I recently watched Into The Wild for the first time, a movie I found somewhat difficult to like. However, the lesson of the story, essentially that people need people, struck a heavy chord. No matter how stunning the architecture, how beautiful the views, how rich the culture or intriguing the history, nothing compares to the memories we’ve made with the people we’ve met along this journey. Travel without people, without connections and relationships, is lacking. Our travels have not been lacking.
On Saturdays, two of the local girls from Kupres come to the holiday farm to ride some of the horses and, in their own words, get a break from school and home and take in some good old fashioned horse therapy. I’m fortunate that the girls are eager to show the newbie a good time, and are happy to take me on some of the longer, more intense trails that I miss out on riding on my own every day. Today was the first time that I was able to ride with both girls together, and they definitely took me for the ride of a lifetime, and not only because of the stunning scenery and the pure thrill of a ride through this countryside.
Petra is 17 years old and has one more year left in high school before she heads off to university. From her description, the school system here in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) sounds pretty similar to what I’m used to in the States. She isn’t sure what she wants to study in college yet, but continuing her education seems to be a given: “There is nothing I can do with just this schooling.” On the trail, she’s a source of interesting information I’ve never heard before. She introduces me to berries that are edible and instructs me to sort of roll them around in my mouth to fight off thirst. If ingested, these berries are a great way to clear out the system. Her English is excellent (both girls’ is) but she asks about what we call pine cones, and then tells me that their presence indicates how fresh and clean the air is. I’m fascinated by how much she knows about her environment, this is not an area where I am very knowledgeable.
Anamarija is 15, though you wouldn’t guess it. She wants to move to America one day; she isn’t sure where yet, anywhere will do. She’s almost as obsessed with The Lord of the Rings as Travis is, and after our ride, I make the mistake of getting those two on that topic (don’t get me wrong, I love LOTR, but since Travis has watched all million of the movies no less then 100 times since moving to England ten months ago, I might be slightly soured on the them for the moment). Anamarija leads most of our ride, and she’s a wonderful guide. She also rides at a riding club where she does some show jumping, and when I express a longing to be able to jump again, she agrees to take me along with her next time she goes!
Both girls are essentially self taught equestrians, and incredibly impressive ones at that. They’ve been a part of the team at the holiday ranch for almost ten years (more then half their lives), and have not only watched it grow in to the success it is now, but have played an integral part in making it so successful. The girls work here full time during the summer holidays, guiding trails and interacting with guests. They’ve been on board for the breeding and breaking of almost all of the current riding string, and the horses are absolutely a credit to their knowledge, ability, and pure skill. I spend hours listening to them tell me about the horses I’m now riding, about what they were like as babies, cooing at foal photos and admiring both of their photography skills.
These two girls may be young, but they have already accomplished so much that they can be proud of, and I’m incredibly impressed. With their passion for horses (and all animals… they’ve insisted on meeting, and loving on, all twelve of mine too) and their dedication to a work they love, they remind me of myself at that age. Its a bittersweet reminder, perhaps one I needed but didn’t know I was looking for. So often I boil my life down to the first twelve years of my adulthood, which have been strewn with considerably more trauma, failures, and disappointments then they have with passion, pride, or success. Spending the day with these two girls, I remembered the girl that I used to be, the one who loved horses, who knew exactly who she wanted to be when she grew up and what she wanted to do. They reminded me that my foundation in life isn’t the last twelve years, but the eighteen years that came before that, and that I had a childhood that was full of love, family, passion, clarity, pride, and dreams. In making me remember some of the best moments of my past, they gave me an unexpected vision for my future. I’m grateful to them.
As a side note, we had a proper gallop through the mountainside forest today, and as I was flying along, dodging trees, bending around turns in the trail, and letting my spirit soar with the sound of hoofbeats, a scene flashed in to my head. You know the one, where Arwen is riding with Frodo through the forest to escape the wraiths? Yeah, we were doing exactly that… I got to have my very own LOTR moment, and it was seriously awesome.