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