Monday, June 27, 2016

Greetings from Sweden!

I've haven't been posting anything since coming to Sweden, so I wanted to say that I'm doing well.

On June 5th, my family woke up at the crack of dawn and drove off to Las Vegas from what once was our home in Northern California.  The trip wasn't very eventful.  We stopped at a few rest stops along the way and that was it.  The one we stopped at for lunch was actually one we had stopped at many times before on various road trips.
A song from U2' s Joshua Tree album played on random shuffle so I had this picture taken.

In about mid-afternoon, we arrived in Las Vegas and checked into our hotel.  We stayed two nights, walking done the Strip each day to find places eat dinner.  We had been to Vegas before that, so we didn't go out of are way to see things, but we still did a fair bit of walking and I several photos.
Las Vegas

I find the Ministry of Magic!

On Tuesday afternoon, we headed to the airport so we could wait for our flight, boarding the plane around 6:00 in the evening.  Each seat had a screen where the passenger could watch movies(not so unusual, but awesome) and even track the flight of the plane(location, elevation, speed, etc).  I watched two movies, but I also enjoyed tracking the flight of the plane.  Though I tried to sleep, I only got a few winks of sleep.  I have trouble sleep when traveling in cars, and apparently airplanes too, and once it was light out, it was impossible to sleep.  Nevertheless, I was to excited to feel very tired. Once the plane began to land, I admired the landscape from above.  The dark, snowtopped mountains and fjords of Norway were particularly stunning.
I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again

Around 3:00 in the afternoon, we landed in Sweden and took a train south toward Småland, where my grandma lives.  We took a short train first, and then transferred to a train that we rode for several hours across the countryside.  It was a comfortable train, equipped with tables and Wi-Fi, and it went at a speed of 200 kph.  However, getting to the train, boarding, and unboarding was difficult.  Between the four of us, we had seven large bags, four hand luggage bag, and a small purse. Each of the large back was filled to the limit set by the plane: 20 kilos, or 44 pounds, if you prefer.

When leaving the second train in Nässjo, we had to pile everything by the doors several minutes ahead of time to make sure we got off with everything. After the train ride, we were picked up and taken to a very small town south of Jönköping.  Since arriving, my family has gone on at least one walk a day, exploring the area.  We can walk to the grocery store, a cafe, and a small train station from where we're staying, but we mostly just explore. I now know the community very well.  I have even found a hiking trail that leads to a lake.  The path is about 8 km, there and back.
This picture was taken at 10:00 PM

Since it is summer, it does not get fully dark.  At midnight, it is twilight out.  The sun is down and a few stars are out, but it is light enough to see easily.  Distant objects don't even appear as silhouettes. It was strange at first, but it's nice.  I'm.but looking forward to winter lightning, though, when it gets dark in mid-afternoon.  In Stockholm, there will only be 3 or 4 hours of daylight during the winter solstice.


An old farm we drove to 

After living in the drought-ridden California, it was amazing to see dozens of lakes in one area. This is the one we walked to.

This area of Sweden, Småland, has many of churches

I went to my first Midsummer Celebration!

Eksjö, a historic Swedish town 

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

I won't have any riding opportunities any time soon unfortunately, but hopefully I can once I get settled into a more permanent place.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

A Wonderful Ride

It seems unbelievable, but my time of leaving for Sweden has almost arrived.  The move will be bittersweet, because I'll miss the friends that I have in America, and I'll miss being a working student for Laura.  It has been so wonderful to know her, work with her, and learn from her.

On Wednesday, I had my last lesson with her and my last ride in America for a long time. I was given the privilege of riding my choice of mule.  I chose to ride CR Moxie J, the mule who won Dressage, Western Dressage, and English Pleasure at Bishop Mule Days last week.

The only way I can think of to describe what it was like to ride him is amazing.  He is the most trained animal I have ever ridden, and as such, he wasn't just a pushbutton lesson horse like many of the animals I have ridden.  He has the most amazing gaits I have ever ridden.  When I set him up properly and rode him in front of my leg, his walk was loose and free.  He's a big mule, so I was able to ask for large trot strides.  Perhaps his most amazing gait, however, was the canter.  The transition to the canter was always smooth.  All I had to do was making a kissing sound, and he would roll into the canter.  His strides had a lot of bounce to them, and they felt almost effortless to ride.

As I rode, I focused on keeping my body balanced, since any unbalance could affect my riding. When that was in place, I asked for forward, rhythmic gaits. I tried to keep an elastic connection between my hands and the bit, giving to Moxie slightly when he gave to the bit and became soft and round.  It was so amazing when he did so.  Because of the soft connection and roundness, I could allow him to stretch when I took a few moments to walk and catch my breath.  He stretched so nicely; it felt great.

I worked on a lot of circles.  At one point of the ride, after I had ridden each gait many times,  I rode each 20 meter circle in the arena one after the other(not a serpentine; I stayed on the same rein in this exercise).  I started at the walk worked up to doing the exercise in the canter.  When I kept a soft connection and the right amount of bend in Moxie's neck and body, things felt extraordinary.  It was amazing how effortlessly Moxie could do things.

I'm so happy that I had such an amazing last ride in America on an amazing mule.  I'll miss riding mules when I go to Sweden.  They're such amazing creatures, and I hope to tell European equestrians about them.