I haven’t had reason to wear my leather jacket since our arctic midsummer – until today, that is. Which I suppose means that the end of summer is finally here. It has been one of the best summers I’ve ever spent in Helsinki, and though I accept that it is nearing its end, and that fall is soon to come, I wouldn’t say no to continuing it somewhere else.
My best memories of the summer are from the last week of July. Besides being taken to the seaside for our first date by a certain handsome blue-eyed person (or maybe it was the other way around), Florentine and I spent the week at a riding camp in Knaperbacka.
The camp itself was one of the greatest experiences with horses that I’ve ever had. I had hoped to spend the week relaxing and doing calm activities with my horse, preferably in a small and warm group; maybe trekking through the woods, galloping over fields, and doing some light training in the arena – and that is exactly what I got. It believe the experience was a dream come true for every single participant – of which there were four, myself included. Our group was a warm one indeed, and our wishes regarding the program were met in every way.
The horses, who had just come back from a five-week holiday on the pasture, were tenderly cared for. Manes were plucked, fetlock feathers trimmed, and the horses gently reacquainted with training. Goose-bumped, we galloped over fields at full speed, had races and small adventures down forest paths, and even rode our horses barebacked. The last time I rode without a saddle was when I was little, and I was dreading the inevitable bruising my butt would get. But let me tell you, the sensation of a horse pressed right up against your body is worth a few bruises! On several occasions the experience moved me to tears, and I doubt I was alone in that.
I met Florentine when I began private lessons at Knaperbacka last fall, and it was love at first sight. The mare is one of the kindest, softest, and most intelligent horses that I have ever met. She has taught me much about awareness, body language, and riding, and I am immensely grateful for it.
When I’m with her I lose all sense of time, forget about the rest of the world, and remain fully focused on Florentine and the work we do together. Thanks to excellent tutelage, we have made progress in leaps and bounds despite my fifteen-year lapse in horseback riding, and each meeting has deepened the love and trust I have for this creature.
Though yoga’s significance to my day-to-day life is far greater, there is something about being on horseback that is almost impossible to put into words. I am most in tune with the sensations in my body, and with my inner most being, when I’m riding. And the amazing thing is that it is that state that allows one to form a connection with the horse. Think about it: an animal of that size responding seemingly to thought alone. How great must the importance of the smallest nuance be, with a connection built on pure energy? I’m a mere amateur compared to top riders, of course, but that amazing connection works with simpler exercises, as well. Nor is one ever perfect, and with a different horse the connection might take longer to form.
I would especially recommend horseback riding if you’re under a lot of stress, burnt out from work, or experiencing a lot of turbulence in your private life. The healing power of nature and animals is tremendous. It is the best way of connecting with your own power, and of giving your complete and unwavering attention to something outside of your day-to-day life. Which, according to yogic philosophy, is when mediation happens.
There are good transport connections from Helsinki to Kanperbacka’s riding school, and the school regularly offers Takaisin satulaan (Back in the saddle) – courses for adult beginners and those with prior riding experience.
Photos Mikko Rasila
Translation Katja Nikula