I left the horse farm now and am in Germany with the bird ringing project. I haven't really started yet so will write about this later.
But the horse farm is definitely worth a blog entry: It's amazing how life can be so beautiful and so easy at times. I stayed at the farm for three weeks and I slept in the hay above the horse stables, with a mother cat and her two kittens to keep me company and the sounds of the horses as a lullaby. Of course at around 4 am birds were starting to sing which woke me up but the nice thing about that was (1) that I didn't have to get up that early and could stay in bed and (2) I could just lie there and listen to the birds sing without having to worry to identify every single one of them. So getting up was already more relaxing than what I was used to from before.
And when I got up there was work but no hurry. We first took the horses to the pasture and while they were there I cleaned out the stables and put hay for them to eat. In one of the stables there was a swallow nest and I could see the parents feeding their babies while I worked there. The birds got used to me pretty soon so we didn't disturb each other too much. Then I took the horses back into the stable and chilled for a while until people came to ride or for therapy. The therapy was with mentally disabled people who either only sat on the horses while we walked them or also helped cleaning the horses and stables. The degrees of disability also varied a lot so some were really easy and nice to work with while with others I was just glad I wasn't alone with them. But they all loved the horses and coming to the farm once a week is definitely something that they always look forward to.
Evenings were mostly spent riding, feeding the horses again and chatting. As you know I have ridden horses in Mexico before but I never actually learned riding, so now I got some lessons which was very interesting. I also found that I am not much for lessons but rather just for going into the woods with the horses which is what we did mostly. And we all enjoyed it - including the horses. It's funny how you get to know all the horses and what they like and dislike and how smart they are. Well, there was also a donkey on the farm, who was absolutely the smartest of all of them - if not all of us. She was also always up to playing tricks on us and she could easily win an award for breaking out. Whenever a fence wasn't properly closed or a door not secured she'd get through and then you suddenly had to get up and try and convince the little devil to come back into the stable. But without her life at the farm would almost be boring, so we all still loved her.
As for the horses, they were all special too. Many of them were special because of the bad way they had been treated before and the injuries or sicknesses they had because of that. Competitive horse riding is certainly nothing that leaves a horse in a good condition. We also notice that when the horses aren't well cared for, the get bored and annoying. On the other hand, when they are well cared for they learn to behave well and to enjoy life. Their conditions improve and tension are removed as everybody gets better. Horses are such a nice subject for sociological studies!
I'll just write about two of the horses: Lena, the one that I rode when I did. She is huge but she is also very sweet. She would never hurt anybody even though her size looks a bit scary. She also worked with the disabled people, so she is used to quite a lot. Both of us were crap at the indoor exercises and we loved being in the forest where we played games, she trying to snatch a bite whenever a green leave was within reach and me trying to prevent her by noticing in time what she was up to. And depending on who we were out with, we also raced other horses or tried to not show our despair when one would not move for whichever phobia they had. But in the end Lena was much more patient than I will ever be, so I think we were a good match!
And then of course, there was a baby horse, 2 months old. Her name was Rabia and her mother was much smaller but charater-wise very similar to Lena. Rabia was very different. She was the only baby horse on the farm (they are getting another one for her to play with in September), so she started to hang around with the donkey, who was about her size and ready to teach her all her tricks. So Rabia will probably grow up to become a little devil too but she is soooo adorably no one can ever be really mad at her. Well, she also learned very fast, of course, at this age and so it was basically a fight between the humans and the donkey who will teach her more. Good think her mother is also very caring and always has an eye on her.
No two days at the farm were the same but not much things worth to write about happened. The story of when the donkey escaped and I was there on my own trying to figure out how to get her back to where she belonged, or the day we went for a ride with the Rabia's grandma who is amazingly quick despite of her age and illness, you wouldn't understand how exciting all of that was, if you haven't been there. But most importantly I learned a lot, both about horses and how to care for them and about what kind of work I do and don't like with horses. And I made some good friends both human and animal and keep lots and lots of memories for life.
Oh and of course I mustn't forget to mention the hen with her 10 chicks that was running around the farm all day and the fact that I first showered at somebody's house until I decided it's much more exciting and more flexible to just use the hosepipe. So I did that - lucky there is only few cars passing by the road by the farm because otherwise I might have caused some accidents ;)
Now I am ready to continue with the birds again J I am in Radolfzell now, staying at the luxurious guest house of the Max Planck institute to help in a project on blackbirds. I know I don't really like blackbirds, but it is actually really nice here and a lot of fun talking to the scientists of the institute.
The main problem I have to deal with currently is how to schedule my days so I can manage to watch the football world cup matches at 1 am and be ready to go to work in the field at 3 am. By 10 am we're back from the field but rather than going to bed of course I still need to go for a swim in the lake and appreciate the beautiful countryside! Well, could be worse…