“A spirited one!”, I said when Bruce asked me what kind of horse I wanted to ride. We were having a bush dinner around a nice camp fire, enjoying the pork, salad, potatoes and local herbs, with locally brewed wine, some delicious walnut liquor and beers. “Then Storm Cloud it is”.
The next morning at 06.00 the horses were saddled and ready to go. Bruce offered some ‘cowboy-coffee’, which the four of us (Wiet de Bruijn, Deli Saavedra, Wouter Helmer, and myself) were in desperate need of. I usually don’t drink coffee at all, but this was an exception. Last night was a late night, with stories around the campfire, and a soft thunder and lightning in the background.
Bruce tried to put the bridle on, which the white Lipizzaner didn’t quite accept. “This will be your horse!” grinned Bruce. Storm Cloud was sometimes a bit of trouble in the compound, but once in the saddle atop of him, he was an angel. His trot and his canter were so smooth, I had the feeling I was floating through the air, even in a trot. My colleagues Wouter and Deli rode two calm horses. With Wiet on Riverdance, a nice quarter horse, Bruce and I took of in a trot or canter, we waited for them on the end of the trail to come by. This way we all had a nice riding experience. Bruce took us along small forest paths, across streams and as soon as we were in more open land, we speeded up. Meadows were fully grown with all kinds of herbs and flowers, while we were all watching for roe deer and even bears. The horses were steady and helped us to go through the sometimes steep terrain. Donna, Wouters horse, lowered herself while sliding half a meter downhill. Amazing how these horses are so connected with the area. I tend to prefer the steady legs of a horse above my own, while travelling through vast terrain like this.
Bruce is breeding a smaller type of mountain horse with steady feet to deal with the rocky ground. Since this type of horse will be smaller than the average quarter horse, the rider will also have fewer branches in his or her face. I was thankful for my chinks and my raincoat, since it started to pour down during the ride. But actually I never felt the wetness or the cold while riding. The movement, the excitement and the warmth of the horse keep me going.
As a passionate western rider I have rode in several different places before, in Australia, the United States and within Europe. I can really highly recommend the Linden Tree Ranch in the Velebit mountains, Croatia. A yet almost undiscovered travel destination, which in many ways gives you the same feeling of remoteness and the silence of nature or rather the cacophony of natural sounds as considerably more famous cross-country riding destinations. The hosts Bruce and Maggie serve you delicious meals made with locally sourced natural ingredients. Maggie’s mushroom soup was my favorite! You can choose whether to spend the night either in a real Indian teepee or in a private room in a chalet with separate bathroom. The first time I opened the door to my room, I smelled the nice pine wooden structure and admired the handmade hooks of branches to hang your towel upon. You can even enjoy yoga here in the summertime, take day rides or instead choose to go for a week of travel across the mountains of Velebit on horseback. Whether you would like to sleep outside and have the bush camp experience, or instead enjoy the luxury that goes with a resort, you can have it all at Linden Tree. At times you can hear the wolves howling and you have a good chance of spotting wildlife from horseback.
The Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch cooperates with Rewilding Europe to help show that the wild also can mean business, jobs and income. There are even plans to do a controlled grazing experiment with large herbivores here.
Enjoying from horseback the wilderness and wild values of the area, and learning natural horsemanship. Healing the natural environment, wildlife, and you.
Check out Linden Tree Retreat & Ranch at: http://www.lindenretreat.com/