Certainement un grand moment pour Jeanne qui a relaté a l’autre bout de la planéte ( en Australie) son « AVENTURE » avec les Mérens HPS et plus particulièrement avec URBANE de Lasserre… Bonne Lecture
The Storry of an Australian girl in our TRANSHUMANCE Merens erd in Soth of FRANCE Pyrénées……
Jeanne Porter Brewer
The beautiful farm B&B, our accomedations and the area village
My amazingly beautiful and very special partner, Urbane. An 8 year old Merens mare. A favorite and confident girl. She knows her job well and enjoys it.
Meeting the herd. To be in amongst this herd of 50 semi-wild horses was an incredible feeling. Such gentle calmness and contentment. I was watchful but never afraid. To meet these horses is to know they are very special and unique. The desire of individual horses to seek you out and want to be and connect with you was incredible and so very special. Something I reckon I will not experience in a herd setting again. So very beautiful & special
In just a few days we embark on the Transhumance, a long standing french tradition of moving livestock between winter and spring/summer pastures. We will move this very beautiful and special herd of 50 Meren horeses 42 miles over 3 days time to the top of the Pyrenees Mountains where they will live in total freedom for 5 months. In October another Transhumance will take place return them to their beautiful lower winter pasture. 4 bells are attached to the lead horses so they can be located and checked on once a week while in the mountains. Excitement and anticipation are growing among the horses and people.
Our first 4 days were spent meeting the herd and getting to know the horses we will be riding. Although all horses in the herd are going on this journey and all have been trained for riding, a group of 12 was picked out as potential ridng horses for this journey. We put these 12 in a separate pasture and from there the horses were allowed to pick the person they wanted wanted to connect with. The connection and communication we felt from these horses was so incredibly deep and pure. It was awe inspriing and like nothing I felt before. It quickly became obvious which person each horse preferred.
The next 3 days we spent with our horses and Paulette from Ribbleton Horse Training during which we worked with our horses on the ground and at liberty developing our bond and communication with them. Paulette is a wonderful woman and an amazing horse person. It was a privilage and joy to work with her. The lessons I take from her are so very valuable and something I will carry always as part of my horsemanship. One can hardly complain about the view from our schooling arena either.
Thursday the day before leaving on the Transhumance, we groomed the horses including those long thick manes and tails making sure they were tangle free. We braided colored ribbons or pipe cleaners into our horses manes so we could easily identify our horse among the other 50. We also went for a short trail ride making sure everybody felt comfortable.
Day 1 – We traveled 11 miles from Lasserre to Saint Girons. Jean Louis walks leading matriach, Vega at the front while the rest of the herd follows. 3 guests have chosen to walk and are at the front of the people walking at the front of the herd. The riders are behind the herd, There is one rider who helps to manage the herd and muster horses when they go astray into fields, through open gates, or take the wrong fork in the road/path or even escape into people’s vegetable gardens. There is another rider, the trainer of these horses, who helps to manage the riders. We as riders try to find that delicate balance between not following too close so as to push the herd past Jean Louis and not too far back so the herd slows down and horses go astray. We also help to block roads and paths when horses are mustered back to the herd to get them going in the right direction. Each day the terrain we ride is different. This day we road on counrty roads, trails and pathes and through some villages. We make rest stops along the way so the horses can eat. We stopped in St Lizier where the horses drank from the village fountain. A sight to behold! 50 horses drinking out of a fountain and several wanted to climb in.
We stopped for the day in St Giron where our hotel accomedations were at Chateau de Beauregard, an old 16th century castle. We were treated to a spa and massage and a wonderfully delicious 6 course french meal. The horses were kept just outside on the castle grounds. This is like a fairytale. I must be dreaming……
Day 2 – We traveled 13.5 miles. All road riding this day. Our travels took us through several french villages, 4 dark tunnels and along the river. There were 3 riders in front of the herd with Jean Louis leading Vega and 5 riders in back. A suuport vehicle led the way and another one followed. We were greeted by many onlookers waving and taking pictures as we passed through the villages. Cars were required to stop and remain stopped until the entire herd passed. Most were happy to oblige and a few not so much. The villages brought several potential scary stimuli for the horses such as outside car washes, starting and reving engines, motorcycles, bikes, weed wackers and kids jumping on trampolines
Many of the roads we traveled were closed to traffic. Traveling through the black tunnels with 50 black horses was an experience in itself. Riders and horses alike all proved to be very brave. Our lunch stop was along the road then on to a water break for the horses in the river. A physically and mentally challenging day for all but what a great team and a job well done. Accomedations for the night included a log cabin bunkhouse for all 9 of us along with a separate log shelter for cooking and eating as a group. Toilets and hot showers were very much appreciated. Another incredibly amazing day in the breathtaking Pyrenees. The herd is making good time on the trek to their mountain retreat
Day 3 – The final day in our Transhumance. A day filled with mixed emotions for me. Excitement at bringing this very special family of horses to the mountain top where they will roam and graze in total freedom for the next 5 months. Sadness as I realize my journey was all too quickly coming to an end and I will have to say goodbye to these black beauties and my special partner Urbane who has confidently carried me all this way. Today she will join her family to run, play and just be a horse. The herd would travel a little over 17 miles today. Jean Louis led the matriarch, Vega at the front while 6 of us riders followed behind the herd. The terrain was very different again. Most of our riding was on mountainside trails. Single file through mud and woods, over rocks and up steep hills. There was very little road riding and there were no support vehicles with with us. We stopped part way for a rest break and allowed the horses to graze. The last leg of the of journey the riding becomes more difficult and for most of us it was a bit beyond our comfort and skill levels. We unsaddled and Urbane & I spent a couple of final minutes together sharing some fruit before the herd moved on. Jean Louis along with 3 other riders (including 1 guest!) took the herd up the final portion. The rest of us rode in the vehicles and met them at the top of the mountain. The breathtaking scenery on the drive up was incredible including sightings of people parasailing and other free ranging livestock. We were able to watch the herd and riders as they made their final ascent up the mountain. A sight to behold! Once at the top, saddles and horseshoes were removed and the rider’s horses joined the rest of the herd. We all walked with the herd over the final ridge as they made their way and settled into their summer home.
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