I have never had much to do with horses before. Ellen and I grew up on a farm, but we never raised large animals like cows or horses. Our mum wasn’t fond of any animal large enough to cause serious damage if it lost control, and besides, we were enchanted by the sweet dispositions of goats and pigs. I never felt as if I missed out by not going through the typical teenage girl’s love affair with horses. When we got to this farm, though, we were pleased to note that they had horses here – we could learn more about these popular animals and see what we’d been missing.

That’s what we said when we arrived, anyway. Seven weeks went by before either Ellen or I did more than throw the occasional bucket of food at the farm’s two mares and single foal. They’re pretty enough, but they don’t really do anything. The white horse likes people, and comes running over if you have a bucket of food handy, but the mother and foal mostly keep their distance, and the mother flicks her ears back and stamps her hooves if we even look in her direction. A few volunteers have ridden the horses once or twice in the time we’ve been here, and a couple of times we’ve used them for hauling wood, but most of the time the horses are grazing in the neighbour’s field, and we leave them alone.

Last week, however, a volunteer arrived with experience training horses, and in the last few days I’ve finally had a chance to work with them. In two days, we’ve gone from having to chase the horses around the field to being able to put a halter on without a fuss. Gaëlle showed me how to approach a shy horse without startling it, and I’ve started keeping a supply of horse food in my pockets just in case. I’ve practiced training the horses to walk and stop on command, and I have learned how to tie the horse safely and how a halter works. Learning skills like this, with improvement coming in leaps and bounds, is incredibly rewarding. My confidence with the horses is increasing every day. I’m no longer keeping an eye on their feet apprehensively and wondering if they’re going to kick me – instead, I’m aware of their ears and their mood, and I feel calm and in charge when working with them. I still have a lot to learn, including basics like how to put a saddle on a horse, and I haven’t ridden one in recent memory, but horses are no longer a foreign animal to me. Yet another lesson I’ve learned on vacation that I’d never have thought to seek out on my own.

Mama and baby horse, now willing to approach me.

Mama and baby horse, now willing to approach me.

Baby horse eating out of my hand

Baby horse eating out of my hand

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