Looking back at a great adventure
At the end of 2019 I was searching the internet for equestrian tourism in Poland.
And especially in our region.
There would be a horse trail here that would last 10 days.
Soon I found the right website and the described route from 20 years ago.
There were other routes established by pttk in Poland, including those transbeskidzki szlak.
14 days of driving through the Polish mountains.
Gosh what a challenge!
I tried to search some more information about the route.
I didn't find much info but the idea stuck.
I started it again at the beginning of last year.
And from then on I started to inform myself.
What do you need for such a trip?
How do you handle it?
How do you prepare?
It stayed by a bit of orientation.
Is there a map of this route?
Contacting people who have done the route for more info, e-mailing to get a map,... but the work yielded little.
Then our 2 horses got sick.
The plan to do this trip with our Bolero (Geert's favorite) failed.
And the idea was pushed aside.
But it still gnawed.
In the meantime Geert often rode with Calisto and that worked out quite well and Dior also began to understand what the intention was.
Okay we just have to go for it!
We set the date early this year.
Carolien Staal's book was very helpful to me: op trektocht met je paard.
I bought another book by CuChullaine O'Reilly: Horse Travel Handbook.
But I thought that was just a whiner, it already started that you should not choose a white horse, because they get dirty quickly... say what!?
Anyway, I read the book with some difficulty, but I still got some useful tips from it.
From January I started looking up places to stay the night, based of the route description that I translated.
I didn't always get an answer which is quite frustrating.
By plotting the route via the description, I saw that there were many days of 30 km and even days of up to 60 km.
That's really too long.
For us, 20-25 per day is really enough. Especially in mountain areas.
So we decided to take our tent and camping gear with us so we could choose when to end the day.
I can tell you that was very nice in theory.
We already bought the maps of the regions we would ride through. 8 maps in total.
On some maps the horse route was indicated, on some not.
So it was quite difficult to find the right route.
Step by step I collected more information and made a packing list that has been adjusted 10 times. Since our guys are quite small, we have to look closely at the weight.
It is recommended not to exceed 20% of your horse's body weight.
So including yourself, your saddle and everything that goes with it and your packing.
Since we were going to camp, you have a lot of weight very quickly.
So only bring the essentials. Including a lightweight sleeping bag that turned out to be much too cold.
I bought the saddlebags last year but hadn't really tested them yet.
I already had a tent. I bought it together with Wim to go on a motorcycle trip.
A mini 2 person tent that also turned out to be much too small.
Anyway, the preparations took more and more shape.
And September was getting shorter and shorter.
Due to the busy and hot summer I had too little time to properly train our boys.
We tried to do longer rides or short fast rides as much as possible, but that caused me a lot of stress.
Until I asked advice from long riders (Pete and Luisa) whom I have been following for a year now.
They said it would be fine if you just take it easy and follow your gut feeling.
ok so it will be.
At the beginning of August we had the chance to do a test ride.
I had collected all the stuff and mapped out a nice route.
Mom and Dad dropped us off at the edge of the woods with the trailer, we rode home from there with an overnight stay in the woods.
What a fun weekend that was!
Good thing we did because there were still some adjustments to be made.
The tent was rejected: far too small and not practical.
We could get in with 2, each had an entrance and exit but only on my side there was a small place to put your shoes.
So our stuff (saddles and bags) were outside.
I did bring a large poncho to cover it, but this was not enough.
The rear bags were rejected: torn on all sides without really acting wild. Rubbish...
Also not waterproof.
The long line that the horses have to stand on at night: too short a rope and I have to choose a safer rope.
Came home, immediately bought a new tent and ordered new bags.
This time a nice big light weight tent with enough space for us and all the comforts! Lighter in weight even than the mini tent!
Bags bought for the motorcycle, found through the nice facebook group: trektocht te paard. Wonderful group! I learned a lot during my entire preparation!
But so the bags, these are from Touratech in collaboration with Ortlieb, a very good brand that used to made saddle bags. Touratech has actually recreated those bags, but for the motorcycle.
Works equally well on your horse.
It is important that your bags stay clear of the spine. And since I ride with a semi-treeless saddle, the weight of the bags has to be on the seat and not just at the back of my saddle.
So these bags were ideal. Sturdy and completely waterproof!
We bought longes of 8 meters long. These don't cut if they would be tangled and still break faster than a paracord.
And then it was time!
August was coming to an end and I was getting more nervous.
We were looking forward to it!
Klaudia, the sitter for the dogs and the cat, came on Saturday August 28. It was a nice introduction and I could leave the animals behind with peace of mind.
We left on Sunday 29 August.
The horses went well on the trailer and it was a nice road to Brenna.
Because that's where our adventure started.
On Monday, August 30, our great, long-awaited adventure began and we ended on Saturday, September 18.
With literally and figuratively ups and downs.
With the highest point 1375 meters.
13 riding days, well riding days, we also walked some kilometers ourselves.
Tent: Approved even though we only used them once. Sleeping bags that were way too cold.
Saddlebags: completely happy with them! Stayed dry despite 3 days of non stop rain, nothing broke, did what they had to do only they damaged our saddles a bit.
Long line: disapproved, Mr. Dior and the long line is not a match. Either practice better or bring wire next time to make a pasture. Calisto coped better but when he stepped on his line he would sometimes stiffen with his head down. So not so successful.
The front bags could also be a bit better. They didn't stay dry, not that we expected that, but they didn't really fit our saddles. There was quite a lot of stuff in it so that's good.
What an experience.
I had a certain expectation without really knowing what awaited us.
And on our first day I felt guilty. Guilty of dragging our horses through this.
The many stones on the roads did not make it easy for the boys.
Going uphill was difficult and going downhill was usually very slippery.
They tried so hard.
They drunk when they had the chance, graze when they could.
Did they have to pee? Then they just stopped and we quickly knew.
They trusted us and even when we kept asking to do that dangerous descent or take that tough uphill, they did it. Hesitant at times but they did it.
I couldn't be more proud!
When the weather got better, it became more pleasant.
Less slippery and slightly better roads.
Our mood was also better and we noticed that in the horses.
We still had 2 very difficult and dangerous days for the horses on the way, but they did great again!
It made me emotional. First afraid that something would happen, then frustration that I asked so much of them and then relief that everything turned out well and then a lot of pride, respect and trust!
For our first trip this was immediately a very solid and a big challenge.
I can say that we came out of this well as a couple.
Geert has so much patience and can deal with my emotional hassle so well.
Really a great guy!
It is still a bit of a shame that we had to stop our trip early due to a stolen / lost hoof shoe.
But we will do the last part in springtime.
And I'm all bitten by traveling with your horse.
Always been a dream and I hope to be able to do a lot more and then experience a little more freedom. I've kind of missed that one here.
Find a new place to spend the night every day. Having everything with me to camp but with Dior I wasn't comfortable doing that and we didn't encounter much no man's land either.
I hoped for lonely evenings in the wild with a fire and a starry sky, but a fire never came.
Fortunately, we were able to admire the starry sky a few times.
But I kept planning and contacting people all the time and that was sometimes a bit too much.
So our plan to have more freedom with our tent gave me more work because we were still looking for places to stay.
Fortunately I had a list of the people who replied that we were welcome, but there were also voids along the route that had to be filled.
Fortunately, we sometimes got help from the people we were staying with at that time.
Most knew the next place and called them immediately.
It was also not always easy to deal with the traditional horsemen of Poland.
Especially if you don't speak the language yourself.
Why don't you just have a Polish horse?
Why do your horses have shoes and no irons? Such a shoe that is not good...
Why are you riding without a bit?
Vegetarian? Oh, and while you're doing such a trip on horseback, how is that possible?
Live and let live right?
I tried to answer as diplomatically as possible and let it pass me by.
Which was not always easy.
Other than that it was a fantastic adventure that I would do it all over again!