(All photos © Sean D Sorrentino, 2012)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Horses, horses, everywhere

Have you ever taken a vacation where you spent more time running around than you did actually enjoying your trip? Have you come home thinking you need a vacation from your vacation? You’re just going to the wrong places.

Our first full day in Slovenia has been the perfect antidote to the pain of air travel. I know that getting treated like cattle shoved into a trailer is the price we have to pay so that average guys like me can afford to travel, but it does wear you down. Today made it all better.
We got up at a leisurely 8 am and wandered down for the breakfast. Some basic standards were available, including scrambled eggs and some cereal. There were also some sliced lunchmeat and some rolls. Pretty basic. There were also a lot of little packaged things on the rack behind the scrambled eggs. Protip: "pašteta", which comes in a little round foil tear off kind of package is absolutely NOT jam. It’s pâté. I thought it would be rude to open it up and then throw it away, so I spread it on a roll and ate it. It was actually pretty good.
Not Jam!

We had three major things to do today. We had a “visit” to the Lipica Stud Farm, a one hour ride in a horse drawn carriage, and the Sunday riding exhibition. I put “visit” in quotation marks because that’s what they keep saying. In English, a person visits something or someone, but when someone shows you around, it’s more commonly called a “tour.”  I think I could make a pretty decent living proofreading the English language signs, web pages, and brochures here in Slovenia. They all seem to try so hard to make you welcome that I wish I could help them with their English. They’ve certainly helped me with my Slovene. It’s gone from non-existant to barely useful. That’s a tremendous improvement. I am hoping to get all the way up to “not laughably bad” before the end of the trip.

You would think that we would be running around wild trying to do all that in one day, but no. We wandered the grounds of the hotel and their associated golf course for an hour or so, checked email, had lunch, and presented ourselves at the gate to the horse farm at 1pm. The carriage driver was waiting for us. While the ladies were processing all of our tickets, he ran off to get the carriage. Clop, clop, clop and away we went for a long ride around what seemed like the entire place. They have 311 hectares, which works out to about 770 acres.

First we went around the golf course, and then out into the hay fields. I have no idea if it is a good golf course. I’m not a golfer and have no intention of ever becoming one, but it looked nice to my untrained eye. The driver was pretty quiet. Very friendly and he spoke enough English to make it possible to talk with him, but he was perfectly happy to let us just enjoy the ride. He let us know that they also have hunting here. We saw a couple of deer. They were too far away to get a good photo, but they were pretty cool looking, I thought. They have these little electric fences all over the place. They were to keep the wild boar off the golf course. You can hunt those too. He made sure to include a sweet tree lined road. It was all kinds of picturesque.

He brought us back to the start of the farm tour, but they had already started, so he chased them down with the cart (they were just up around the corner and hadn’t really started the tour yet) and dropped us off with our English speaking guide. It was The Wife , me, and 5 older people from England. The tour was all I remembered it being. Horses, and really pretty ones at that. They have almost 350 of them, and only breed the best ones. I’m not a horse person, but I’d be happy with one of these horses. They mostly let the young horses run wild until they turn 4. That’s something I really don’t like about horse racing. They’ve got what are essentially baby horses racing under saddle. This trashes their legs pretty badly. Lipizzaners can work at the highest levels until they are in their 20s, which I am assured is quite old for a horse. They have one here that is 30. He was being used in the exhibition until he was 25 and breeding until he was 28. Letting them fully grow up before working them contributes to their longevity.

After the tour, we went to their riding exhibition. They do the show on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday at 3pm. It’s pretty much what you would expect. They show you newly started horses, some training exercises, a little carriage driving, a quadrille, and they finish with some of the “airs above the ground.” That’s when they have the horses jump into the air or stand on their back feet. This is pretty difficult for them, and I am assured had military value back in the days when horse cavalry was a primary military arm. I think the star of the show was the guy who was showing the training exercises on long reins. I do some juggling. It’s kind of a joke among jugglers that no one wants to see the really hard stuff. If you juggle 5 or 7 balls, no one is impressed even though it is stupid difficult. Everyone wants to see you eat an apple, which is pretty easy. This guy was juggling 5 balls for a crowd who wanted to see him eat an apple. The Wife, who knows horses, about came out of her seat watching this guy do single lead changes in a collected canter on long reins. (sorry about the horse jargon) I thought it was pretty impressive, but I’ve been to a major dressage show so I knew what I was looking at. I’m not sure the rest of the tourists (mostly French) knew what they were seeing.

After the show we spent another hour or so wandering about the grounds. We ran into another American couple. He was a retired US Navy officer with family from Slovenia. We swapped sea stories, while the ladies talked horses. We got to see more of their horses, including the young ones who’ve really not started turning white yet. (I know, horsey people, they were grey, not white) They look kind of funny. The really well trained, fully grown Lipizzaners look magnificent. The babies look kind of odd.

It’s 6pm, and we’ve not broken a sweat all day. It’s rained a bit, been sunny a bit, and overcast most of the time. It’s about as relaxing as you could hope for. If you’re going to come to Slovenia, flying in via Trieste like we did, this is exactly the place you need to come to recover from the flight.

Federal Trade Commission Disclaimer:
These blog entries reflect my personal opinions about the locations The Wife and I visited during our travels. I have not received money, freebies, or any other inducements to provide positive coverage of anyone, anywhere, or anything. In fact, no one on this trip knew or had any reason to know that I am a blogger. I do not work for the Tourist Boards of any country, nor am I employed in the travel industry in any way.

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