Not Riding in Istria – Day 7

The final day was home day. There was no riding, and no horses involved, and we were all transferred to Pula after breakfast. For some of us it was for the whole day – a little two long – but for those with earlier flights it was only a couple of hours – a little too short.

Still, there was some good scenery to be had, and a little more about the town than Rovinj had – which was good as there was no way we could kill eight hours there if there wasn’t.

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Before we set off I managed to take a photo of our base for most of the week. It was rather nice!

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With an outside dining area, although it was too cool to use for all but lunch on the last day.

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Anyway… on to Pula. It had a colosseum an amphitheater, of the old Roman type, which made for some good photos. It was also the hottest day of the week and, dare I say it, would have been too hot to ride a horse. Or too hot to be comfortable at least. Quite some contrast to deluge-day (as Monday will forever be known).

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Ruins + sky.

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The airport was very close to the town, as you can see from this shot of the back end of a jet on final approach.

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Patrick giving it all gladiator, just with a mobile phone and a rucksack instead of a sword and shield.

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Although this looks more like the background should be on fire or exploding or something.

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It was a great amphitheater, but spoiled a bit by lighting rigs and stages and such. On the one hand, I’m sure it’s a great venue to watch performances on the like, but on the other: I don’t care, it got in the way of my view.

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Ann enjoying having her photo taken.

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More arches.

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There was a museum in the basement. It had a lot of pots. I’m told they’re called “amphora” but if it walks like a pot and quacks like a pot then it’s a pot.

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One of the classier establishments in town. Trademark infringement sandwich anyone?

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Not to be outdone by Rovinj, Pula also had a tower.

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Although you couldn’t go up it, and it wasn’t attached to the church.

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It was like the two buildings had had an argument or something.

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The town square. It might look deserted, but I just got lucky with the photo. In early evening there was a torrent of weddings that poured forth from its doors and had photos taken in front of the old temple thing next door.

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A temple thing which you had to pay to go into, despite it being more interesting on the outside.

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Pula was on the coast, and I loved seeing this old container ship rusting away. I have no idea whether it was being dismantled, used for storage or repaired, but it was MASSIVE.

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The back of the Temple of Overpriced Admission.

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Which contrasted nicely with the bridge of the ship opposite.

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We found a mosaic. It was harder to track down than you might think, and we only found it because an online guide said it was harder to track down than you’d think. Basically, follow signs, go into the car park, and then look for the place you’d least expect to find a Roman mosaic and you’re there.

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The other half of the mosaic. It was something about a woman being punished for doing something bad by being tied to a cow. You can tell I was paying attention.

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Some flowers. They were quite big, but you can’t tell in this photo.

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You still can’t tell how big those flowers were even with a building for scale. That’s the trouble with perspective sometimes.

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We went up to the castle and were welcome by an array of cannons.

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And a very tiny Godzilla. For some reason, the sunglasses I took with me rendered most lizards invisible and I only saw them if someone else pointed them out and I took my sunglasses off.

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Be careful of doing whatever bad thing is happening in this sign.

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The view from the top of the castle.

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The cannons from the other side. Not so scary now you’re all pointing in the wrong direction, eh?

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Looking at the dock of the bay.

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From the castle back to the amphitheater. It was a grand view and a very slow day and rather pleasant, right up until the flight delay, then getting to Gatwick and finding that despite checking before we left there weren’t very many trains to London, and then getting in at just shy of 4am. Still, I’m thankful for all night tube for the first time.

For me, the week I spent in Crotia has to go down one of the best trail rides I’ve been on. It may not have quite had the spectacular scenery of the ride in Jordan, but it was well organised, we were well fed, we had nice beds each night, the horses were good to ride yet still even-tempered, and Petar looked after us very well. Plus, we saw a little of that part of historic Croatia, a country that I knew nothing about before and now know almost nothing about.

All posts in this holiday:

Riding in Istria (Croatia) – Day 1

Riding in Istria – Day 2

Riding in Istria – Day 3

Riding in Istria – Day 4

Riding in Istria – Day 5

Riding in Istria – Day 6

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Riding in Istria – Day 6

Our last half a day of riding was upon us, and a visit to a coastal town awaited that afternoon.

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Patrick tacking up.

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Alice also tacking up.

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Apache having been tacked up. Finally I was starting to get the hang of things.

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We rode to a nearby town, one which we’d had dinner at two nights before, and paraded around the streets on horseback like we owned the place.

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It’s like we’re ye olde knights or something.

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Taking the horses back and letting them into the field I saw why it took so much effort to brush Apache each morning.

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Yup – that’s my horse upside down in the middle. Well, it wasn’t my problem any more, but it was nice to see him having a little roll around after putting up with me for six days.

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In the next field was a young foal which Patricia managed to attract over.

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Ann + Patricia + mini horse.

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The afternoon involved a trip to Rovinj. Close to Italy, even some of the signs were in Italian (including “Rovigno” for the name of the town, which sounded nothing like “Rovinj” which Petar said it as, with a hard “j” on the end so it sounded like it would rhyme with “hingie”, if that was a word. I suspected he was having us on and the “j” was more of a “y” sound so I never tried repeating it in front of a native, and TripAdvisor seems to back me up here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowTopic-g303833-i8813-k8396513-Silly_question_but_need_to_ask-Rovinj_Istria.html).

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There was a church. It had a tower.

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This tower, in fact.

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You could climb the tower via a lot of wooden stairs with open risers. Ann came and it took quite some time.

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And the view back down was like something from Escher.

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But the view from the top was totally worth it.

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Looking north(ish) from Rovinj.

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Zooming in, I’ve no idea what the town in the distance is, or the horrible complex in the foreground. Unlike the previous juxtaposition of old and new, this is not art.

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There were a lot of narrow alleyways that led right down to the water.

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And it all looked pretty full-on Mediterranean.

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Roofs.

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What looks like a cemetery.

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The tower had a bell. I don’t know if it ever rang, but I don’t think they did while tourists were up there.

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Another view back down the tower stairs. Descending took just as long as climbing.

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Colours.

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A little staircase covered in shells. It was one of those towns to just wander around and find things.

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Things like a statue of a boy holding a fish that’s swallowed a wine bottle.

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That’s also a fountain.

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A fountain with fishes on the side.

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A view from the south(ish) side of the harbour and looking back at the church tower. It was a very compact old town and you could do a lap of it in fifteen minutes.

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One of those alleyways down to the sea.

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And from the alleyway there were views of Rovinjians (if that’s what they’re called) going about the business of fishing.

We spent about three hours there, which was plenty of time for walking, climbing the tower, finding and eating ice-cream, drinking coffee and then wondering what else to do. Maybe half an hour too long, but it was a nice town and a nice change from sitting on a horse.

Next: Day 7

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Riding in Istria – Day 5

This was to be our last full day of riding. So, after a short van ride to pick up our horses and saddle up were were off again.

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Although our guide for the day, who may have been called Jakov (that’s the closest Google can tell me to what we were calling him) decided to walk for some of it. I think he spent plenty of time on a horse and only really saw the point of it if it was easier to ride. For us, we were paying to be on a horse, and goddammit we were going to say on a horse no matter how uncomfortable it was. And, after four long days of riding, it really was.

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Horses In The Distance, with a blue sky!

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One riderless horse in the distance.

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I usually had an idea of when some trotting was coming on as Jacov, or Petar if he was leading, would look back to see how far behind I was. In this case: pretty far.

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So I put a bit of a trot in to catch up. There are horses in this picture but they’re very well hidden in the shadows.

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After some trotting, I could begin to drop back again.

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And drop back a bit further.

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Yup – that’s about far enough.

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We saw plenty of birds of prey. I have no idea what they were, but this is one of them.

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And as we approached our lunch stop the scenery got interesting with rocks and wotnot sticking out of the trees.

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Not that Apache seemed to care. He’s seen it all before, and you can’t eat rocks.

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It sort of looks like a bony structure sticking out of the hill.

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The castle in the distance was to be our stopping point.

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This was the best I could take of it from a distance with a zoom lens on a moving horse.

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Another rock sticking out of the trees.

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You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

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Or can you?

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The castle, close up. The horses had been tied up at the bottom of the hill in a field so they didn’t get to see this. As I mentioned before, you can’t eat rocks so they probably didn’t care.

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Apparently this had been the site of a fort since the 6th century.

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Applying my trained architectural eye, I could certainly validate that it was old.

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Really quite old.

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There was probably something somewhere telling us that this was a great hall or whatever. Use your imagination and add a roof and the rest of the walls.

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But it made some nice photos, old or not.

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Another view of the castle. I have no idea when I took this and why it’s so far away.

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A luminous green grasshopper took up a brief residence on the back of my chap. Again, like that fidgeting spider, it didn’t really sit or stand still long enough to get an in-focus shot.

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Like a stone hand poking out of the trees.

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An oven inside the grounds of the castle. It’s also officially old.

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Zooming in to a bird of prey. I’m not sure what the markings signify but I’m going to take it as an RAF bird and hence friendly.

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More moody castle shots.

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Another semi-moody castle shot.

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The whole complex was quite large and there was a very laissez-faire attitude to scrambling over walls to look at things.

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Although this bit looked one scramble too far as there was quite a drop down one side. I am, however, quite pleased with the juxtaposition with the modern bridge in the background. It’s art, innit?

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Ann + castle.

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Me + Ann + part of castle. (Thanks Patrick!)

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A toweringly towering tower towers.

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Patricia was casually sat in an old window so I decided to take a photo. Then she got up as I was fiddling with the camera and I had to get her to un-casually sit back down again.

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And we were off again, climbing up and down.

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Patrick just as his horse hit the accelerator pedal.

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Ann + horse eating grass.

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Me + horse eating grass.

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We trotted over a few level crossings. None of the horses stopped, despite the signage. Can’t they read?

We ended our trail that night with the horses safely returned to home. We still had half a day to ride tomorrow, but it felt like we’d all made it around Istria safely and, apart from the damp day, quite happily.

Next: Day 6.

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Riding in Istria – Day 4

The clouds finally (sort of) cleared and we left to stare at a marvellous valley view on the fourth morning, something that we were all too tired and wet to even think about the evening before.

There wasn’t a lot of blue in the sky but the forecast was for a mostly dry day, and given the previous day we were happy with that. I think Petar (the guide and organiser) was too, given how he’d warned that we might not be able to ride that day if it was anything like the day before due to the steep climbs.

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The view from the room’s balcony. As with many of these kinds of things, it was somewhat wasted as we didn’t have much time there.

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But at least there was a tree to look at.

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But soon the “serious” business of riding started, and I took my position at the back of the ride behind half a dozen invisible horses.

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Again, Apache didn’t seem to care, as long as they were in sight.

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A horse’s eye view of horses in the distance.

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We seemed to be getting more relaxed at how big the gap was. Thankfully, gravel paths were easy to follow, but there were a few occasions when I wondered if I might miss a gap in a hedge that everyone else had turned through.

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The advantage of being at the back was getting photos of everyone else on the switchbacks.

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And they (Patrick here) could take photos of me too.

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And finally Patrick and Ann, belatedly checking that I hadn’t been left too far behind.

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Almost out of sight around the bend.

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It’s just me, my horse and some stones.

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More varied scenery, this time with some very lush pastures. We were higher up here, after climbing stony paths for half the day.

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It really was that green.

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Horses In The Distance, during the green period.

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Civilisation in the distance.

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Rolling hills and lush countryside.

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A few dogs would come out and see us on our way. These pair followed quite a long way, barking at Apache’s heels the whole time. He didn’t seem to care much.

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I wondered how far the previous two dogs would follow us, but these two on another property seemed a more attractive diversion than a bunch of horses so we waved goodbye to them.

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Lunch was in a restaurant, not a picnic for a change, and had a marvellous view. This isn’t it – this is a pile of mushrooms – but the view (that I didn’t take photos of) was great, honest. And so was the white wine.

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Mushrooms: the meat substitute of choice (just ask Patricia, the one vegetarian in the party).

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This was a spider, and it was big. It wouldn’t stand still, though, and I wasn’t about to rummage around in the grass to try to get a better photo.

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See that small glowing patch in the centre of the picture on the horizon? That’s the sea that is.

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There’s probably some sea here too, but the weather was definitely improving throughout the day and it was good to see some blue in the sky.

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Although most of us still kept to the rain jackets.

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And so the fourth day passed without incident and with a much improved mood.

That night, after two in different locations, we were driven back to Karnevali to sleep at “home” (which we’d only known for two nights anyway).

Next: Day 5

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Riding in Istria – Day 3

There are very few photos of day 3’s riding because it rained too much. The forecast was awful, but it didn’t really chuck it down and maybe rained for ninety minutes of the time we were on the horses. Still, at the start of the day there was a sense that nobody really wanted to be there, including the horses, and I told myself that if anybody was going to have an accident then today was it.

That premonition turned out to be correct, but thankfully without serious consequences as Patricia’s horse had a bit of water run-off collapse under it’s hoof whilst trotting and she and it began to slide down the bank. Much panicking later it was finally back up on its feet and eating grass, and Patricia had managed to “dismount” before the worst of it happened, but I think for all of us it’s the day we could do without remembering.

Still, we had a nice dinner at the end of it.

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A brief stop to rest ours and the horse’s legs

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The river we rode alongside. Usually I think we’d be cantering and galloping here but the run-off from the hills had made the ground far too wet. It was somewhere along here where bad things happened, and I expect it was after this point as from there I was so on my guard against anything I doubt I’d be riding with a camera in one hand.

The rain had stopped by the time we reached our accommodation, which was to be our second (and final) night away from “base”. It was an amazing location, but by that stage all we wanted to do was to shower, change into dry clothes and sit in front of the fire. So, unfortunately, I only have a couple of photos of the place, and you’ll have to look at the next day’s post to see them.

Next: Day 4

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Riding in Istria – Day 2

Each day started with something I’m very unfamiliar with, which is tempting your horse to come over, stand still and have a head collar put on it. They were surprisingly willing despite just how cack-handed I was about the whole thing. Who knew there were so many ways a few strips of fabric could be wrapped around a horse’s head?

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But as the ride started, it was time to continue with Horses In The Distance. Today’s ride was starting flat and then with some steep descents.

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This was near the top of the hills and somewhere on the west side of a big loch on the south side of Istria.

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The loch had a boat in it. From a distance it looked like a car ferry, but it wasn’t. It just sort of sat there being scenic.

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Ann and Patrick’s horses showing us their rear ends.

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Ann’s horse being slight more photogenic.

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And one more before it found some interesting grass.

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Me on Apache looking like we’re prancing about or something. He was remarkably sensitive to a bit of reign communication, though, and one of the few (only?) trail horses I’ve ever ridden that I could imagine taking into a dressage arena.

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“How about a photo of both of you?” Valerie suggested. She didn’t say how far apart.

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A touch of leg yielding later and I was closing the gap…

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…and a bit more…

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…and finally I’ve sidled up. Apache looks a little confused.

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We had dismounted to descend to water (which was virtually sea) level and then walked around the edge of the loch.

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Then it turned out the path meant we had to go through the water.

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Which some of the horses liked, but some of them didn’t appreciate not being able to see their feet.

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Which is of course why Apache felt it better to leave a safe distance to those in front.

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This isn’t another installment of Horses In The Distance – it’s just the view where we stopped for lunch. It was a little cool in the shade but the sun was quite warm.

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Back on the horses, and back to the back for me.

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And finally Apache senses the end of the day is coming.

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And Ann’s horse celebrated with a bit of a snooze.

As did we all much later, although we stayed the night in a different location. I can’t remember the name of the place, but we probably had the best meal of our week there, and it was followed by a lot of local grappa-esque liqueurs made from nuts or honey or wheat type things or anything basically.

Next: Day 3

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Riding in Istria (Croatia) – Day 1

In the latest installment of “riding horses on holiday”, the destination was Crotia, more specifically the region known as Istria. Like many things, I knew nothing about it before or even during my time there, but it’s the bit nearest Italy and used to be part of the Republic of Venice.

The trail was for five and a half day’s riding and we had a group of six plus one guide – pretty much the perfect size for a trail ride. The horses were excellent and so were the arrangements and accommodation.

Day one was two two-hour rides with lunch in the middle, mostly to make sure we were all comfortable with our horses and able to handle the variety of paces – all the way from walk up to gallop. The ride took a circular route over the first five days so at the end of the Sunday we were transferred back to base for the night. The trail was called “The Magic of Istria“, and while maybe not literally magic it was one of the best rides I’ve been on.

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A group stop and all the horses are wondering if it’s time for eating yet

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Some of the grassier and rockier landscape. The terrain varied an awful lot considering how small an area we covered.

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The first piece in my collection titled “Horses In The Distance”. I was riding a gelding called Apache (although the Croatians never pronounced the final ‘e’ so I’m only guessing that it was actually there)

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More horses in the distance.

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We stopped at a farm that gave tours of a small cave system. They also had a large array of pumpkins on display. (Shrug.)

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The group, from left to right: Ann, Valérie, Patricia, Alice, Patrick, Me (Karl). In the background: the caves.

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Apparently the government owns everything that’s one metre below the ground in Croatia. The programmer in me can see nothing but problems with all the exceptions to this rule that can come about, but we worked out it basically means: if you find riches, you can’t keep them.

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Stalactites and stalagmites are covered by the collective term “stalacblobs” (which I’ve just made up).

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Horses in the distance III

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and IV

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My horse, Apache, looking at horses in the distance and being completely unfussed about how far away they are

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I finally caught up with everyone by the end of the day, but here’s one final piece for the collection of day one photos.

Next: Day 2

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