The story I want to tell you took place a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I assure you that it really happened exactly the same way, even though you may not want to believe it. In retrospect, we laughed a lot about it, but only because everything went well, because I can tell you so much already: I was really lucky – it could have turned out differently!
Almost forty years ago now – have several decades really passed since then? – I worked for quite a while on an Icelandic horse farm in Southern Germany.
Well, at that time, the obsession with Icelandic horses was not yet as widespread in Germany and large farms like the one I worked at were rather the exception.
At that time, however, we already had about fifty horses in an outdoor paddock in all the colours that make this breed so diverse and varied, but most of them were chestnut, bay and black.
At that time, I described myself as a leisure rider and have remained so to this day, only that I had much less experience, which I made up for with an even bigger heart for the horses.
Unfortunately, the work on the farm did not leave me much time for riding. Mostly, I only got the pleasure of a relaxed ride on my few days off or after a long day at work.
Since my own mare was ill, I was often allowed to borrow an older school horse to ride comfortably through the grounds after work.
On a beautiful summer day, the owner of the farm and some of his staff prepared everything for the trip to a tournament and I asked him which of the school horses I could ride during his absence.
He thought for a moment and then rushed, with me in tow, to the large paddock and pointed from the fence to a horse that stood a little way off in the distance: “Do you see the black one there?
This is Óðinn. He’s quiet and homey, just what you need. You’ll have fun with him!”, and was off again, because there was a lot to prepare.
I was already looking forward to the next day, when I wanted to go for my first ride with Óðinn after work.
After two full days of work, as the boss and some employees were missing, I was looking forward all the more to the well-deserved relaxation during the ride.
But my first encounter with Óðinn was anything but relaxed: I had a hard time catching him and finally had to bribe him with a carrot so that he could be persuaded to follow me.
Also, the cleaning turned out to be not so easy. He wriggled restlessly around the tethering bar and in the end he didn’t seem to agree at all with me putting the saddle on him.
” The poor guy”, I thought a little pitifully, surely he had to put up with a lot of riding students on his back today and had to let the beginners among them push him rudely with their heels and pull the reins roughly to stop – and now he was the only one of the school horses who still hadn’t finished school?
He expressed his displeasure about it very clearly, it seemed almost a little frightened, how he constantly neighing for his mates.
But I did not allow myself to be misled by this, because – as much as I thought I understood him – I did not want to skip my evening activity to which I had been looking forward to all day and which I thought I was entitled to.
So I pushed him forward energetically and did not allow him to turn around and end our ride on his own authority.
The very next day he seemed to have better understood who was in charge and was willing to get ready for our ride.
He was also more cooperative when it came to riding, and under my guidance he let himself be ridden off the farm almost without a hitch and with considerably less neighing.
When the boss returned after a few days, we were already much closer to what a relaxed ride is in my understanding. And somehow I had taken the initially unruly guy into my heart!
Now, everyday life returned and the following day a group of horses was taken out of the paddock to be trained.
Full of joy of reunion I discovered “my” little black horse among them. At first I didn’t think anything of it, but then I became suspicious and when I finally asked why Óðinn was standing among the young horses, the owner of the farm replied: “That’s not Óðinn, that’s Hrafn!
I stared at him in amazement, because suddenly the confusion became clear to me: I had been riding unsuspectingly and cheerfully into the forest with a horse that had never in its life carried a saddle, let alone a rider!
The first shock was deep, but soon we were relieved that nothing had happened and at almost the same time we broke out into an irrepressible laughter.
This attracted the other employees who joined in our laughter when they heard about the mix-up.
But let this be a lesson to me:
In a free minute, the owner of the farm and I met in the paddock and he drew my attention to many distinguishing features that I had not paid attention to before, such as the manifold colour nuances of the coat, through which only rarely one black horse resembles another, the (density of the) mane and on which side it falls, the eyes of the horses, vertebrae in the face, small wounds and much more.
In this lesson one thing became clear to me:
Not only the horse had learned a lot, albeit almost accidentally and in a rather unprofessional way, but also I. In retrospect, it even seems to me as if I had actually learned much more than my four-legged friend through this mishap!
Since this experience, I have been looking more closely and one thing is clear to me now: No horse is like another and what happened to me with Hrafn (who will always be called Óðinn for me) would not happen a second time, because:
Two identical horses, they do not exist!
(ps: Until the day Hrafn (Óðinn) was sold, he always followed me on the paddock when I came to fetch a horse – I wonder if he remembered the bribe carrots from our first days together 😊 ??? )