❤ Can you let us know a bit about your beautiful horse?My horse's name is Åska, she's a 9 year old Noriker from Austria. Though she's a draft, her breed is very a versatile one. I do a lot of trick-training with her, trail rides, dressage, and even the occasional jump - she can do it all.
❤ How did you meet your horse?Ever since I started my horseback riding adventure, I've been begging my mom for a horse of my own. Growing up, my parents had to work very hard to make ends meet, so a horse simply wasn't in the books for us. Fast forward many years - I've since moved out to live with my boyfriend - and I jokingly tag him in ads selling horses on Facebook. I show one of these horses to my mother, and all of a sudden she offers to buy the horse for me. I'm taken aback; my mother has never, ever done this. After that, I considered the horse more seriously, and I was vehement to not let this opportunity pass me by. As it later turned out, the horse was situated in Austria - 840 kilometres away from our home - which meant we couldn't just go and visit. After many pictures, videos, and eventual vet checks were exchanged, the horse was on her way to The Netherlands. That's when I met Åska.
❤ What has been the biggest obstacle that you have conquered together?
I think our biggest obstacle would have been the distance. Buying a horse you can't just go see is a huge leap of faith. I had no idea what she'd be like beneath the saddle, or how she'd behave in general - she was a real mystery to me. There were some who thought it was a very bad idea, because what if there'd be no connection? I can't explain it, but there was something about Åska's eyes that really drew me in; she had the friendliest look in them. The most important thing, I then decided, was that she was healthy. Everything else didn't matter; if there'd be problems in her behaviour we'd overcome them together. But somehow I was certain: this horse and I are going to click.
❤ Tell us about the most random experience you've had with your horse!She loves to be scratched, she'll always scratch you back or just simply jut out her upper lip in enjoyment. One time I stopped scratching, and I noticed she was moving very strangely. It took me several seconds, but I soon realised she was following me around with her butt, trying to convince me to scratch her some more. Ever since then she's been very adamant about her butt scratches, parking it in my face whenever she wants them. I don't mind, I adore this kind of direct communication with her.
❤ Does your horse have any quirks?One of her quirks is the way she expresses herself. Åska can be very vocal, as well as easily offended. Approach her in a manner she doesn't appreciate, and she'll let you know. It's quite funny, and people tend to be really surprised at the sounds and faces she can make. I always listen to her, and she rewards me by being more patient with me. She'll put up with more if it's me who's doing it. One time she didn't appreciate the way my boyfriend approached her, and after that, she refused to do a single thing he asked, which I think is hilarious.
❤ What is your favorite trait about your horse?I love how easygoing she is, without being lazy. She doesn't mind much, and she also doesn't get scared too easily. She tends to adjust to new situations just fine. I remember when she arrived in The Netherlands, she came strutting off of that truck completely unbothered. She was very cooperative and calm, immediately bonding with me - she followed me around like a dog, even though it was our first time meeting. There's trustworthiness about her that I haven't felt with many horses, and I can genuinely say I've never been scared in her presence.
❤ What about your horse are you most proud of?I'm so proud of her intelligence. She's just such a smart girl, and she's always thinking about everything you do. She loves learning new things, and she figures out what you mean rather quickly. It can be challenging to offer her new things, but so far she loves doing what she does and showing off how well she understands you.
❤ Can you share a funny story about your horse?
Something I find very funny is how the man who was selling her initially described her as a ‘slower horse'. Cue the first time we galloped, and I quickly discovered she was not slow. Running is one of her favourite things to do; very often I'll have other people tell me how they saw Åska running through her pasture at random, just sprinting from one side to the other. Nobody expects her to be fast - she's a big girl, with short legs and huge shoulders - people will often assume her to be lazy. Instead, she's a real racehorse.
❤ Does your horse know any tricks?Yes, I've been teaching her tricks since the day I got her. Her first trick was to smile, and her second was the jambette. Now she knows the Spanish walk, bow, come, back up, mountain goat, scrunches, park out, shake, lie down, and even rear. There are still many more I'd love to teach her, and we continue to work on perfecting every trick she already knows. She loves doing them, and she'll give her all to show off.
❤ Do you have any big plans for the future for you and your horse?We've already done some shows, and I'd love to do more in the future. You can really tell Åska enjoys them; she loves the attention and meeting new people. Her first show was in front of a big crowd, with a lot of noise and music, and she wasn't bothered at all. She happily sniffed everyone she passed, and when the applause came she didn't even react. She's a real superhero.
❤ Have you travelled with your horse? Does your horse like it?Together we've travelled twice: once was for a show, and the other time was to the beach. She doesn't like getting on the trailer much, but once she's on there she doesn't seem to mind at all. She's calm and patient, and she doesn't even break a sweat. The beach was a long trip - two hours I believe - and she was just as happy and energetic when she got off as when she got on.
❤ What is the silliest thing your horse spooks at?Water. Åska doesn't mind passing highways, large trucks or even tractors, but as soon as there's a puddle or water sprayer she'll be spooked. She's such a brave and daring horse, but she won't ever want to get her feet wet.
❤ Do you compete with your horse? How have they done in the ring so far?
I don't, but I do hope to ride some dressage competitions just for fun someday. We train a lot, and she's been steadily improving. I always ride bitless, and I can't wait to test our progress in the ring someday - mostly because I want to prove non-traditional and R+ methods work too, and of course that dressage can be great for draft horses as well.
❤ What is the next adventure you want to do with your horse?We've already laid the groundwork for bridleless riding, but I feel like there's still a long way to go before we've perfected it. I feel like our bond needs to grow stronger, and that's something you can't force. It'll take time, and right now I feel like we've already come very far. Åska trusts quickly, but she doesn't fully offer herself easily - there's a difference there. I want her to want to work with me and to want to put in the effort for me. We've already made steady progress in that area, but we're not where I'd like us to be yet. It's an ongoing process, and it'll take many more hours of investment, but someday we'll get there, I'm certain.
❤ What does having matching accessories with your horse mean to you?
It means a lot, actually. I feel like it represents our bond; how we're connected. I think the bond you're able to share with your horse is something unique and undeniably beautiful. Horses are unapologetically honest with us, and it often forces us to look inwards and face whatever challenges exist within ourselves. In that sense, the horse offers us so much, without really asking for anything in return. I feel like it's our duty to make sure our horses are happy, healthy and well-stimulated. It's our duty to be the better person for them, and - ideally - to be selfless in their regard. That's when a true bond is shared.