Friendships form in unexpected places!
During my vacation on Foehr, Linda said it was 1983, I had taken riding lessons on the Lerchenhof. Svetla and Svani, Finur and Frakie, Rodi and so many others had taught me how to sit at least half-way correctly on a horse. It's hard for somebody to sit correctly when you spend the first years of your riding experience on bareback and with only one thought in mind: How to stay up there!
One of the instructors was a guy I believe was named Uwe; the other one was Linda!
I don't know how the friendship started. She's a few years older than me. But it was a lasting one.
Linda eventually moved off the island and to Fulda. And from then on I would take the train to Fulda, rather than Giessen. Every school break I was visiting her. And we spend many hours riding around Neuhof and Hattenhof; just discovering the many beautiful trails and enjoying the peace.
She had brought Susi and Falco with her; her two ponies. And eventually Shiraz joined the 'herd'.
Susi & Falco
Susi was a part of a somewhat sad history. She was a Bosniake or Bosnian Mountain Horse. Her breed, according to the website of one of the last breeding farms, is now practically endangered. This is very probably due to the war that destroyed Yugoslavia.
Bosnian mountain horses are descendants of the Tarpan and look a lot like the wild horses you can see in historic pictures or books such as the Stoneage series of Jean Auel. They are the only indigenous horse in that part of former Yugoslavia and were mainly bred in Montenegro, the South of Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Herzogovina, Croatia, Slovania and ...Bosnia.
1920 saw over 800,000 horse all over Yugoslavia; roughly 600,000 (or 70%) of them Bosniaken. There were attempts made to make them more elegant, but the Arab blood may have made them lighter, but also let them lose some of the things the Bosnian Mountain Horse was so sought after. They are sturdy horses that can withstand even the 'Yugoslavian' winter weather and were mainly used for farm work or carrying timber, supplies and even caravels up and down the mountains. Due to their sturdiness, these horses can become very old.
Their lineage back to the wild horses of the south-Russian 'steppe' (the Tarpan, died out ~1880) and the still preserved Mongolian steppe horse Przevalski, make it a very self-confident and tough horse; qualities that are well needed in the Bosnian Mountains.
Sadly Susi never did get to have foals. She had been kicked while living on the Lerchenhof and couldn't have foals anymore. I would have given a lot to have a foal of such a perfect horse.
Susi was everything the Bosniake is suppose to be; she was sturdy and had a strong character. She was also of perfect height and build for a pre-teen and I fondly remember her mane that looked like the mane of a Andalusian horse and was at least three feet long.
I spend hours and hours on her back, enjoying long rides and the partnership with a great horse. If I got lost, I would let the rains hang lose; she knew where to go! Susi was a four-legged babysitter and I could trust her with my life!
An amazing Horse
Falco was a Knabstrupper and partially blind when I met him. Eventually he became practically completely blind and Susi became the love of his life and his seeing-eye horse.
An animal can teach you a lot about faithfulness and other qualities we usually only bestow on humans (which seems a foolish notion at times!). Falco is one of those that could mentor a few people I know.
As a Knabstrupper he had his own history. The Danish had bred a horse that, similar to the Tarpan andthe Przewalski, was of a solid and robust statue and would be able to work and withstand the Danish winters. But the attempt for a lighter, more elegant horse (including the mix with Arabians in Bosnia and Herzegovina) makes it questionable if there is a single true Knabstrupper left. To add new blood to the breed, they had also imported three Appaloosa stallions in 1971.
The colors range from solid to the famous and sought after Leopard; a genetic mechanism they call the 'Leopard complex':
"The leopard complex is a group of genetically-related coat patterns in horses. These patterns range from progressive increases in interspersed white hair similar to graying or roan to distinctive, Dalmatian-like leopard spots on a white coat. Secondary characteristics associated with the leopard complex include a white sclera around the eye, striped hooves and mottled skin. The leopard complex genes are also linked to abnormalities in the eyes and vision. These patterns are most closely identified with the Appaloosa horse breed, though its presence in breeds from Asia to western Europe has indicated that it is due to a very ancient mutation."
Their color, which is very similar to the Appaloosa despite not being related to them at all (at least until 1971 and the addition of Appaloosa blood), makes them very popular. They can be found in general riding, show jumping, dressage, as carriage horses or even in the circus.
The Knabstruppers are usually between 15-16 hands, but can also be found as a pony size with less than 14 hands.
In addition to Denmark, they are now found in Sweden, Norway, Italy, Germany , United Kingdom, USA, Switzerland and recently New Zealand and Australia.
Falco had this beautiful Leopard color, but it wasn't as important as his beautiful character. He was a great horse. I wish I could have seen him when he was younger. I've been told he was a bit of a wild one; especially when it came to protecting his lady love, Susi. When I met him, he was already going blind; partially due to a fight if I remember right. But riding him wasn't as hard as it seems. He listened to commands and trusted you. It became an honor to have his trust and having earned it! There wasn't much he couldn't do, if you did what you needed to do. He wasn't able to jump anymore, but most terrain was no challenge to him as long as you kept your 'eyes' open.
I never felt as connected to him as I did to Susi. But I have always been drawn to female dogs, cats and horses as 'friends'. Kind of funny that most of my true human friends are guys!
But what I felt for this amazing horse was a respect I have never felt to any other horse again. He was so full of life, love for his girl; a amazing character! I am glad I wasn't there when he passed; it would have broken my heart! His passing is a great loss; for he was everything I wish I could find in humans!
Shiraz and the Dance
Eventually she moved with the horses and her little herd, one stronger, moved into Roland's stable. Roland was a German farmer that saw the hard times of economy and responded with a survival talent I still respect. He started raising chicken and turkey for meat and turned his barn into a horse stable. And eventually he added Linedance!
Originally Linda had rented this tiny spot somewhere in the middle of the Fuldaer Forests. It had a natural spring and a small creek. Their stable was home-made, but those two robust ponies didn't mind. In the winter they had inch-long fur and looked quite fluffy. Brushing them was a challenge, but I always loved the smell of horses more than anything.
Most of the time I rode bareback; and while I looked like a monkey of a hot stove, I became quite good at not falling off. I loved the little valey and spend entire days there while Linda worked. And when I wasn't there, we hang out together or I was reading her books by the ton.
I can't remember ever having had that much fun before and the peace I will probably never feel again. I have never been a social person. Partially because I had moved from Hamburg to Frankfurt and didn't quite belong. I was different and spoke different. And kids can be cruel!
Early on I had taken the neighbors' dogs out and spend more time with the dogs than the other children. Freedom has been one of the most important things to me. Freedom and Peace!
After moving to this new stable we became part of a community. I still had my freedom somewhat, riding with the others or often by myself; but we did a lot more things together with the other riders.
I don't remember all of them. There was Anna, Roland's Mother and a great lady. Anja was another girl my age; that eventually ended up with a couple of kids and divorces and moving back and forth between Germany and the U.S.. There was a family of the two parents and two little girls that had bought a few horses; he tried like hell to become the perfect cowboy. Another gentleman had a young Arabian mare and several Great Danes at home. And there may have been others.
Linda kept her horses in a stable to the side. They were too used to be able to go in and out as they pleased. They probably had more time outside then the other horses together.
I miss the fun we had, the camaraderie. We spend hours riding around in the area; enjoying long fields and endless trails in the woods. The field were Shiraz managed to knock me off and dislocate my shoulder; just to pop it in again when he kneeled on me. Talk about pain!
There was the blessing of the horses we road to with a bunch of different horses from the stable and around there. Just hours, days, weeks of simple fun! I loved it!
Trading Endless Fields...
The endless fields and trails around Fulda were my Garden Eden. And the friendship of a great person has set the standards I still measure other people on.
After my training in the Federal German Border Patrol I had myself PCS'ed to Fulda. And for a while the fun continued.
Roland had started this Linedance group and we danced upstairs above the stables. I was actually pretty good and pretty fast. For the first time in my life I was a good dancer and I loved it with the love of a smoker for his cigarettes; Linedance is addictive! You can't get enough of it!
We learned the basic dances and one day we decided to go to a local club to see about dancing with other Linedancers. So we drove to Fulda and went to the 'Nashville #1'!
How could I know it would both change and ruin my life!
The club was great and had a lot of Americans there. At that time Downs Barracks was still open; a U.S. Army Unit. One winter night in November I met my future Ex-Husband. I had been drinking too much and was going to sleep in the car; he drove me home instead.
I learned a lot of things from Linda and my time in Fulda. One is to follow your dreams; the other is to trust your friends!
Thinking about it I am not sure if I should have done things different or not. The loss of a friend, not totally but by distance, was something that hurt for a long time. Especially when things were difficult with my future Ex. I learned to value true friendship more than anything! Its something that will keep you going and a true friendship is as rare as a pot of gold! I followed the dream I had since I watched 'Green Berets' with John Wayne the first time; I had always wanted to move to the States; loving Cowboys and the Wild West! And the seemingly never-ending freedom I thought I would find. But it took a lot of fighting and tears to make it to where I am now; and I am still looking for the Peace and Freedom I value so much. But I know that my friends have and would have made things so much easier!
We still talk and write sometimes. Calling Germany or the States is expensive. She has medical issues and writing is hard on her; I find writing sometimes painful myself.
I know that I will never find a friend like her again. And the happy days of my youth won't come back. But I hold on to my memories and they have shaped the way how I try to raise my children.
If I can give my children the type of memories and friendship I gained those days, I did alright!
Value your true friends! Their friendship is forever!