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For the past two months, we’ve been working a lot with Isolde. When I first started breeding, I said we would wait until the horses were at least two years old (which is “shockingly late” according to Hausa culture, but the absolutely earliest, if not too early still). When Isolde’s second birthday passed in September, neither she nor I were ready for the challenge. As we were in no hurry, however, we simply we continued training on the ground, introducing every strep gradually and taking all the time in the world.

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Wearing a saddle was scary at first but Isolde quickly got used to it, and carried it with pride.

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Another month down the lane, Isolde’s ambition was evident. Although completely lose on our rides and not even ponied, she took her place next Anette & Sahara, just as I would do if I were riding Arwen.

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We brought her along on our bush rides, waiting for the right moment. The moment came sooner than expected, but everything was broken into little steps. I mounted her at home one late afternoon and Isolde did not protest. It was if she had carried a human all her life. A week later, Anette and I brought out in the bush. She did a few laps around us in full speed letting go of all her excess energy, and once she was done, she resumed position alongside the other horses.

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We stopped somewhere in the bush and I rode her (as opposed to just sitting on her) for the first time in her life. Having only been ponied before, it took her a few moments to understand the reins work, but she did all she could to understand me and I made sure to keep it simple.

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Safe in the African bush, there was no stress, no fearfulness, no over-eagerness and no mistakes. Under a beautiful setting sun, I was riding Isolde for the first time, and it was as if she had always carried a human before. I still cannot get over how natural it was all went.

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I rode for about two minutes, then let Anette try, as if needing another opinion to know that it was true. Isolde remained a dream and carried Anette in a steady walk along the beautiful sandy paths of the Zinder bush. We stopped while everything was good (wanting to give her little bits of real life and letting her rest inbetween) and rode back home on our regular horses. Isolde was happy and proud, eager for the next lesson, which would not come until two weeks later.

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We have since continued our work under the African sky and after less than two hours of effective riding time, Isolde has astonished me profoundly. She is strong, sensitive and determinded. Having waited two and a half years for our own-bred horse, Isolde has overcome my expectations. Having never ridden in a horse before, I never thought it could go so easily, so naturally, and with absolutely no stress. And there lies the key, for without stress, an animal can be free to develop according to its own desire, and Isolde is definitively a very ambitious horse, eager to create her own place with us and join her mother and Sahara amongst the hard-working fast-ambling barb horses of Ishtar’s Ark.

For other stories set under a beautiful sky, visit Skywatch!