Paulina Wydra of FreeGallop speaks from experience.
Fall and winter are twin sisters in Poland. Both like to play with snow and wind. Both tend to be wet or sunny or altogether depending on mood. St Hubert’s Day pretty much ends trail riding season and we are all left with short and playful day trips to the woods.
It’s a very good time to get our pictures and memories in order and start thinking of the next year’s trips. And just by looking at the pictures, I realized that there is an interesting mismatch between what we photograph and what stays in our memory. Why? Because it is hard to photograph while dealing with “oopsies” caused by laws of physics or simple human and horse nature. But aren’t these unfortunate moments the ones that usually bring huge smile on our faces as long as they did not happen to us?
Here is a handful of rules that may help you remain a spectator rather than a subject of these funny moments:
1. Are you incurable pedant and your horse’s hair always shines? Well… just let it go. Horses sleep outside and they love mud — especially in summer when there are armies of insects. Just make sure you know unique marks of your horse located close to its eyes (there is a chance the dirt is sparser there). That may help you find the right one in the morning and save you from cleaning all your friends’ horses before you identify yours! And when brushing… saddle, girth and bridle areas are fine. The rest… don’t bother. Your horse prefers it that way.
2. Are you a speed demon? Well, all trail horses are — especially when they see the meadows of the Bieszczady Mountains. But it is a risky game! Before you beat the guide’s horse with big triumphant smile on your face remember that it will cost you — 1 kg of carrots to the guide’s horse and a bottle of fine drink to the guide himself. This is the same cost as when you fall off your horse, so just better stay on its back!
3. A day of trail riding may be long and if the weather is warm then you may feel like you want just to dive in the first stream you come across. Hold on… your horse may feel exactly the same way! So once you enter the river and your horse starts to paw the water, don’t get hung up on how cute it is or you may find you’re about to have that longed-for bath!
4. The Bieszczady are mountains and mountains mean climbing and descending. Remember that you are on the back of an experienced trekker. So let it do its job and go along. While ascending, the steeper the mountain, the stronger you want to hug your horse’s neck. When descending, simply lean back and admire the space opening in front of you… or close your eyes like I did on my first trail!
5. For those who are slingshot fans there will be plenty of opportunities to apply its mechanics. Numerous thin beech and needle-leaved branches tend to provide a variety of sling-like opportunities. You just need to hold on to a branch you are passing by and then let it go just in time for it to smash your fellow rider behind you. It can become a real game and you can endlessly muster the power and accuracy. However, before you enter this war path, mind you may suddenly face such flying branches yourself.
6. Fashionista? Well, we wear helmets. For most of us, our head is the most precious part of our bodies. (I said most of us.) Therefore you want to protect it at all cost even if it looks funny! And it is not necessarily about falls (see rule no 2). Imagine galloping on mud or snow — you will see these big clods flying from under your friends’ horses’ hooves. They may have a very specific trajectory! I’m telling you.. a mud mask is a beauty treatment but only in a controlled environment — your helmet then becomes a real shield. And we won’t even mention those branches… (see rule no 5).
7. The last yet the most important rule is to enjoy the nature, breathtaking views, relationship with these amazing creatures, simple on-the-trail life, amazing food and complete reboot.
Join our trails in Bieszczady, Pieniny and Jura — the starting point is Krakow, the most popular destination in Poland.
Paulina Wydra co-owns FreeGallop, a company that organizes horseback riding trails in the Polish mountains of Bieszczady, Pieniny and in Krakow-Czestochowa Jura. For eight years, FreeGallop has delivered days of fantastic adventures to horse and nature lovers. They work with the best guides in Poland and their horses, all experienced trekkers. Learn more at FreeGallop’s website and follow them on Facebook.