Our First Holiday Wandering (Translation by Louise)
At the end of the summer of 1995 Tina and I decided to take a riders’ holiday of an exceptional kind. It would be exceptional because we wouldn’t just ride from station to station like people normally do. We would go our own way. Everybody in our stable had dreamed of such a trip, but no one had ever taken one. We didn’t want to just dream about such a thing. We wanted to do it. We didn’t want to take a car. We wanted to ride wild and free across the country on our horses like the Marlboro Man.
We put a lot of thought into this trip for many weeks before we actually took it. We felt this holiday must be well organized. We not only had to consider our own welfare, but the welfare of our boys, also. We had a lot of things to do before taking the trip. We had to make sure our boys were in tiptop condition. We coached them every day. We participated in every public trial our stable organized. We often went riding in the country in all kinds of weather. The boys needed to learn how to handle themselves safely in the country. Nando and Higgins had loads of fun and tackled the training with obedience and diligence.
We needed to find a destination we could ride to in one day’s time. It needed to be easy to get to so we wouldn’t get lost. Tina remembered that as a little girl she traveled to the Rosenhof from Issigheim to take a holiday there. When she described her memories to me, it was clear Issigheim would be our destination. But where was it located? After looking at a map for the location and phoning the owner, we found the Rosenhof still existed. Because this is a riding stable for children, we needed special permission to go there. It is extremely poplar with children. They love the ponies.
Issigheim is near Bruchköbel. It is a wide country with fields and farms. Here and there are little woods and villages. We dream of riding in nature away from city streets. We dream of the freedom of the Marlboro Man. Hessen is not America, but dreaming is allowed.
We decided to check out the place, so we drove to the Rosenhof. It is owned by the Family von Schwerdtner.They are an old aristocratic family from East Germany. The buildings are very old and have a nice aura. The main house, stables and extra houses are half-timbered houses in a U shaped arrangement. There is a little yard with a small lawn and cobblestone pavement. The main house has a small kitchen, and every day a good fairy cooks for the children. We think it is good that she does.
There are two big dining halls. There is a very big chimney in one of them. All the furniture reminds us of that in a castle. All over the walls are old pictures of horses and houses from the past and the ancestors, of course. You would think you were in Old England in a cottage. It was glorious, and we were pleased. The accommodations were simple and easy for children. The beds were the right height for them, and there were small baths and chairs and tables, etc.
The stable still has the old horseboxes (Stander). A long time ago, it was normal for the horse to stand in a box with his head connected to the wall with a chain just long enough for him to put his head in the feed trough. What luck that this is usually not true today. Family von Schwerdner is a very horse friendly family. The stable is simply great. But this is enough of this enthusiasm. Our boys each received a modern box with an open window so they could look out if they liked. The windows faced the sand ring where the children rode their ponies. For Nando and Higgins, it was very interesting.
On the way home we were very excited. We couldn’t stop chattering. We were also nervous. We made out a list of things to do and put all the things we could think of on it, such as what we needed to take with us and what we could find on the way so that there would be no need to pack it. We didn’t want to pack so much we would be uncomfortable taking it. Did we plan to pack everything on the horses? No, cars are a practical invention. During planning we must have phoned each other a thousand times. We had new ideas all the time. Our bosses were a little bit angry. Tina's boss yelled at me one time, "Do you have nothing to do?" Mine was a whole lot nicer.
Soon it was almost time for the trip. On the evening before the day of departure, we packed our baggage in two cars and drove the cars to Issigheim. There we left the baggage and one car and drove back home. Upon arriving back, we packed the horses’ utensils for the next day. We were almost ready to go. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so nervous. Tina can always sleep, even through a bomb going off.
The big day arrived. Early in the morning we met at Tina’s apartment and put on our western style clothes. We wanted it to look real. We looked for the thousandth time at the map. We were tired before we started because we were so nervous. Upon arriving at the stable, we welcomed our boys and gave them some tidbits. We cleaned and saddled them. After packing our saddlebags, we took some photos. We checked everything for the X time to make sure we had forgotten nothing. Then it was time to go! The stable owner of the Family Rahn said goodbye to us and wished us luck, and we were off! By now, we weren’t tired anymore. Those feelings had flown away and left us with a nervous tingling in our stomachs.
We left the village Burg-Grafenrode and rode in the direction of Kaichen across the fields over long hills. We took a good, long look at the countryside. We looked back and could see the Taunus (big hills in Hessen). That was behind us. After climbing a hill, we rested and drank some whisky from our hip flasks. Even Higgins and Nando looked over the countryside with interest. We had the feeling they knew this was a special day. The weather was wonderful. The sun was shining and it was not too hot at 10 o’clock in the morning. We were free to follow our noses. It was a great feeling!
As we crossed Kaichen, I became aware of the street up ahead. There was not much traffic, but I hadn’t had much contact with cars while riding a horse. I felt that a formula one-racecar driver was driving every car that passed. Tina could tell I was afraid and said, Nando is a secure horse.” That calmed me down. And there was really no incident.
We left the village behind us and rode over the fields in the direction of Naumburg. That’s a castle on a hill with a café in it. The hill is a long, wooded one. Bordering this hill and a train rail is a marshy, grassy area from Erbstadt around the hill until Heldenbergen. At the foot of the hill directly below the castle is an old mill. It no longer works. People live in it. It is a very nice half-timbered house. It is very picturesque.
After leaving here, we trotted in the direction of Heldenbergen. We rode through brush next to a stream beside gardens to the next village. The route is shown on the map but, in reality, it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately this is completely normal in Germany. After finding our own way, we now had to find a way through the town. We knew we had to cross some railroad tracks, but how would we find them?
After crossing a new housing estate and going through the public streets, we found the railroad. After much searching, we found a way around the barrier. After looking right and left we turned left onto a small gravel road that had no cars on it at the moment. This road was directly beside the railroad. There were a few small trees and bushes, but the tracks were clear. What luck! We kept listening carefully for a train coming. We were naturally apprehensive. What would we do if a train did come? The horses had never been around one. This was not the time to test their reactions! Fortunately no train came. The horses were their usual selves, not nervous at all. In fact they were more interested in the grass on the verge than anything.
We needed to cross a federal road and go under a railway bridge. I felt very afraid when I thought of what could happen if something went wrong. But there was a flashing light for the cars and a speed limit of 50 km/h. Very good! Tina was very cool about the situation, I think the road was clear, so we crossed it and rode under the bridge. I let Tina and Higgins go first, then Nando and I followed. I felt safer this way.
We were riding on the right side of the road in the direction of traffic. The path was small and graveled, not paved. But there was plenty of room for us. The village ended right after the bridge, and the speed limit rose higher. Then the way is open to the next village. While we were still under the bridge a big white lorry suddenly came thundering upon us out of nowhere. Tina and Higgins were a little ahead of me. He had to see us (I’ve yet to see a blind driver). He got very close. There was only half a meter between Nando and I and the lorry. Just as he drew even, he gunned the motor. I thought he would surely kill us! The driver must have thought it was funny. Otherwise he would have driven normally. I certainly didn’t think it was funny. I had a hard time controlling Nando. Naturally he wanted to run away. With a rolling neck and a fast trot, he ran to Tina and Higgins. Fortunately there were some fields about 50 meters away. We rode there quickly and stopped.
It happened so quickly. All this time I’d been worried about the road, and a monster truck attacked us! I was really frightened. Tina did not seem fazed about it. A first, I scolded her loudly. She was totally cool and called me a ”road shitter” or ”scaredy cat” (in German: Straßenschisser). She said things would be fine, and I should calm down and drink some whisky. So I have a new name. From then on whenever we have to cross a road, she calls me ”Straßenschisser.” Since then, I have learned a lot and am much better.
Next we must cross a bigger stream (Nidder). The stream was approximately 5 meters wide and 50 centimeters deep. The banks of the stream were very high and steep. I could see no way to cross it. At first, we griped a lot. What were people thinking when they made this? It meant nothing to nature, but quite a lot to us who were faced with it. We finally made it across.
We had to go under another railway bridge in this next village. This bridge was crossways through this village. There were very high walls (15-20m) with big bows inside. The tracks were at the bottom of this. There was a very small concrete bridge to the other side. It was for the people here to use, but we thought it would be OK for us, too. We stood on the bridge and looked for a long time. There was a railing, but it was not at normal height. It was made of iron sticks with a distance of 15cm and 2 small connections and about 60-70 cm in height. It was about 2m to the water below. We thought it couldn’t be very safe. At best, the sticks were like lances. We could imagine seeing a drunken person going off the bridge. He’d have to make a line test beforehand; otherwise he would impale himself. This bridge was not very wide for a normal person let alone a horse. Imagine meeting someone coming the other way! We had to sit up with ”height placed stirrups” and traverse this bridge. We had spoken of some of the bad things that could happen when thankfully we made it across. They boys were very brave. We rewarded them.
The railroad we passed in Heldenbergen pursued a zigzag course. Sometimes we were over it and sometimes under it. Every time we passed under a bridge it was a thrilling experience. Actually several trains passed, but we were lucky not to be under a bridge when they did. The boys paid no attention. They were very cool. I think all the guardian angels in the world were looking after us.
Our stomachs had started rumbling by now. It was almost noon, and we needed to look for a place to picnic. It was only a short way from the railroad high over our heads to the next main street. There were trees along the way leading to a stable that sat on the right side of the road in the middle of the village. We thought to stop here, but didn’t like the looks of the place so continued on our way. So far we had traveled about a third of the way to our destination.
We took a steep stony path up a hill in the fields behind Windeggen-Heldenbergen and crossed under the last railroad bridge. After riding down the hill, we found a green meadow with juicy grass for our boys and apple trees. This was a very welcome sight. The panorama around the village was breathtaking. The Taunus was far away. The Naumburg was a small point, too. It was a bit dusty in the valley reducing all to a surrealistic scene.
We took off the saddles; put on the wander halters and let the boys graze from the marvelous grass. They were completely satisfied. So were we. There was no stress, no motor sounds except in the distance and marvelous nature smells. Grass, wild flowers and apple tress combine to make a heady perfume. After a short rest and lunch, we made to leave again. The boys loved the meadow so much they didn’t want to go. But they were well behaved and let us saddle up. We had the feeling they were as curious about the next step as we.
With the woods on the left and the maize fields on the right, we rode in the direction of Ostheim. The way was like a small corridor. The maize was so high we could see nothing, so we changed to a trot to pass it faster. The end of the ”corridor” opened out upon an amazing landscape. The fields were, for the most part, harvested. Gigantic balls of hay lay down the fields like a giant’s necklace ready to be taken up and worn. All the glory of summer’s colors was apparent. And the smells were wonderful. You could smell the hay and the woods.
Where were we now? We didn’t really know. Our maps weren’t very reliable. We just followed our noses down the field. After a while we saw, with astonishment, a gigantic farm. Upon coming closer, we see that there are all kinds of western horses. That led us to think we were on the edge of Ostheim. They boys were nervous of the other horses. We thought the other horses would welcome ours, but they didn’t seem to be interested. They were only interested in their own juicy grass in their corral.
So we rode on our way over hills and through valleys. Every time we came close to a village we avoided it and went around through the fields. Actually, there weren’t that many villages. We were in raptures. We felt it must be like America in the west to be out in the open like this with nothing around for miles. We could hear from very far away sounds from a fair and cars being driven on a country road, but it was no intrusion. We did have to cross a federal road, but there was no traffic. We couldn’t remember the day, but it was not important. We were on holiday, and time had no meaning.
Time passed and we kept riding. The fields were just more of the same with some greenery here and there. We kept looking for the right way to go. We were beginning to think we were lost. The boys were in good condition, and they were having fun. Now we were glad we had trained so diligently. We had been gone a long time. From time to time we changed our gait, and we had covered a great deal of ground. We stopped to look at our maps to see if we could figure out which way to go. We argued, but couldn’t decide which way to go. The boys just stood and looked at the grass. We gave them treats for being good because lovely babies need to be rewarded.
All this time we had been drinking from our hip flask. It was almost empty, and we were almost ”blue” drunk. Tina suddenly said, ”Now you can ride Higgins.” I was baffled. I couldn’t ride Higgins. I had been riding for almost two years and always on Nando. Higgins was completely different from Nando. He was younger and wilder. Besides I was used to riding Nando. Tina said, ”Ach, Higgins has been ridden so long he is not wild anymore. Besides, he is tired.” So I hopped on Higgins and the first thing he did was run away. It was crazy! I thought it was almost like being a beginner again. But my teacher, Jacqueline and Tina both say I am a natural. After a while I have had enough and want to ride my Nando again. He is soft as butter. Higgins is not. It was difficult to get him to stand still. But Tina yelled something at him, and he stopped abruptly. We each got on our own horses. Whew!! I had mixed feelings, but I was happy also. I had finally ridden another horse. Boy, that was exciting. I didn’t even have any effects from the alcohol afterwards.
It was afternoon by this time. The wind was blowing colder. The sun was not as warm. We still have a two-hour ride to reach Issigheim. Slowly the sun ran down the sky as we arrived at the last valley we must cross. It had been a very long day. Our muscles were burning. We dismounted and walked the rest of the way beside our horses. We practically had to drag Higgins. I have never seen him so tired.
When we arrived, we took our boys and put them in their new quarters. They looked very sad between the bars of the boxes. I suppose they were hoping to sleep in their own boxes at home. We gave them their fodder. That always makes them happy. They were satisfied. While they were eating, we looked around the stable. We found hay, but it was not of a quality we liked. We made a resolution to buy new hay the next day. What luck we had driven one of our cars here beforehand. That would make it much easier. We decided to go to our own quarters. Our bones were hurting after riding all day. We were staying in an adjoining building. We had to bring our baggage in. It was torture to going up the staircase. We moaned all the way. It was a job getting it done.
This was a day we would never forget. We sat down on the bed and thought about the day that had passed. It was a grandiose thing that we had accomplished. The country we had ridden through was awesome; our boys were with us, and we were almost one with them. Dreams had come true. It could be done, and we were proof. All was right with the world. It was unfortunate that there were roads. How beautiful nature would be without the works of man to sully her. But that’s enough dreaming.
We slept the sleep of the dead. It was very warm in our room, so we slept with the window open. If there were mosquitoes, they didn’t bother us; or we were so tired, we didn’t notice them. We awakened the next morning to a picturesque scene from our ivy- framed window upon the court. This was our first day in Issigheim.
We awoke feeling like old women. We were very stiff. We kept moaning about our aches and pains. But we quickly forgot them when we thought of our boys. That was the big question. What about our babies? Tina says that it is a pity if the horses have stiffness. After a quick wash and fresh clothes, we immediately ran to the stable to check on them. They seem to feel good. They welcomed us with a funny neigh, and Nando grew silent. We finished welcoming them and gave them breakfast. Then we went to find breakfast for ourselves. It was past breakfast time, but the good fairy gave us a delicious meal. During that we discussed what we’d like to do this day. One thing was clear. We would have to go riding so soreness would settle in the horses’ muscles. We didn’t want them to get sick.
So we prepared for our first ride in Issigheim. Nando didn’t like his puttee. He tried to bite it and get undressed. This horse always has some crazy idea in his mind. I have never seen a horse with so many ideas. The children there looked at us like we were aliens. There were a few new people, and they were very interested in us. They kept asking us if we were cowboys. We thought this was very funny.
The farm was in the middle of the village, and of course I (Straßenschisser) have my doubts about traversing it. That is nothing new. The doubts were unfounded. The people in the village were very horse friendly. My doubts soon vanished. Naturally you look around if you are on the back of a horse. I was lucky that all people are not like the lorry driver from the day before.
The ride around Issigheim was very nice, and the weather was great. We felt like path hunters scouting out a new path. We rode through fields and woods, and we all four had loads of fun together. We talked later about the ride being so beautiful. After the ride, we put our boys in a corral with apple trees in it. They were lucky. They had fresh grass and apple trees. What more could a horse want?
In the afternoon we went in search of more hay. In the next village in the direction of Bruchkobel, Roßbach, we found a farmer who had small bales of hay. We bought some of them. Normally the bales of hay in Germany are very big. We were lucky to find some small enough to put in our car. We packed the bales in Tina’s old Mercedes, ”Enzy,” and went back to our pets.
The days passed too fast. All four of us recovered well. Soon it was time to go home. Unfortunately the way home was not as interesting as the ride out. But it was s dream come true and one we still talk about and will probably talk about forever.