Summer in the South of France

Life here on Matou is improvisation on all levels. And it is beautiful! Fortunately, at Hof Steigerwald in Ochtmannien we have had the experience several times of going round in circles when planning activities and to-dos, and then one or two times preferring to tackle a completely different project.

For example, we would like to build a composting toilet and have decided on a place. But there are still things there from the previous owners. Just put them to one side? That’s stupid, too, because then they’ll be standing around. So we need an empty cage so that we don’t have to pick it up ten times and Mario can move it somewhere else with his little red tractor if necessary. But there isn’t one free at the moment…so first we have to clear out the boxes…but what’s in them and where to put them? And when the box is finally filled with the things and you are already on the corner of the plot, you can immediately take the other things out of the shell and put them in the cage box as well.

Pony Amadeus looks at Mario with his red tractor, his herd and the mountain landscape of southern France
Pony Amadeus looks at Mario with his red tractor, his herd and the mountain landscape of southern France

Eventually, it will become a cosy living room or seminar room. Since almost everything is made of clay and ceramics, we need several boxes and upholstery material. It’s a pity, we recently made a tour to the rubbish dump and, full of relief that some of our stuff has finally found a place, disposed of cardboard boxes.

The deeper we get, the more unpleasant the smell becomes. It seems that rats lived there a long time ago. So we got the hoover, gloves, EM (Effective Microorganisms) to spray against the smell and cleaned everything thoroughly.

Window in the renovation area with beautiful view of the driveway of Le Matou
Window in the renovation area with beautiful view of the driveway of Le Matou

This photo sums it up wonderfully: The view out of the window unquestionably compensates for everything that still needs to be done “around it”! In addition to and during all our duties, we enjoy the feeling of living here in the south very much, have the support of an intern and can slowly do more with the ponies again, because the pressure of horseflies, deer lice and botflies is finally easing. Amadeus in particular needs training, he has lost weight and I hope that he will soon adapt well here and look better again.

Pony Amadeus and dog Jupiter in front of the sunset at Le Matou
Pony Amadeus and dog Jupiter in front of the sunset at Le Matou

A real highlight was also “Vendange a l’ancienne”, an event in Roubichoux, two kilometres away. Julie and Jean-Luc, who live there, are such great neighbours, they introduced us to some people, took us “newcomers” and another newcomer from Belgium to their table and in the afternoon showed us around the privately restored church and an old little fort.

I’m freshly back in Germany and that means saying goodbye to everything I’ve grown fond of in France for a whole month. I’m visiting our son, family, friends and giving some seminars.

If you also want to enter the world of positive training, I can highly recommend the Chicken Camp module 1 from 07 to 11 October 2022. This way of dealing with animals not only changes the way we interact with our beloved four-legged friends, it also has a positive effect on all areas of life. Especially in these times, focusing on the good is very beneficial and helpful for everyone.

Or are you already part of this world and want to deepen your knowledge? The Chicken Camp module 3 will take place from 19 to 23 October 2022 and there are still a few places available.

Feel free to contact me if you have already done these modules and would like to repeat them, because in this case you will receive a special offer! Just send an email to: info@steigerwald-t.de. Of course I’m also available for questions if you’re still not sure whether the modules are right for you. Take the plunge, it’s worth it!

The first month of realising the Steigerwald.The Dream

It still feels unreal, we haven’t quite arrived in our new home in the south of France yet, even though we have already experienced an incredible amount. But such a huge upheaval also takes a while to metabolise.

The ponies will feel the same way: Some things are much more grand, some are not. On the second day we started to take down the intermediate fences to give them more space, let them get closer to the house and give them access to bushes and trees. Now they have three hectares at their disposal for the time being. Unfortunately, one open stable is a good 150 metres away from the house, the second one as well and this one is not suitable for a hot summer because it has a beautiful view, but unfortunately it also faces south. I definitely miss the view of my darlings from the kitchen window.

We have cleared the back of the barn of old straw and junk and put up fly curtains and an old trampoline net at the front to give the ponies more protection from the sun and insects. The variety and quantity of flying parasites is incomparably higher here in the midst of nature than in the agricultural steppe of Lower Saxony. Horseflies, botflies and deer louse flies are our biggest nuisances at the moment. For the latter, I have already developed a good technique to grab and crack them. Not pretty, but effective. I’m always impressed how quickly the beasts crawl even further if you don’t get the head, but only the body. Wolfgang in particular is really stressed when he senses that another attack is imminent. Fortunately, so far there are no more than five per horse when I do my inspection and grooming rounds.

I use a special fair for the botfly. This works quite reliably to strip the eggs. I go into an area where the ponies never graze and scrape off all the eggs I can find. Luckily there is medical training, because how else are you going to scrape anything off the legs of a brake-ridden yearling on your own? Especially when everything is itchy and they are constantly scratching themselves anyway or trying to fend off the horseflies and flies with their mouths, it is better to regularly reduce the likelihood of ingested larvae. The time until “Father Christmas deworming” is quite long and as the saying goes: prevention is better than cure.

What I find impressive is that Elvis has by far the fewest spots and bumps. Is it because he still drinks at Freya’s? In any case, there are good reasons to look forward to autumn. Three times we made a short tour of the property, but there were too many horseflies to enjoy it in its entirety. Otherwise, it was a very uplifting feeling to be able to ride with the whole group on our own property with an exhilarating view. The first time on the big, upper pasture, the free ponies also gave good gas. I was so glad that Mario, on his bike as a border collie, drove everyone back together and in the right direction.

Because of the horseflies, I have hardly ever done any clicker training with the ponies. But La Vida, my princess, has given me serious grief twice: In the first week she had a pharyngeal blockage, I had no hang-up to call a vet, but with a watering can of water and vigorous rubbing, Mario and I were able to help her. In the second week she got -the vulture knows how- into the power fence and galloped off pulling several stakes. Fate again arranged it so that I was nearby and we were able to prevent the whole herd from going out to taste real freedom after the fright. Apart from two marks on her chest, where fur had not even been scraped off, La Vida was lucky here too.

So now and then some bobbing training. That was the plan. But in the video you can see that there are always several ponies crowding around the horse seesaws. The two 3-metre seesaws are behind the house, the other gymnastic equipment we have brought up the slope with Mario’s little red tractor. Even though I want to concentrate on my ponies during training, the view is much nicer. But until then, the horse brakes have to be removed and I have to build a partition. We are not yet ready for the others to wait patiently on their ground targets while only one of them gets fun, success and oats.

It feels like there are twenty things on the agenda at the same time, and the memory of the first time at Steigerwald Farm in Ochtmannien helps us to look at the unfinished projects with more composure. The first two weeks it was also extremely hot, it hasn’t rained here since May, everything is dry as a fart and you have to plan your daily schedule of activities well. And no, we didn’t end up in a forest fire area and the house is pleasantly cool. Even when it was 38 degrees outside, the thermometer didn’t rise above twenty-five degrees inside. We live with chaos, improvisation and plans that change daily.

Well camouflaged lizard in the greenery
Well camouflaged lizard in the greenery

The variety of living things is great: lizards galore, fat toads, praying mantises, bats, grasshoppers of every kind and crickets, dormice and wild boars we have already encountered. Also unique are the owls – or owls? – which add to the great atmosphere of this place at night with their calls. We have even had a touch of rain in the meantime and the first green blades of grass are coming up between the withered yellow.

A big downer is the poor internet and mobile phone reception. I gave my last two webinars from Chalabre, luckily an acquaintance saved me. We have tried different SIM cards, routers and antennas, found out that free public internet at the post office or supermarket does not equal fast internet, got advice at a phone provider’s shop, talked to the neighbours and now got satellite internet. One can be curious! Finally, I have a weekly live via Zoom. The coaching of the Medical Trainer, the monthly Q&A session for all clients of a webinar in the Steigerwald.T Online Academy or a new live on new and existing topics. I have been offering learning from home for almost three years now and am happy about the opportunity to reach people from further away.

For those who would like to learn live and in person with me: the horse seminars regularly take place at different locations in Germany, the chicken camps near Göttingen. At the end of September I will leave our paradise here and be in Germany for the whole of October to teach.

Besides the friends and the seminars, I miss our son the most and I am really looking forward to seeing him again, even if it is in what feels like the grey and boring north. Until then, we will continue to build, tinker, enjoy, plan, admire the Pyrenees and celebrate the good feeling of having made the right decision.

The road and arrival in France

I have never experienced such a busy July in my entire life:

At the beginning of the month, the last seminar at Hof Steigerwald with a good portion of melancholy that the time at this wonderful place has its end, the eighteenth birthday of our son, then the clearing and packing marathon, another flea market, parallel to this already the first construction work of the new owners. Preparing the ponies for the long trip on the truck. The planned start date was constantly postponed because it became clear that we would not be able to pack everything up and move it.

Great friends supported us and then on July 27th it was finally time. From 07:00 in the morning until 22:00 in the evening we packed and cleared and then loaded the ponies.

Those who have been to Hof Steigerwald before will fondly remember the birch trees at the access road. Unfortunately, they were cut to horse trailer height, but not to truck dimensions… Anyone who has ever been in a trailer that drove along bushes knows what an unpleasant noise that makes.

We had specially bought our own horse trailer, because we had special requirements for the long trip with our small herd. For example, we wanted to be flexible in terms of date and time of day: This also proved to be spot on with the heat and the chaos of the preparation! Then the shetties needed compartments appropriate to their size to travel safely and comfortably. And of course, most importantly, we needed training time with the -in the meantime- yearlings.

Such a long distance means unloading and reloading, after all we have to make enough breaks for all fellow travelers. That means at least twice everyone has to get back into the van in good spirits. I have accompanied enough human-horse teams to know: The truth always shows up at the next inquiry after the ride. So it was a matter of extensively “loading up” the truck in a positive way. Around the adults I worried less, they have enough travel experience to climb also again with me into the swaying and rolling cave.

In order not to begin the journey immediately with the creepy strip of the branches and twigs of the birch trees, we decided to load on the access road – which we had trained only once before. In the meantime it had also become quite dark, my adrenaline level was relatively high, but everything worked out flawlessly.

Then Mario left with the 814 and the eight-meter trailer, and I followed behind with the Sprinter and the small five-meter trailer. Unfortunately, the camera for the horse area, which was purchased specifically for the trip, only worked when the engine was off, but there was no rumbling or pounding, everything was very quiet. So we rolled through the night, into a new life, leaving behind a very fulfilling one.

First stage and first break at the Scheuerhof of Viviane Theby
First stage and first break at the Scheuerhof of Viviane Theby

The first stage ended at Viviane Theby in the Eifel. She had warned me in advance that there would be a construction site in the village in front of them. This the Navi also indicated and guided us down from another highway exit. Only to then indicate on a country road, “You have reached your destination. You have 350 meters to walk.” So it was a case of finding our own way along the country lanes. Turning around twice because we missed driveways, then a hairpin turn a kilometer away from Viviane. So we unhitched the trailer from the truck and drove on without it, so that the ponies could finally get out after eight hours of driving.

They came to a meadow with beautiful grass despite the dryness and were clearly thrilled. Now it was time for a break!

We had planned a day, a night and another day to regenerate for everyone and we wanted to continue traveling at night. It was wonderfully relaxing to be at the Scheuerhof, admiring the agroforestry strips, eating pizza from the clay oven, and having good conversations. Also, on the side, Mario repaired the alternator regulator and a broken cable on the truck.

Friday evening at 9:30 p.m. the ponies all dutifully boarded their “rolling home”, but Elvis and La Vida would not back up into their compartments on hand signals. I was very sorry to pull on the halter, but fortunately that went flawlessly.

Another emotional goodbye came when we passed the border. Now we were no longer on our way to France as vacationers, now we came as new residents of the country. The 530 kilometer drive to a good bit before Lyon was also flawless. If you disregard gas stations that do not accept the card for payment or truck drivers who also honk when overtaking the slow team on the mountain… We still savored the sunrise, then the next destination was reached.

Break for people and animals in the shade of the trees
Break for people and animals in the shade of the trees

At the “Camping Terre Ferme”, which is idyllic but only 10 minutes from the highway, we were warmly welcomed in the morning.

After unloading, Freya and Elvis galloped me first over a stubble field and I held the other four ropes and prayed that I would manage to calm the excited four others and that they would come back soon. Which, thankfully, they did!

We were then able to make ourselves comfortable with everything in a tree-lined meadow, built a portable fence for the ponies, and opened a bottle of champagne before settling into the sprinter to recover from the night’s ride.

The two 36 hour long breaks helped a lot in processing this rather intrusive move. Even though we were really looking forward to France and the life on Le Matou, the soul also wants to be able to come along. It is not said for nothing that one should not travel faster than a swallow flies.

During the 3rd loading, the yearlings unfortunately had to be coaxed into their compartments with pressure in front of their chests. Understandably, they didn’t feel like the consequences of “parking” anymore, but then, as soon as the breast bar was hooked, they were calm and made no attempts to go against it.

The heat is even greater in the south; the stretch down the Rhone Valley was still twenty-five degrees in the middle of the night! Fortunately, as we turned inland it got better and even after sunrise we were only at twenty degrees.

Freeway exit: after a few kilometers the breathtaking view of the Pyrenees. Tears of gratitude and relief flowed. Gurgle over land, excitement grows. Five kilometers before Matou park the long trailer at the neighbor’s, two kilometers on a narrow road, park the truck, unpark the ponies, Elvis first drinks at Freya. Then we walk the rest of the way to our new home, Mario follows on his bike.

Because of all the stress with the four excited ponies in hand, I unfortunately can’t enjoy it as much as I would in a romantic vision of this situation. Checking the paddock fence, releasing the ponies, crying. But then, “Honey, we’re really there, we made it!”

As I write these lines, we are already five days in this incredibly wonderful area, enjoying nature and silence, the vastness, the mountains and the good feeling to have made the right decisions.

If you want to have some info about Le Matou, have a look at the previous blog post: Steigerwald.The Dream: Our new home in France

Steigerwald.T Dream: Our new home in France

“Why on earth would you leave a farm that you have lovingly built up over twelve years with a lot of heart and soul?”

Because it was simply time.

There are different types of people, and one possible division is into builders, keepers and breakers. Mario and I are definitely builders. The sooner you know in which area your strengths and fulfillment lie, the better you can live according to yourself. This is one of the keys to happiness in life.

There is still a lot to build on our property in the south of France, although we will take it a little easier this time. The total area is 67 hectares, 46 of which are mixed forest with oaks mainly and there is also an area of beech. I love the young greenery in the spring when the sun shines on it!

Sixteen hectares of meadows, half of which are already fenced for horse safety, and a couple of hectares of scrubland complete the offer for our ponies. My wish is a trail or walking and riding path once around the whole area, which would make it about six to seven kilometers round trip. A wonderful feature is the location. In the south, the border is mainly a creek. Here we will make accesses for the ponies to drink. Rising in the north, the entire southern slope to the ridge in the north then belongs to Le Matou, the residence is centered at five hundred meters.

The idyllic driveway to the new home
The idyllic driveway to the new home

The summers are not quite as hot as at the sea and the winters not as cold as “properly” in the mountains. Perfect! What also excites me very much is the length of the day in winter. A whole hour more light in the morning and evening! But the greatest thing is the breathtaking view of the Pyrenees from some places on the property.

For the ponies there are two open stables made of wood, which we only have to cover with strips of curtains or windbreak nets. And that’s it with the existing outbuildings. That’s why we put up a round-arched shed last winter. It will function as a barn, carport and storage.

From the buildings we are downsizing a lot, but fewer roofs, gutters, windows, cleanable and sweepable area can definitely be seen as an advantage.

The guest house with its twenty square meters is located about 30 meters from the main house and is freshly renovated. From 2023 it will be available for vacationers, educational leave on Le Matou.

Mario and I have 54 square meters available for living in the main house. Above there is again the same area as a shell. Here we could well imagine a seminar room. The right wing is a shell. Bare stone walls and a fortunately intact roof. One part will be a workshop or storage, whether the other will be a living area or not is still up in the air.

What guarantees us a lot of peace and quiet is the location at the end of a five-kilometer-long dead-end street. One kilometer the access road leads nicely up to the house already over the own area, after that is end. The nearest neighbor is 500 meters away as the crow flies, but there is forest in between. Even if he would start his lawn mower every day, it wouldn’t matter!

A mailbox on a tree in southern France soon contains Steigerwald's mail
A mailbox on a tree in southern France soon contains Steigerwald's mail

In the next post about the south of France, I’ll report on our trip there and how we got there. The plan is to do the 1600 kilometer route in three stages with a day’s rest in between each.

And now, full of anticipation mixed with farewell pain, I will continue packing and clearing, in a few days we are heading for the final tour with the ponies.

Don’t dream your life…

TDon't dream your life

Part 1 – Le Matou – How it all began

What about your goals, wishes and dreams? Do you have a list of places you would like to visit one day, of experiences like walking with a herd of wild horses, of a very specific attitude towards life? Is there something you are specifically doing to get closer to it? For me, a long-held dream was to live on a farm with many animals and to have a seminar center. The realization began in 2010 with the purchase of a remaining farm in Lower Saxony.

We planned and worked, built and designed and received a lot of support from the universe and countless dear people. Over the years, Hof Steigerwald grew and thrived into an oasis for people and animals with a busy schedule. And why on earth would you give up something like that?! It wasn’t actually planned that way either.

In 2019, I finally wanted to take a real vacation in the summer again and browsed Airbnb. Since I had gone after the Abitur with two horses and two dogs on a five-month trail ride in the foothills of the Pyrenees and had lived there for 1.5 years, I also looked there for offers. Finally, this area had never completely let me go. The nature, the silence, the charm of the mountains, the relaxed attitude towards life….

I enjoyed every day of my vacation, reminisced about times gone by, and when my hostess told me about a uniquely beautiful place that was for sale due to age, I said, “Well, I’d look at it…”. The day before heading back to Germany, we drove to Le Matou, the name of the farm. In France, every individual farm has a proper name, which is very charming. Walking around the property I saw the Pyrenees and felt: this is it! ❤

No ifs, ands or buts, it practically jumped out at me. However, I had no idea where I would get the money and what my husband Mario and Richard, our son would say about it. Both thought I was crazy, of course. Correctly and completely crazy. A very exciting time followed and in April 2020 we sold Hof Steigerwald and bought Le Matou. At the end of July it finally happened and our dream became reality.

We move with Sheltie Jupiter and all six ponies. Richard stays in Germany to do his Abitur, the sheep are already housed somewhere else and the chickens move to the new location for the chicken seminars near Göttingen. Because there will still be me as a speaker in Germany! Due to family and friends, there are enough reasons besides teaching expert clicker training to get me on the road three-four times a year.

The horse seminars do not yet have a definite location as of October. In any case, I will work exclusively on farms with reasonable open stables. Fortunately, formats like the Steigerwald. T Medical Trainer or the Training Specialist Horse you don’t need a whole indoor riding arena.

For the seesaw trainer, on the other hand, you do need a bit of a selection of gymnastics equipment on site, as I won’t be bringing the seesaws from France.

So if you already own some Steigerwald gymnastics equipment and would like to have two seminars a year on the topic of horse rocker training at your yard, please contact me at info@steigerwald-t.de.

Apropos horse seesaws: The construction and shipping of everything from the two-hooves-rocker to the whole-body-horse-rockers to the rotary-disc-horse, balancer-beam and stepper will continue to take place in Germany. However, the wood of the runners will then be southern French.

With the time there will be also seminar offers there, on Le Matou.

We are already busy planning and the guest house is already ready for occupancy. On the 67 hectare property, the possibilities are endless! And for the women, who are thinking about how to convince their husbands to travel so far for advanced training: Mario wants to get a mini-excavator for all the work that still needs to be done, so the needs of many are taken care of 😉

More details about Le Matou will follow in the coming weeks. Subscribe now to our newsletter, then you will not miss any news and you can continue to follow our dream and especially the launch on Le Matou.

And now we take you a little bit with us and introduce you to Le Matou with the video.

The Heroes List

The list of heroes is a list of helpers and supporters who support us in making the Le Matou dream come true.

We would like to thank all those who have supported us so far and continue to support us in making the Steigerwald dream come true.

We are grateful and happy about every single supporter and wish our special helpers all the best for the realization of their own life dreams.

Would you also like to be on the list of heroes and be there when, in the face of the Pyrenees, a place is created where living, loving, learning is made possible? Then choose your own personal thank you for your contribution in our online store.