dogs. And after a day we let the mare, Memory 27 years old and very wise, join him. She uses to be like a mother to younger horses. But after only a minute with Twist she fell in love, she was on heat ! According to Malyn she had never seen her so hot (she has been with Malyn in 23 years). And young Twist, who as a young gelding probably never been so close to a hot mare, got very happy ! They had some amoureuse hours before we separated them. Twist cried. And Memory too. But then we introduced the two geldings, of which one is quite tough. After the first ceremony Twist got his former younger position back and I think he felt a bit released. He is a bit too young to have the role as the big stallion. But it was so interesting to se the social behaviour of the horses. Twist has natural social skills as he has grown up in a large herd. And the other horses could easily tell him what was acceptable and what was not. And he listened. Even though he tried to sneak over to Memory now and then when the two geldings where sleeping or resting, he quickly got back to his position when they told him. They actually split up the guarding of Memory and Twist. One guarded Twist and the other one Memory. And after some days her heat period was over (even though Twist tried to get her attention now and then after that too).
After two weeks at my friends farm Twist and I made our own mini-transhumance the 10 km to my home and the now readymade fields there. Two neighbour horses were already there since a couple of days. One “Gotland russ” (pony from the Swedish Iceland Gotland) and one Fjording (a Norwegian pony). I didn’t want to put him in a trailer again as I wanted him to understand that we didn’t went so far this time. Twist and I rode and walked the distance in 4 hours with cosy grazing and coffee brakes at two places. He came with me without hesitation and he was very curious of everything we met. Cows, other horses, people, dogs. But never scared. And cars, trailers, tractors and busses are no problem. He is just a fantastic horse.
And now since the last two weeks he is living here with me, my dogs and the other two horses. He has two really sweet fiends. The fjording Ellie is very fond of him (but fortunately not hot). And the fields are right outside my garden so I have direct contact with him when I am at home. We are making walks in the forest and he likes that very much. Much better than walking on asphalt or gravel. We ride shorter tours now and then. And we cuddle a lot. I am so happy and grateful that I have found him and that he had such a nice childhood with Christine and Jean-Louis and all the merens horses in Lasserre. The hoofer who was here some days ago and looked at his hoofs (he is trained in US on shoeless horses and how to shoe these horses when it is necessary) said Twist is a dream for hoofers, not only because he has such nice hoofs but mostly because he is such a nice and lovely horse. And for me he is just the best there is. My lovely little Twist.
1er HIVER SUEDOIS ( ça a l’air super...je m’éclate..)