Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Horses and Puppies and Roosters, Chiang Rai!

Who would have thought that I would go to Thailand to train horses? I had a conniption when I first found this farm listed on WWOOF: five horses?! I had to go. I made us go. So we went.

Appaloosa Stables, subdivision Friendly Farm LLC, is run by Hans and Aye, who have lived in Chiang Rai for nearly twenty years. They started out running a guesthouse, but Aye's Thai restaurant was so much more popular that they stopped letting people sleep there and just called it Aye's. Then Hans opened an Italian place, but expats kept storming the counter with requests for this many olives or that many slices of cheese that there's now a deli shop around back. That's three restaurants, and counting. One of the lovely perks of this arrangement was that we ate delicious leftover restaurant food (hang leh three times a week, mmm) and every Saturday headed out into town for a meal on the house and a stroll through the weekly Walking Street, which is the Thai equivalent of the mall. Everyone hangs out at the mall on a Saturday night.

We'll write about our weekend excursions in and around Chiang Rai later, but I just wanted to introduce you to the farm. These are my favorite roosters. NB: The white one is 1/8 the size of the speckled.

My favorite rooster.

Our neighbor's dog, Nam Tan (which means brown sugar, because he is sweet), adopted us.

The view from the Pineapple Learning Resort across the street.

But the stars of the show, and the darlings on the farm, were the horses. Hans got started with one mare last year, which quickly became two (because she needed company), which became three when the first mare gave birth, and now totals five, one of whom is also pregnant. After I left, he acquired a polo horse, and a stallion is on the way in a few months. And all this, because his daughter got it into her head at age five that she wanted to ride horses. Sounds awfully familiar... minus the five horses. Dad.

Typical expressions for the babies of the herd. That's Storm on the right.

Phil and Zandee's debut rap album out soon.

Doc Bar, mama of Storm, heads up the herd.

I even trained some people! Meet Hattie, my Texan tutee.

Val and I have a showdown.

Zandee was eight months pregnant at the time of this photo...she's a beast!

Introducing Hello Dolly!, Tennessee Walker of the north.

Or as we say in Thai, Sawatdee Dolly

She's really into saying hello.


Ya. We heard you.
Hans's goal is to create a totally integrated natural horsemanship center, which is bananas, but it's especially bananas because there are barely any horses taller than my shoulder here. (Thai ponies are cute, but they are no warmblood.) The horses will be out to pasture 24/7, unless they're about to give birth or need to go on stall rest or see a vet. Their pasture is something special, though; called a Paddock Paradise and involves all kinds of footing (from gravel to cement to water and grass) so that the horses' hooves get worn down naturally, without shoes on. While we were there, we saw the straw-bale-and-adobe offices, volunteer housing, and handful of stalls go up. I've never encountered anything like that before, and I can't wait to see pictures of it once it's done.

The future site of the horse farm, and of the vegetable/WWOOF farm, is a few kilometers away from Hans and Aye's house, as well as the swank guesthouse where we were staying. I helped out with the vegetables exactly once, and then I spent the rest of our three weeks training horses.

I loved every minute of it; I didn't even mind that much when Storm bit my shoulder picking his hooves for the first time. I understand a lot more about herds than I ever did, not really having seen a true herd in action. And I ingested so many DVDs about "natural horsemanship" that I was bound to learn something (and, thanks to my great instructors, it isn't really that far from the horsemanship I was taught, minus the commercialization). So added to the list of things I've learned in Thailand: I have to be riding when I return stateside.

1 comment:

  1. So, what exactly is "frigid" in Laos - 60 (f)? And horses? who knew, right? Love the tough buff haircut, Phil!!