This week I experienced the world on horseback. We spent an amazing five days in the Southern part of the Czech Republic, which is called Moravia. Moravian’s feel themselves distinct from Czechs and have their own cultural identity.
We stayed in the Karolina Stables – Stáj Karolína. The stables were named after the owner Tom’s daughter Karolina. Initially it was my mother who started being interested in the sport and went to the stables for the first time last year. She said she was really scared of horses then and was almost paralysed with fear when she sat on a horse or when she had to go near a horse. After a week spent at the Karolina Stables, she started taking horse-riding lessons in London.
I was glad my mum had found a hobby that she enjoyed, but I had no desire to join in. I thought it’s too expensive to take lessons and I don’t want to risk being injured while horse-riding so it was a no- brainer for me, I would definitely not be learning how to ride horses.
Then my mum had paid for me to have a horse riding lesson in London for my birthday. I went along, but even after the lesson, where I managed to do a bit of trotting, I thought yeah it’s fine, but I don’t really want to do it.
Then my mum suggested that this summer we go and stay at the Karolina Stables together. I agreed, but I wanted to stay for a maximum of three days and even that seemed like too much.
The first day we just went for a walk on the horse and I began to learn the Western style of riding, which is apparently easier than the English style and also more comfortable. I slowly began to feel in control of the horses and I stopped being afraid of them.
The second day, we started trotting more and the third day we tried the canter, which is faster then a trot but not as fast as galloping. As I became better and better at controlling the horses and learning the techniques of the trot and canter, I became more confident as the horses responded to my commands and they were so well trained that they did everything as they were told.I was hooked. Instead of one hour a day we took two hours a day of lessons and instead of three days we stayed for five, and next time vowed to come for at least an entire week.
I came to know the horses names and rode on a few of them so I got to know how they behaved. I learned the differences between Arab horses and Czech Warmblood horses and learned how to approach Doliver the horse that I most often used. He was great when you were riding on him, but had a reputation for occasionally trying to bit people when you approached. I gave him water and food and patted him every time he listened correctly to my commands and by the end he was putty in my hands, or that’s what I like to think anyway.
The horses at the stable were impeccably looked after and the owners treated them amazingly well. The horses took turns in being used for lessons and had regular breaks with a few days here and there to spend in the field just relaxing with the rest of the herd.
As well as riding on the horses, we had to feed them, brush them and take off their saddles and bridles. At first I didn’t want to do this at all, and was scared the horse would kick me or bite me, but the horses were great and would never intentionally harm anyone.
The owners Tom and his wife Pavlina great people. They run the stables together, with their two daughters and many helpers. Pavlina prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day and the vibe in the entire place is welcoming and friendly.
As well as running the stables Tom and Pavlina and one of their daughters have won a number of Czech horse riding competitions. Tom used to be professional jockey and his daughter Karolina started riding a horse as soon as she could walk. This year Karolina won first place in the National Horse Competition for endurance and Pavlina came second, which is amazing considering Pavlina only started horse riding at the age of 32.
Tom told us about his experiences as a professional jockey and about the corruption that is common in the world of racing. He also told us about his friend who went a poorer country in the hope of learning something new about horse riding, only to find out that the treatment of horses there was appalling and came back upset and disappointed. The horses there were made to run through all different types of dangerous terrain and if they sprained their ankle or broke their leg, they were killed and eaten for supper. At night the horses were tied by their foot around a wooden stick. Sometimes they would twist their leg and sprain their ankle overnight and if they did they were also shot.
The horses at the Karolina Stables were so cared for and loved that they should definitely consider themselves lucky. As Tom said to us ‘a horse has so many great possibilities, but his only disadvantage is that he can’t choose his owner.’ A horse also can tell a person’s personality. If the horse senses that a person is evil, then he won’t allow him to come near. Horses are very intelligent animals, and I realised that they respond to commands almost telepathically. Sometimes just shouting the word ‘trot’ is enough to make the start trotting and the Czech word for stopping would make them stop by themselves.
It would be possible to expand the stables, which currently have about 23 horses. But the owners do not want this, as if it got any bigger it would become too commercialised and the family and friendly atmosphere as well as satisfaction from running the place would disappear. Now they all know their horses and spend time with all of them, but if the stables got any bigger this would not be possible.
As we went for our last ride early on the last morning, I was sad to be leaving the stables. I said goodbye to the people, horses and beautiful countryside and drove to the airport to catch a plane back to a completely different world – London.
I have to say it was a great experience, and I have now began to understand how some people really devote their lives to horses. The owners of this stable, have no holidays and no weekends. But they love working with the horses and getting to know the people that go there and also the prestige and excitement that comes from competing and winning in races.
It’s a rewarding lifestyle and although I am not prepared to devote my life to horses, I would definitely like to continue this hobby in the future.
So to end with, I wish you lots of new experiences in your life. Sometimes if you are open to unexpected opportunities it can lead to new and exciting hobbies and adventures.