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.
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.