Today it is minus 25. This means that one’s nose hair freezes. I am sorry if this is too much information but it is the weirdest sensation. I am seriously apprehensive about today’s activities – will it all be a bridge too far, especially in these temperatures? I am pacing the floor and feeling sick. Horse riding this morning. My first concern (that every taxi in Levi will be unavailable) is unfounded and we set off for Hethen Ratsutalli. We are, inevitably, half an hour early and the place is deserted. Along comes our guide and we are taken to meet our horses. They are rather larger than I expected – about 15 hands and very sturdy. Can it really be 39 years since I last rode? Actually, my most recent horse riding experiences did not go well. Last time I got motion sickness and the time before the horse bolted and I fell off. Will it be like a bicycle and I’ll remember what to do?
We are the only two riding this morning. Does this mean everyone else has more sense? Chris’ horse is called Loiste – according to Google translate this means ‘brilliance‘. Mine is called Hiski – not sure what this means but appropriately, if you Google this you get the Genealogical Society of Finland. Apparently Hiski is a loner who really only likes Loiste – great, a horse who needs counselling. I am also a little put off by the poster illustrating how to administer CPR on the stable door. We are expected to groom our horses. Can I look as if I know how to do this? I have read everything ever written by Ruby Ferguson and the Pullen-Thompson sisters, I’ll be fine. We are given a chair to assist with mounting and are told how to say ‘good boy’ in Finnish (which I instantly forget). ‘Good boy‘? Just tell me how to say ‘stop’.
We set off through the forest, I am grinning like a Cheshire cat – this is brilliant, quiet, peaceful with that glorious turquoise and pinky-gold Finnish light. I had been meaning to see if I could go riding again at home for a couple of years but haven’t got round to it. I do seem to be able to remember how to steer but I am still a little apprehensive about the lack of brakes. I have a bit more trouble when my glasses freeze over but when given the opportunity to cut the trip short, we decline. The only dodgy part was when we get to a stretch where the horses usually canter. Clearly no one has warned Hiski that a mad English woman who hasn’t ridden for decades is in charge. He’d quite like to do trotting. I am sure that tightening reins is meant to slow horses down so I do this and mutter ‘Whoa’ a bit. Unfortunately a tight rein means ‘trot now’ to these horses – well they might have told me. I am comforted by the thought that snow would be quite soft to fall on but would rather not put this to the test. I arrive back without major incident. I do have a bit of trouble getting off as my leg has gone to sleep, so when I stand on the ground I fall over. Fortunately the thermal boiler suit means am like a roly poly man and I just bounce. Berry juice in the stables follows.
Back in the Taksi to Levitunturi and a hot shower – the dressing gowns that come with the room are unbelievably soft – I could be tempted to walk off with one. Now just trying to keep warm during the two hour night time snowmobile ride and a night in the ice hotel (at minus 5) to worry about.