Enjoying the French countryside with horses


I visited Sanne at her new home in the South of France in August. We spent the week horse riding, exploring the French countryside, and catching up while drinking a (quite a few) beer(s). All in all, a week full of fun. I love nature, and her new home is stunning, but I will be honest with you. When Sanne first asked (or rather begged) me to take care of her horses, kitten, and house in France, while she would go on our horse riding holiday in Mexico, there was nothing inside of me screaming ‘HELL YEAH!’. I was thinking about what I would do there for ten days, who I would talk to (as I do not speak a word of French), and about being my in own company for ten days. Still, I said yes (with some pressure) and it turned out that these ten days were just what I needed for myself. While traveling a lot and only being home in Europe two months a year, my stay usually ends up being very chaotic and stressful. In France I had time to write two blog posts, catch up on my other work, clear my mind, and plan some travels. I don't like sitting still and just waiting for the day to pass by. It makes me restless and I was scared this was how I would feel the entire stay, the opposite was true.

Written by Stine Andersen

Hiking in the Pyrenees mountains

Taking care of the pony and horses

What actually happened was: My alarm rang at 7am. I snoozed for about 40 minutes, because, why not? Sarabi, the kitten, would start biting and ‘scratching’ me, and I tried to push her away in an attempt to leave the bed without having her attacking my ankles. As I got out of bed, the horses would start neighing as they knew it’s breakfast time. It’s actually really cute. Except for one morning, I went to bed way too late and I had to go pee at 7 am, so they started walking around and neighing outside for the following two hours until I actually left the bed to feed them. Creatures of habit. When they were done eating their breakfast, I brought them to another pasture, where they would graze for about 3 hours. Sukur (pony) would run loose after Bats (horse) and every time, he would run past the pasture and stand right on the other side of the fence and graze. He’s a pony, so forget about getting near him without treats (I learned that pretty fast). After three days of him being a pony about it, I started taking him on a lead rope too. Cinnamon (horse) is the newest member of the herd, a big gentle horse and an absolute sweetheart!

Taking care of horses and housesitting in France

Exploring the South of France

While the horses are enjoying their hours of grazing, I prepare their ‘home’. Poo-picking in the fields, refilling their hay nets, and refilling their water buckets with fresh, cold water from the well. After about 2 hours of work, the chores are done and I have time to sit down and enjoy my coffee in the shade while watching the horses graze peacefully. The rest of the day I’m free to do whatever I want. I love traveling and exploring, so some days I went hiking around the area.

Hiking in the French Pyrenees mountains

Another day I drove to a small town in Spain. I speak Spanish and every time I go back home I don’t get to practice my Spanish every day which is too bad. Being in Spain for the day was therefore the perfect getaway. I drove around the Pyrenees mountains and accidentally ended up in Andorra. The drive was scenic and obviously full of mountains. One afternoon I drove to the nearby town, Camon. With a beautiful bridge and river running underneath, it’s an attractive spot for locals to spend the day. I had brought my book and just sat there for two hours reading and watching the French families enjoying their Sunday afternoon. One day I went to a nearby town where you can do a 4-hour hike. I started at 7:30 am as the sun was rising. The first hour or so was just uphill. It was quite steep and I did consider turning around and walking back down, but as I got to the top, I forgot everything about it. You stand in between two hills and have the best view of the Pyrenees. The sun had just come up high enough to hit the Pyrenees in the back. As I walked along the mountainside the sun kept making the Pyrenees mountains look even more remarkable. Halfway through the hike, you make it to a small lake, which is the reason (together with the stunning view of the mountains) people do the hike. When I was there, there were a few people who had been camping there. They were fishing and cleaning up after their breakfast. I sat down on a big rock, to take in the beauty of the Pyrenees.

Pyrenees mountain dog

I had been warned about the Pyrenees Mountain dogs that are guarding the sheep. The locals had told me, that if they started barking, you turn around and find another way because the dogs will attack to protect their sheep. When I was walking back down, the other hikers kept asking if I had seen one of the guarding dogs. As I told them no, they continued their hike up. I was almost back down, as the biggest dog I have ever seen stood in front of me. It was a Pyrenees guarding dog, but luckily on a leash. The owner spoke Spanish and I asked him about the dog. He confirmed it was a Pyrenees Mountain dog but he loved people and wouldn’t attack me. He told me, the dog weighed 55kg and loved being on the couch. As I petted him on the back, my hand disappeared in his hair.

My first trail ride on the new horse: Cinnamon!

In France, the hunting season starts in September and therefore it’s not smart to ride on days that hunting is allowed. On the days they weren’t hunting I would ride Cinnamon out in the morning. As the newest member of the family, we didn’t know each other. The first two days I was there were hunting days, so I would spend the time in his field while reading a book. Just observing each other. I quickly found out Cinnamon is a kind horse. While being in his space he would, every now and then, come to check up on me and just chill next to my chair. Sometimes I would get up and give him a good rub and keep him free of the flies. For our first trail ride, we went up a hill and rode along it while enjoying the breathtaking view of the Pyrenees on the horizon (At least I was, he didn’t seem to care much). As I wrote on my Instagram story, this was the day I fell in love with this horse. It is always a bit exciting taking a horse out of the herd and riding it for the first time but as easy-going as he is, he didn’t make a fuss about it.

Horse riding in the Pyrenees mountains in France

Only when we came back from our trail ride, he was neighing, greeting his new friends Bats and Sukur. To give you an idea of just how calm Cinnamon is, I let him stop to scratch his nose on the way home, as the horse flies were starting to eat him alive. After about 15 seconds I thought ‘Now that’s enough’ and pulled the reins up and gave him a little kick. When his head was back up, I saw that he had scratched his bridle off and now had his bit hanging halfway out his mouth. I still had enough control to pull back and stop him again, jump off, and put it back on. While all of this was taking place, he was just standing still minding his own business. I could jump back on and ride the rest of the way home. Easy! On our next trail ride, I looked down to check on his boots (he's got sensitive front feet) and to my surprise had the front left boot just hanging around his ankle and flopping around as he was walking. Again, he didn’t care to let me know! So I jumped off, hooked it around my wrist and we rode home. Again, easy!

Horse riding in the French Pyrenees mountains

Two blonde horse girls

Sanne or Stine? Sanne lives in a tiny village, but she has the nicest neighbours. With my very limited French, I would say ‘Hello’ and ‘Good morning’ to the people I met during the day. The owner of the house and property Sanne lives on is such a nice guy. He is an elderly man who used to have horses himself but has now retired. He would always greet me and ask with his very limited English ‘All good?’ and I could tell him ‘Oui, all good, merci’. He would tell me I could take the tomatoes from his vegetable garden, as he had more than he could eat himself. This is the warm and friendly culture I am used to from the Latinos of South America, so it made me feel at home. There are a few English people living in the village and I got to chat with them a little. Sanne and I often get told we look alike (blonde hair, blue eyes). One morning, as I was bringing Cinnamon to his field, a neighbour stopped to talk to me. He looked at Cinnamon and asked if that was my new horse. Without telling him directly that I wasn’t Sanne I answered, yes, it was indeed Sanne's new horse. Afterwards, he asked how long it had been here and I answered I didn’t remember exactly when he arrived but that it had taken a bit longer than expected and that Sanne was very happy he was finally here. I don’t think he actually realised I wasn’t Sanne and probably thinks she’s a little crazy now.

Countryside in the South of France

From these 10 days, I have really surprised myself with just how much I can enjoy my own company without feeling lonely. When traveling you meet new people every day that you socialise with and I think I just needed a break from all of it. I don’t remember the last time I have been able to sit down and read in a book for three hours without being interrupted. I mean, I even managed to read two books in 10 days! It was the right choice to let Sanne convince me to go to France. I have just started my sixth year of traveling and I feel recharged. So, even after all my concerns, thank you for giving me the opportunity to live the life of Sanne for 10 days.

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