Vous êtes ici : Accueil > 4-Nos #Weekendathèmes > Week end TRANSHUMANCE MERENS 31 au 2 juin 2024 Lasserre- Etang de Lers " (…) > What A storry..AMAZING...from a "SCOTISCH FARMER GIRL" and UBLOT de LASSERRE
Publié : 2 juillet 2017


  • Transhumance full story

🍀Part one....🍀

The transhumance .... 50 black Merens horses herded back up to the Pyrenee mountains through villages, towns, castle grounds, forests,roman roads and terrifying 200metre tunnels ... where all you can see is the Black of your own pupil.
All you can hear is the lead horses bells and hooves the high pitched long shrill of Jean- Louis...whistling to call the horses to him.
So you all wondered where I was !!
Jean- Louis and Christine Savignol have the most amazing breed of Merens horses.

These horses begin their creation in the womb of their mothers being spoken to by Christine’s soft French voice. 
Christine tells me by the time they are born she and the foal are bonded by voice and heart... 
what I’ve seen... felt and experienced on the transhumance is beyond belief.
This family of French horseman are particularly special. Their herd are their children in every sense of the wor
The story began ... each human seeking to join this experience was asked to go and ’be’ with the herd and wait.... 
wait for the horse to chose its human. 

Christine says when the horse chooses the human the horse will chose from the heart ... these Horses Christine explains, know more about the human than the human knows themselves.

Christine goes on to say this horse decides who needs their help, their courage, and their heart. 
And when they decide ...there will be nothing they will not do for this human...

Vanessa Overton and I arrived late missing the first three days of connection...we missed the chance to allow the herd to chose us.... or so we thought.. 
yet they had already ...they had waited for us. They knew...

Two small black powerful horses had waited for us to arrive.. and they made their choice clear.
UBLOT was his name... he was open ..kind easy, generous and very willing.. he almost skipped along my side.
UBLOT... I was told means portal...a way through or the round window of a ship..
We instantly knew each other well, like old friends.
A day of gentle getting to know each other at liberty. A trial ride together... the placement of his gold ribbon in his mane so that I could find him quickly amongst the herd in the days that followed.

yet more ways of the herd where shared with us.. always ask your horse for permission.. show him the saddle the head collar always ask first, seek and ask from your heart. 
A very different way to ask for their feet... pick up by twisting gently the chestnuts... remember these horses... some of them have not been touched for at the least 6 months... some not ridden for a number of years... after this initial way, Eblu lifted his feet without even needing this. And I was happier I didn’t like this way but very effective for this herd. This is the way they are taught.
Plans and stratgergies were drawn... 
guides of what may or may not happen in the days ahead. It was to be the experience of a life time and this was just the breath of what was to come.
Then gathering of the herd..
To be continued... xxxx

🍀Part two....🍀

The transhumance .... 50 black Merens horses herded back up to the Pyrenee mountains through villages, towns, castle grounds, forests,roman roads and terrifying 200metre tunnels ...

Antisapation !!!

Up early ...a real excitement in the air ...
The statergies of this journey ahead rushing through my mind.
Our tack all preselected from the trial ride ready and eager to be placed on the Meren horses...

My heart beat strong and steady... as each brush of the mane tail to honour my horse UBLOT.... he will be on display to many many people today, his breed, this herd should be proud and dignified. Each brush stroke feels so important.

UBLOT and the other horses ’know they Go !!’

Jean- Louis checks each horse he barks I’m checking you ...do your horses proud...
He lifts each tail and checks under manes for missed brushing, does a tack safety check.
We are joined by the professional riders too..

Benji .. Hesther and Bernard.

Benji an amazing women of much knowledge teaches equation in Paris has backed every horse we ride... each Meren has to be ridden at three years old and must complete a registration test like no other breed ... the French national stud asks that each Meren horse has to complete a dressage test walk trot canter ...complete a cross country and be able to be calm in a shying test where they are often asked to go through streamers over seasaw bridge and jumped over fallen logs all ridden ... if they fail they cannot be registered... often after this test they go to the mountains to mature some are taught to drive carriages too.. 

Benji always stays calm and has a wicked wink x

Hesther .....a very tall strong ex hockey player at very high level .. fit enough to leap off her horse... run 50 metres through thick grass ... halter a wayward herd member .... run back to her horse trained to stand even when the herd is leaving ... leaps up and gallops forward, in less time than it would take me to get on my horse.....a formidable women indeed, when she spoke you listened... as Vanessa later said .... you listened so well you forgot your own name .. formidable and yet so supportive.
Nothing ...no nothing was impossible for this women and her horse. She ... Hesther always led the retrieval of the break away herd members. Always at the back a brown mare not part of this herd, called Fanny ...she would cause trouble or decide to take another route ... Fanny became very notorious with our group...

Bernard a tall man quietly spoken always smiling always calm he was the rock securing our backs .. he’d BE the calm in all the storms to come a man of dignity a man to look to.

Of course Jean - Louis always joking always energetic ... his high pitched whistle penetrated even the sound of the city traffic ...one word from him to any horse trying to break ranks was enough they drop back ...he had to keep the herd moving at a pace to keep their concentration... too slow and the herd became full of infighting bites kicks and position winning. Too fast ...the herd would ...’go !!!

We all mounted our Merens. Black shining proud we wore the breeders T shirts given to us the night before.. we were ready !!

We wait at the village centre..... the sounds of bells and horses feet in regular trot comes louder and louder our steads beneath us grow in size the herd appears lead by Jean- Louis whistlining and calling... allez !!! 
we begin...

To be continued... xxxx

Laura Williams looking at us followed by Hesther, Simone, Anka, Vanessa Overton
Following picture Bernard.

🍀 Part three... the transhumance 50 Black Meren Horses herded up the Pyrenees mountains.

Jean-Louis ...calls allez !!... the whistle now drowned by the sound of bells on the lead horses necks.. all 50 trotting ...this power the power of the herd...

We gently pick up the rear staying back enough so not to push the herd out of their relaxed rhythmic jog...

Villagers are out in the gardens and standing in driveways smiling and waving .. Bonjour bonjour !!!
UBLOT felt proud, such a soft jog trot so comfortable I could just sit this forever...
Another village, then a lane, more open fields either side .. the preparation by the support team is incredible... ropes span gaps and people fill open lanes... we jog forward.s on and on.
A mare relaxes to a stop and grazes the verge, she’s a little too relaxed ... we close in on her and push her on .. she catches up ... then stops again to grab at the lush verge grass... then realises the herd is way to far from her and leaps forward...the WRONG SIDE OF THE HEDGEROW !!!.... now she sees she in a field and cannot see the herd so she breaks to a canter to run and catch up... there’s no break in the hedge or fence to get back to her herd ... she panicking and thinking about breaking through...
Hesther leaps off her horse tells the horse to stay and runs through the thick hay crop taking a wide circle around the lost mare...she’s a rope headcollar in her hand and she scoops up the fast trotting mare secures the headcollar and leaps back to her waiting horse ...we are at the rear stoped and holding station mesmerised by her ability... all of us watch In Disbelief.... I feel breathless just looking at what she’s just done, a 50 metre run and then back leapt on her horse cantered off with mare in tow back to the herd where she losses off the mare to join upagain with her herd.
We jog to secure the rear... and all of us are chattering excitedly about Hesther’s power.

No sooner have we settled to this jog and relaxed, than half a dozen horses leap up the leafy embankment some 8 ...10 feet above us to the left where they then break through a gap in the rope to enter another large field this one isn’t so tall in grass, they run up the hedge line ..they think they can join the herd again below.... they are wrong !...there’s a barbed wire fence and small hedgerow to greet them they try to push through jumping and jostling... 

the cavalry appear ...Hesther and Benji together ...they try to gently push the half dozen breakers from the fence the opposite way back to the opening where they broke in... there’s no way the herd will turn away from the path of their herd leaders lower down on the road.... now well ahead of them ...

We all shout ...woooooooha !!!

Jean-Louis has seen what’s happening and shouts for us to block the road and stop... he turns the herd .. they come... all fast running towards us..

Jean-Louis leaps up the embankment his horse powering off like a gazelle, followed by his lead horses and the rest of the herd...he turns towards the breaker herd.. he doesn’t go too close his pace a slow trot until he’s along side them, may be about 60 ft from them .....then....then... he calls his lead horses with the bells and takes of at canter then curls to the left in a slow circle ... little by little all the herd join back a snake of power a pounding galloping sinuous snake of black.. 

Jean-Louis horses neck is now in a straight line with its tail ..faster and faster curling round towards the way they came in ...Jean standing in his stirrups in gallop swinging his rope high in his right hand ... whistling and calling his herd, he doesn’t slow but leaps down the embankment followed by 50 pulsing galloping leaping black Meren horses.. his energy sucked them back in ... they had no time to think... no time to hesitate... this was the power of the herd....

Remember we none of us could take videos in these moments all you see is the resting points xxx

This spectacle will live with me until I die. One man one horse an his herd drawn together by the energy he created .. he kept them safe, together and in control.... now we could all breathe what a moment !!...

Many more villages past by and no more events like this thankfully. People hanging out of balconies and doors old and young smiling taking pictures... people at cafes raised their glasses and shouted Bonjour !!...
Trotting now in stone wall lined streets we could see our resting place...

The 11th century fountain.. where the herd could rest and drink.. 

we were given strick instructions to get to the fountain and keep it safe ..the Merens love the water and paw feverishly at the sides of this beautiful relic.. the hot thirsty horses drank and some tried to get in... a circle of people kept the herd safe in this area to drink and rest until the next stage of the journey to the castle grounds. The horses tired now entered the road way to the castle ground ... beautiful manacured gardens, trees and roses. 
The herd entered a closed off area of electric fence, a bale of hay rolled out ... the horses began to roll feverishly rubbing off their sweat and drinking from the old bath placed for their water.. we untacked brushed fed and checked our mounts before releasing them for the night in with the herd, the picnic was readied and we ate... later We were to have a massage and a jacuzzi ... then a five course meal in this gloriously welcoming place ... 

Such a surreal thing seeing a herd of black horses on manicured lawns .

What a evening meal ...woooow and so much excitement talking about what just happened on this first day.

To be continued...

💥🍀Part four 🍀💥

The transhumance .... 50 black Merens horses herded back up to the Pyrenee mountains through villages, towns, castle grounds, forests,roman roads and terrifying 200metre tunnels ...

Well... I woke at dawn still dark opened the window and hung out ... 
still raining, but oh my the sound of the chorus...

I decided to capture this.. this was the start of our second day of the transhumance ... 

we were to meet for breakfast ...talk stratergy, this was going to be a full on day. Traffic was going to be halted .. police and the super support team would block the roads through this large town.. we were told we may need to pull the herd into lay-bys and form the closed gate with our horses, keeping the herd safe and contained to allow traffic through.. 
we were also told we had four tunnels ... old railway line tunnels .. now a road, today blocked from traffic .. 
The second tunnel was to be the most challenging 200 metres long and absolutely no vision at all for us or our horses. 

We would probably face some impatient people trying to break through the blocks .. on no account were we to allow anyone by us as we’d lose the herd in this very busy town.

Eager to get on with it we got out to the park. The smell of clear fresh mist filled air, moistened our faces.. small drops of water trickled down our Merens black manes as we brushed and tacked up ... almost in silence.

The calm
After last nights storm.

There was a feeling of confidence .. a knowing now that our horses and us had to really pull out all the stops today to keep the herd safe.

Finally tacked up and girths pulled up gently for the third time, allowing time between for our horses to breathe.
We all linned up in a row ready for Jean- Louis to rouse the herd leaders together.

All the horses seemed to know.... they go !!!

Allez..allez !!!!! The bells and the herd merged together and followed Jean- Louis.

We followed ....... our horses excited side stepping ... moving forward and back, their heads alert and ears and eyes fixed on the herd in front in a wide line.

We Go !!!

As we reach the town the herd begins to join the wide road, we all see in ... horror ... the streets are filled..... I mean filled ! with what looks like hundreds of Lycra clad professional cyclist.. not only that but then followed by what was confirmed later to be 500 plus motor bikes.. 

no police to stop the traffic only one who gesticulated to Jean Louis to stop the herd and let the traffic go...

Well..... Jean- Louis
threw his hands in the air.... shouted in French you stop them my friend !!!!!

The herd was now pushing ahead of Jean Louis and he shouted back we have to go !!

The horses nervous ..... the hum and roar of the motor bikes.... threatening a break away of the horses, motor cars trying to drive through.... the odd motor bike trying to pass us on the pavements ... we scowled and waged our fingers and placed our horse in their way... they were not going to get past ... no !  No way !!

The herd would have run and now traffic was driving towards us as well... thankfully most pulled to the side smiled and took pictures of the herd weaving in an out of the traffic .... one spook and there could be damage at least to the vehicles..never mind the horses.

The cyclists finally turned to another route, our horses jogging and trotting sideways ... Hesther and Benji rushing to back us up.. threatening any motorbike or car trying to push through us.

The tension in the horses was palpable .. my hairs on my arm raised with the feeling of electricity the sound of 500 motor bikes following us, even though very slow.... their energy unsettled the herd .. 

Occasionally one of the herd breaking into a leap causing all those horses around to Join....

It seemed to go on and on the horses on edge and nothing feeling calm.

The lead girls Hesther and Benji shouted back to us ...Jean Louis will pull the herd into a boxed in area we need to form the wall to keep them there ... we must ....IMMEDIATELY.... get our horses nose to tail, an impenetrable line.
Vanessa and I were beckoned to join the lead ladies followed on by all the team.
The herd filtered into the box .... a warehouse with high mesh fences on two sides the building on the other ... right close to the side of this very busy road... we had to block around 20ft holding the herd whilst the many motorbikes and cars passed....

My god we held them ! ...

A spiral of moving agitated horses ... the occasional horse trying to break the line ... the loud hum of bikes going passed .... our horses passaging on the spot then standing solid and strong ...

UBLOT was challenged... a strong horse pushed him hard, he stood and bit the shoulder of this horse, I swung my rein, it backed off. We all of us did the same, each rider held the line.

Christine came into the lose herd contained by us. Placed a rope head collar on one and took this one out of the group ... this one couldn’t keep up ...not sure if lame or just old ... but this horse didn’t want to leave its herd to be loaded into a trailer ready in the road a head ... minutes passed .... Christine tried calmly and tried again and again.... traffic sounds and the herd milling in there enclosure...
Christine, almost silent, calm, gentle ... her horse looking back to its herd... 
finally one foot up and a car rushes around the corner..... some how getting through the blocks ahead from the support team.. 
I held my breath and said Noooooo in my mind. 
But all was ok, the horse kept in and the tail gate closed just in the nick of time.
The feeling of energy was rising ... the pushing getting more and more intense. The herd had had enough, they were going to break through us at any moment.

Jean-Louis shouted we have to go !!!
And go the herd did.
We formed a line behind them preventing any traffic pushing through from the rear yet again ... still many many motorbikes following, now they were taking pictures of the herd and nodding to us when we gesticulated to them we needed them to back off.

Again we go on and on, the traffic causing a strong feeling of push...
Another stop was signalled
This time it was to be much harder, a lay by ... only one side protected, a long stretch to cover to keep the herd in .... the only consolation being the lush grass ... Merens love to EAT !!

Again we placed the herd and closed ranks around them. The herd grazed and relaxed a little for a moment whilst we grouped and blocked each individual attempt of the herd to break through our line.
Paulette and her horse had to protect two gaps either side of a pillon rushing one side then the other ... two horses broke through me and Eblu and Eblu spun with their force. We had held them for a long time.... too long.

Jean -Louis shouted do not move !!!!.... do not move !!!

We were trying... we all were trying .... the push of the herd coming stronger and stronger....

Then there’s a shout ...we go !!! ........ WE GO !! ....We go NOW !!

The herd released into a steady controlled trot.
On through the streets until another opportunity arises to pull the herd in ... 

One more time we pulled the herd onto a small playing field Vannesa and I were shouted ...come ... come !!!! We join the the pro girls.... 
Hestherhorse refused to move forward, she shouted at me go go....
we had to hurry ... the gap was up a steep embankment the signs and a car caused her horse to refuse to go .... UBLOT with much encouragement squeezed through ... I holding his mane... he leaped the embankment and held station quickly followed by Hesta and Vannesa... Heart racing the herd reached us fast and we turned them ... had to catch our breath now ... all three of us elated as we had stoped the herd.

More and more traffic passed...

Now the first tunnel insight ahead.

To be continued.... xxx

😮😮😮🍀Part five.🍀😮😮😮

The transhumance .... 50 black Merens horses herded back up to the Pyrenee mountains through villages, towns, castle grounds, forests,roman roads and terrifying 200metre tunnels ... where all you can see is the Black of your own pupil.

Now I see the enclosed area before the first tunnel... the light can be seen at the other end.... but the herd refuses to go...

We push ....Jean-Louis whistles and calls ... some go, some won’t !!

They spin and push at the wall of four horses another wall of four right behind us.
No amount of pushing will make these take the lead. They refuse to go into the tunnel.

Hesther goes through sucking in one or two, then three, then them all, we follow ... this was along time.. the main herd needs to be caught up with now ... we all trot frantically to catch up.

The next tunnel appears... black... so black there’s seems no end ... no light. No indication of what lies in wait inside this long 200 metre black hole...

The herd seem in their panic to catch up to enter this tunnel much more easily ....the light suddenly disappears ... I feel the cold air as the light drops and water dripping from the wall and ceiling.
Now I can see nothing... nothing but the black pupil of my eye...

The sound of echoing bells hooves and whistling.

we are told to keep silent !! Silent so the horses can hear Jean-Louis...

The herd need to hear their lead horses too or they may spin around, we won’t know it till they hit us..

Darkness endless darkness ... I feel UBLOT hesitant under me I touch his neck as was told to us... he now understands I’m with him too.. 

three four horses abreast as we entered and yet I look to my right and see nothing at all yet I hear they are there.

I’m against the left wall of the tunnel the horses are moving forward slowly and I bump into the bottoms of the herd in front resisting the dark...

Suddenly there’s a noise ... a horses hooves in a shadowy black flash... past UBLOT face, he’s knocked and steps back.. but manages to keep standing, there’s a struggle the horse is down.. she or he has fallen in a cut out in the side wall of the tunnel ... 
I can’t see anything I feel her face and then hooves then her shoulder I try to push her head in the direction of the exist but she’s terrrified and knocks both UBLOT and I back ... I try again to push and use my rein to force her butt towards the exit. I shout out to the others a horse is down and panicking she will run at you... I break the silence of voices...

She shoves past me and the others behind me too UBLOT stands for a second and we both fear we may fall into some hole.. there was no hole just a cut out for people to get out of the way of the train when it was used in days gone by..

I look back and still cannot see anything but I know Bernard is there to scoop any up that break back.
 My heart is racing and the pace gets faster now.. the blackness makes me see how much these horses underneath us trust us... encouraging UBLOT every step ..gooooood boy ... 

I hear a cupuffle behind and look back again trying to understand what’s happening then I bump again into the herd in front of me thinking for gods sake don’t kick ..please...

I can hardly bear this blackness any longer, I raise my hand to my face and cannot see it..

Just as I’m thinking when will this end I see a tiny light and see the shape of black horses running to the light.. the sound... the echos seemed to grow louder and louder.. or is that my heart ?

Then there’s light ....we made it we did it ! 

but I look back for the horse, fearing it to be injured.

I wait and finally all of us appear still no horse, still no Bernard... then he comes with the horse ..
No injury just looking exhausted.

The others come out...they are chattering fast at each other and many exhales and nods of the head... I ask what happened to the horse that broke through.. 
apparently she pushed through and Was retreved.
But there was talk of Gwen .. one of us.. she was wearing yellow flourencent head to toe waterproofs and her horse was scared by the retreating herd member .. she shot backwards ... back faster than anyone had ever seen and for some distance... 

Gwen had kept balance and stayed on ....woooow !!
We were all ok...

The other tunnels were easy ... could see the light, the horses now very tired didn’t put up an argument ..they kept together as a herd.

Finally we reached our stop ...a resting point... and boy did we need it.
Dismounted took the saddles off and released our horses to graze and chill with the herd.

The French beer came out ... the trailer tail gate with beautiful table cloth and such amazing food.. the talk was fast and excited ... we had much to say and share.
We ate well then gathered our steads for the last half of the days transhumance. 

The rain now getting heavier and heavier thunder booms and lightning.. rain now pouring down so heavy the roads were like shallow rivers.

 The pace fast ... then faster ... the herd eager to get to the next stop ... no slowing the herd now we have ..to Go !!!

Relentless fast trot how they didn’t canter I’ll never know, the rain hammering down on us and the horses, occasional slipping on the Tarmac roads.

I see the rain running down the saddle and like a rivulet flooding my boots.. slush slush, the sound of each rise to the fast fast trot. I was hot faced the horses were steaming.

Up up we twisted... up further ...no energy lost, no temper of speed .. we go ! We go !

I see a building ... I see our stop, the herd enter a paddock area and we slow to a jog then stop.

I’ve never ever experienced such endurance such power pushing up the steep hill roads... these Merens are truly breath taking.

We untacked... the rain still driving down, we feed and check our horses, then set them free with the herd again ...

now my teeth won’t stop chattering, the now cold soaked body shakes uncontrollably. 

We must have a French beer before we change... then a party and a meal in the open barn.... I snuck away for a second to the loo and pulled off my top clothes for a dry coat. That made just enough difference and I could stop shaking.

I looked around we were all the same all our waterproofs had failed us I think ... the tack now stacked on poles inside the open barn to hopefully dry and then the celebratery beer was in my hand...
What a day !...
The party was amazing so much laughter so much dancing we all shared a huge bunk bed for the night... maybe 8 on top 8 bellow still cold but now in dry clothes we slept on this huge futon in a massive bunk bed ... the snoring was very interesting ..he he. And in a shed clothes were never going to dry....😬😬
What would tomorrow bring ???
To be continued...... xxx❤️🙏🏻❤️

🍀🦋🍀 last day of transhumance 🍀🦋🍀

The rains still falling.. a rack of drying clothes hang in our ’bed’ shed... small pools of water beneath..

I line of butterfly chrysalis emerge from their cocoons ... rubbing their eyes and stretching out their arms.... not a great sleep but we are rested for our last ride on the transhumance.

Emerging slowly we climb down the lumps of wood steps on this bunk bed, quietly dress ...making our way out into the day, rain still falling but not so hard now.

We meet and sit ... check our saddles.. those waterproofs so wet still...fortunately brought extra but didn’t expect to have soaking boots inside..

When we are all together we sit at breakfast .. coffee steaming in our hands, we lean forward to her the briefing from Sean Louis...of what’s to come.

Silent we listen... Jean Louis says ’today we go..

This part is not the roads anymore, this is hard at the start... you must leave your horses to decide the route.. but your horse may forget your width or the tree over head so be aware be careful, concentrate.. do not try to change the horses route if at all possible..
We all nod ...we understand...

The next part is forest and then forest tracks and road at the end we will thank our horses with our hearts and thank them for keeping us safe...

Check your horses he says check for sores and lose shoes... he turns to me and says Kharon you bring UBLOT to me and I take his front shoes off..
I nod ... Eblu shoes have become increasingly lose over the past day ... been clenched up to continue, but now very lose again.

We all in a rumble of feet on the wood floor begin to find our rope bridles ... then enter the herd to find our black Meren partners..

Every one knows what to do now.. the silence in the rain, people all doing what they need to do... the trailers filled with the food and the wet saddle blankets replaced with dry ones .. cream applied to any sores... feet checked, horses tidied..

A few minor dramas as one horse pulls back on their rope spooking the whole line of horses all jumping back ... then composure again the rain steady but light.

The call to mount is given ... ’go back to the hut and face the mountain .. we take a picture of you all !’ Jean- Louis shouts.

Then we break off from this line one by one for our last sole picture with our beautiful strong black Merens horse.

I can feel UBLOT .. when he moves I’m with him totally .. we now seem to think as one. He stops when I think it and goes when it’s right for us...
I trust this horse ..I really trust him.

We wait as before ... the calls the whistles the bells the horses hooves.. this is our last day what will it bring..

Snaking around to our left a narrow path muddy and slippery ....we go.. jogging in places to catch up ... all of us careful, allowing our horses to chose where they place their feet. 

A narrow track of may be just over 2 ft wide falling steeply in places slippy wet mud and the occasional limestone rock to manoeuvre over, leaning back for the drops down a stage ... slipping but solid on our very careful horses..

The route then becomes full... full of these smooth round limestone cobbles still very narrow this path.

I think Hesther turns and says ’this is a very old track built by the Romans’ it has over the years washed down revealing the high lime stones sticking out proud .. I look down and see the spaces for hooves getting smaller and smaller ...concentration.. I feel it every where... the horses, the humans allowing their horses to chose their route, the occasional slip and the quick duck of the rider to miss the low branches. I lift my knee fast just before the dance of balance by Eblu smashes it into a tree trunk to my left.. being careful to not unbalance UBLOT .... his concentration must not be distracted.

Now there is a shear drop to our left the odd tree gives a feeling of protection but the slips make my heart leap.. I breathe and I trust ...

This is hard no places for horses feet I would not think this possible only the Merens horses say it is !!

The herd in front wind on and on and disappear around the corner then merge through trees in the forest above us ...high up on the trail ...

Up we go... down then up, climbing all the time steadily.. the back ends of the horses rippling pushing hard ... placing their feet against the sometimes 1ft high rocks ...clambering over ..pulling their bodies up ... 

riders silent... focused driven to not fall.

The herd again out of site... we see a tree that was hung up fallen across the path ... all the herd and Have got under but each horse has brushed it. Little by little the tree slid down ... now no one could go forward ... Hesther and Benji jump off their horses and try to lift it ...no ! ..it’s not moving... there no way back no way round...

What a foolish thought ...no way round ??

Hesther looks to the right and up... and up.. yes a vertical bank ...small fallen tree branches ... undergrowth and a low over hanging canopy.. half way up the bank the trunk of an oak tree ... 

I’m looking at what’s she thinking ... 
I shake my head .. thinking in my mind... not possible ... no they can’t make that.. it’s vertical wet lose mud... branches and at least a 25 ft climb..straight up !!

Well Both the girls and their horses show us how it’s done... scramble up hands pulling up on whatever you can grab the oak half way up and ask the horse to come ...let them go ... let them do it and focus on asking them to stop at the top..

One goes... heart in mouth.. she makes it.
The second goes ...slips a little... one trips on a fallen branch, heaves and pushes... she makes it too !
The horses stop at the top ... scooped up and thanked.. 
Each time it’s getting harder ...the bank slipping down, the things to grab now gone... the oak is my focus... I look at it ... claw myself up to it hold my arm around its trunk ... look down to UBLOT waiting for my invite... ’ come UBLOT COME !!

His power, his courage... he pushes, slips pushes, in a leap of black wet body mass, a huge sound of a grunt as he pushes again to reach the top.. he stops and looks for the horses then looks for me.. 
I grunt more than he ...he he ! ... pulling on anything to help me get to him.. I’m there ...I’m relieved ...I’m proud !
More to come... they have it harder each time ... I think Vanessa comes then the others ... Gwen last, she tells her horse to go up first ... we are ready to catch at the top ... she scrambles up the loose dark black soil branches and leaves ...she’s makes it...

Oh ...... but .... WHAT NOW ??
Shit !!! ..... we have to go back down the other side....
Gulp... there’s only a 2ft wide track to land on after this descent ... the other side of this fallen tree... bloody hell ...

’The horses can do this they do this all the time they will be fine just look after yourselves the girls say..’

True... the horses know.. and they GO !! ..

Slipping down... siting fully on their arses they slide down building speed up as they fall ... we grab the oak and draw their head round as they slide and one by one they are at the other side.. phuuuuuuuffffhh ... I exhale ... what brave horses.

I can see the shear drop, if they hadn’t stoped on this thin track of cobbles.. oh my...

Gwen comes last .. sets her horse free to descend, the ground goes from under her horse the soil now loose ... she’s coming down faster... too fast may be... she stabilises her body and leans hard on her bum to stop herself ... her horse now at the bottom but has placed a leg over the fallen rein loop ...she’s ok ... 

Gwen joins us in equally dramatic style as her horse ..we’re all down now, we have to mount quickly we’ve lost the herd... a short cut is found through the forest and paths .. 

Oh no.... not this... we see Hesther disappear then Bengil up a shale bank not quite as steep as the one we’ve just done but longer and lose footing..

Vanessa is ahead of me ... her horse in large bunny hops.. pounces up the shale, slipping back then leaping again .. A wire.. a fence wire whips around the horse and Vanessa ... I see the horse crouch ready to leap again ..I’m thinking cheese sliced horse and human now ... bloody hell... I’m swaring so much more in my mind ... two spins around them, Vanessa ... in milliseconds... reaches down to her horses chest... two big rotations around followed by the powerful leap from her horse....

 how did she do that ??? That wasn’t possible !!!

UBLOT doesn’t wait he’s on her arse. Powering up the shale which sounds like shards of metal sliding behind me to the path below...

We all make it and Vanessa ... my lord...

trotting fast in places now...we need to catch up with the herd...

Benji sees are tension .. 

we are focused ...making us stiffen ...

she says ’drop your reins’ ...we are in a fast climbing trot ... ’reach forward to the poll and stroke lightly the mane from head to wither in the rhythm of the trot’ ... slowly slowly we all do this ..

This creates and exhale in UBLOT and me we are breathing now ...free and easy... he relaxes and my shoulders drop, we are at one again... tension leaves and its beautiful.. the pace keeps steady, no reins just this rhythm.. stroke head to wither... slow and light.. I loved this moment where all was let go... 

we pass a farm the owner and a dog rushes out to see us .. we skate side ways from the dogs surprise arrival. But all is well.. then we hear the bells ... the herd emerges before us ...calm and wondering where we’ve been.

We count the herd in ... all there no one lost... 
we go on !

Twisting forest roads... climbing climbing and then the clearing where the herd is now slowing... stopping ... grazing.. 
The trailers are there ... the support team and we jump off the horses ...

We all find a place to let them pick at grass whilst we untack...

I lift the saddle flap of UBLOT. ...

This is the last time I will do this move ... 

this is the last time we go together....
this is the last time I will feel him in my heart. 

The emotions flooding now... I can’t see the girth leather anymore. I fumble and lift the saddle slowly off his steaming black body... the energy gone from my arms .. I have to slide it down my leg to the ground... tears creep from my eyes.. hot tears on in this wet mist... I here UBLOT sigh.

we are told ..
’take the ribbon from your horses ..don’t forget... then release them into the herd !’

I can’t see well ... tears falling fast and so hot.. 

I find his golden ribbon it’s deep within his thick wet mane... it won’t free easily .. just like me, it wants to stay with him...

I hold him .. I say thank you very silently a whisper, a breath, we exchange that soft breath...as the ribbon falls free ... I can’t hear anything, it’s as though the world has gone silent.. a rush of all the experiences flash through me .. 

I don’t want to say good bye...

I turn to walk him to his herd and unknot the rope bridle .. the hardest knot to untie of my life..

And he Goes he walks slowly to the herd.. I watch..
Tears and Im full of sobs now ... I can be heard by everyone in this light mist... this surreal fog .. like a dream ... then he turns. 
UBLOT walks back to me.. he stops just short of a touch ... looks at me then turns again to his family his herd.. I believe he said good bye...

Simone has seen me .. her eyes wet too we hold each other.. I can’t stop crying ..
I thank Jean Louis and Paulette and hug Vanessa still I cry...
Christine sees and she too has tears and we nod and smile ..a big snif and I compose myself and say I’m done with crying then I fall again into tears..

Hot wine is placed in our hands ... we look to the herd with so much admiration.

Then Jean shouts out for the last time.... WE GO !!

this time we don’t join them, the last part is not permitted for us to join.. but we can see them arrive some 20 minutes later at their destiny in the mountains by car..

All horses now become the complete family, the herd ! ... Jean Louis, Hesther, her daughter and Benji make the final trip ... 

I’m told this was the hardest last section ever in memory ... the rain making the climbs nearly impossible, the herd exhausted slipped back down father than getting up.. they needed a long rest before each effort ...the horses very tired now..

We pull up and within minutes the herd is seen a slow jog and trot with Jean Louis the girls following.
There home now ... this mountain is theirs for the summer. For all their lives..

To see them all like this together somehow made the sadness in me leave..
What better a life could these horses lead ??