Saturday, 25 September 2010

Romania Trail Ride May 2010

Sinca Noua, Equus Silvania

I was very excited after last year’s centre based ride and set off early Saturday morning arriving in Bucharest with a long wait till pick up time. I amused myself watching people arriving greeting each other and reading my Romanian dictionary. At 4.30 everyone had arrived, Susie, Christine and Roger from Switzerland and Gudrun from England. We had a much cooler journey to Equus Silvania than last year and maybe, just maybe, there were less potholes to avoid! On arrival we were shown to our rooms and then got to know each other over dinner. As usual we discussed our riding abilities and were told we would be assigned final horses in the morning.


In the morning we met our horses, were given a few guidelines about what would happen and set off on our journey. I was given Medea one of my mounts from last year so knew what to expect which is always comforting unless you like surprises!! We had some good canters with Christoph who was to lead the ride for the first three days followed by Barbara and backed up by Antoine- from France who spoke excellent English. The languages used this week were interesting – I was the only one who spoke no German and Susie was the only one who spoke no English so at time communication was limited – which was a pity. One of our party had a few control issues but luckily Medea and Kiruna at the back remained calm and we were glad of this.

Just when we had all settled down and enormous chestnut horse came charging towards us – he had pulled his tethering rope and metal fixing out of the ground and of course it was trailing behind him – we thought at one point he was a stallion but he then rushed off back to a mare and foal – we breathed a sigh of relief and then he came charging back again with his owner in hot pursuit – shouting at us or him! We finally crossed a river and shook him off. Later the day the immortal words “Do you not want to go any faster?” were used by Christoph as Kiruna was quite happy to stay near the back with a good distance between her and the next horse –Poor Antoine had the job of holding Apacs back to keep to our pace, but occasionally was allowed to come alongside Medea and Kiruna giving us some warp drive! We finally arrived at our destination Mandra and after washing down the horses we were treated to snacks and beer. Then on to our accommodation which was a short drive away. We laughed and laughed – Gudrun and I had the mothballs room with religious pictures and Christine and Susie had the hunters’ room with mounted horns and a stuffed pheasant and two freezers. The beds were probably early fold up beds but not too bad. We were then shown all the animals – rabbits, a buffalo calf, hunting dog and chickens by the proud children who also had a lamb they were rearing. We had a great meal with three soups, sausage and sauerkraut following by ice-cream all al fresco. The bathroom was through the kitchen and we had to use our very rudimentary Romanian and sign language to know if it was occupied. Even more hilarity was caused by going to the bathroom in the middle of the night as it seemed that Grandpa slept in the kitchen when there were guests, so pottering through in ones nightie I don’t know who was the more shocked!! To add to this I accidentally spilled water on my bed. Being a light sleeper there is always something to wake me up. This time it was the church bells at 6am (it was Pentecost) so I got up to see the cows being let out at 6.45am. We were all most touched that our hostess had cleaned all our boots overnight.


We treated some of the local children to a ride up the road. There was another loose horse taking rather a lot of interest in us but we passed with no incidents. Then we had to get off to negotiate a muddy ditch and most of the horses baulked at this so we were all milling around and I got too close to Mokka and got kicked on the knee. Soon were safely across and saw flocks of enormous grey herons. As it had virtually rained for the whole two weeks before we went, the ground in the valleys was sodden and we came across a large flooded area which we had to find a way round. We came to a submerged bridge and a helpful cow herder came to offer assistance. One problem was that Christoph’s horse (recently gelded) was new to the trail and not used to the difficulties. He tried various methods to test out the water and at one point nearly got tangled up in barbed wire. It was all very challenging and then someone decided to avoid getting his boots wet he would take them off and of course Silva was having nothing of this so chucked him off. Luckily he was able to continue as we were in the middle of no-where. Eventually we decided just to go for the middle route and I could tell that Medea was wondering what all the fuss was about – I tucked my legs up and was quite dry.

We crossed the very flooded Olt river by bridge and were joined by Daisy the dog who would not leave us till she had followed us all afternoon and had to be picked up by the owner’s friend! Another tethered stallion had to be avoided and our accommodation was found. This was a real treat in the old Saxon village of Ticusu Veche– a converted priest’s house and our German hostess the by now famous Lydia set out our welcoming drinks and snacks outside but it rained so we went indoors to her beautiful house. We ate there in the evening too and had a fabulous meal.


Up at 6am to read. We had a really good gallop today. We had our first real bad rain and hailstones so we dismounted and were very pleased to find that our stop that night had the heating on. It was at the Lutheran Church Guest House at Selistat next to a very beautiful medieval fortified church. All the ladies had to sleep in one dormitory, which was ok for one night. We had a simple but good meal and then someone mentioned table tennis so we entertained ourselves for a good while.


Up 6am to read and look at the village at dawn. Some of the hoses had rolled in very sticky mud so I helped with Kiruna who was caked in it, Medea having kept herself quite clean. Rode to Viscri today to get a dose of culture and history. We had a traditional Saxon meal accompanied by potent Palinka and then were shown our accommodation. Gudrun and I had one house to ourselves so I had the best night’s sleep as it was very quiet. Had a bit of a fight with the shower which was very hot. The Swiss ladies had the traditional beds that pull out of what looks like a big chest of drawers, which you have to climb into.


Got up to help feed the horses. Got to practice my Buna dimeata’s and Buna zia’s on the locals. While I was waiting in the cool morning air a stork flew so low above my head I could feel the down draft from its wings. It gathered up nest material and then flew back to its high up nest. It was amusing watching Medea and Silva trying to see over the fence to next door as noises indicated the horse there was being fed before they were. This was a half day rest for the horses while we explored the village and visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of Viscri’s fortified church. As there was a large coach party from Austria and I had seen the church last year I read my book outside the church enjoying the bird song and the warm sun. We had a picnic lunch by the horses and then rode to Jibert where we stayed in the cabin owned by the President of the local hunting society and with some real hunters staying there. We had a meal of cabbage rolls and it took a while to be served – some bizarre conversation was had that evening which I could not possibly do justice to in words!


The hunters left at 4am to go shooting – shots were heard at 6am but I didn’t see any results! Went to help feed horses at 7am – lots of cukoos! We left for our last day. We met the usual large groups of dogs doing their best to warn us away from their wooly charges, saw sheep milking sheds in the middle of nowhere and one particularly sorry looking village where we were warned the children might spook the horses – in fact all was peaceful. We arrived in Halmeag all too soon to find trailers and a BBQ waiting for us. After we cleaned up our mounts we ate lovely sausages and waited for our transport back to Sinca Noua. After cleaning up ourselves we had our last meal together and filled in the visitors book.

It is such a privilege to ride such superb horses over such superb countryside. Word cannot express the glory of the rolling hills. I made two new really good friends and the memory of our days together will always be fondly remembered.
Thanks to Gudrun Sharpley for the first two photographs.

2009 retrospective

I started 2009 with a trip to the New Forest. I had always meant to try riding here, as it is such a unique place. I felt that many of the riding establishments catered mainly for tourists but had my best ride from Burley Manor
I had a day ride here and met lots of nice people and had good long canters. However when I visited the area again in January 2010 I think it had changed hands and reports from other people I met were not so positive. Moving into Wiltshire I also was lucky to find Stockbridge Riding School. They specialise in lessons and livery so have a limited hacking program but although the ground was very hard and frosty we managed to hare around the lovely downs for one and a half hours

My “best find “for 2009 was Karecole Stables near East Linford. This was a newly opened premises run by Kerry Abernethy and I was lucky enough to get a two hour ride with just Kerry and myself. We covered some lovely open country – it was rather muddy but we had good fast canters. Kerry is just starting riding breaks for 2010 and is highly recommended.

I also re-visited Boltby Trekking Centre near Thirsk and found that they also do two day trail rides at very reasonable rates so that will be one for 2010.

Another recently opened centre was Stonetrail near Sedbergh.
They have lovely self-catering accommodation and nice horses and countryside so I will be visiting this again in 2010.

New Year 2010

Visited the New Forest again. A friend made last year in the New Forest recommended Arniss Farm, Godshill near Fordingbridge which I had discounted previously as it was much more expensive that everywhere else. I had a good ride and, as in most places, as a newcomer was made to feel welcome.

Rode at Groveley Riding Centre - as soon as I spoke to them on the phone I could tell they were nice and friendly. I went for a New Year Special 2 hour ride with bacon sandwiches after. I rode a delightful dun gelding, Dunlin but sadly we were not able to canter as the ground was very hard and frosty and there were about fifteen of us altogether which seemed a lot of riders. The food was excellent and I was made to feel very welcome. -

Then a repeat visit to Stockbridge – here, again I was very surprised at a large number going out together but it worked ok and we had some really good long canters

Not a holiday but a polo taster session has to be mentioned here. In June a group of us went to the White Rose Polo near Market Weighton
and were given superb hospitality – starting with champagne and strawberries we had lots of fun. We had a tour of the yard. Sessions with a short stick on foot, a full size stick from a wooden horse then we met our mounts and played tag to get a feel of them. Then after a practice we were let loose with a larger, softer ball to play a chukka. We all had a fantastic time.