On skids through the fairytale landscape
A snow-covered landscape, under the runners crunching snow, a refreshing breath of wind on the face ... Join us on a sleigh ride, which remains unforgotten.
How it all began
I had called Peter Hammerer to book a sleigh ride, thus fulfilling a long-held girlish dream. Winter, sun, horses, a sleigh – here, a prince would just get in the way... During our telephone call, I also wanted to impress this horseman, or “Rosserer” as they say in Upper Bavarian, with my "knowledge" about Noriker horses. Peter understood, and told me: “Well, if you’re that interested, why don’t you come to the yard a little before two, and I can introduce you to the horses.” He was making an exception because I wanted to write about them; usually, no-one gets to enter the stables. Usually when you book a sleigh ride, you come to the yard at the time you are told to find the sleigh prepared, the horses harnessed, and Peter on hand, ready for an immediate start.
Tour of the stables
Before I set out on my cosy sleigh ride with the two Norikers, I am led into the stable and introduced to some mountain-bred heavy horses: the two proud stallions Satan and Hoffeldhof, gelding Pezi, and next door, mares Lolita and Fiona. This is as far as we go: it's 2 o’ clock and Peter wants to start on time. Pezi stamps indignantly in his box, asking for more hay. Peter gives him a little more, and we head outside again. I take my seat on the coach box; finally, I’ll get to talk to Peter about horses.
Peter has around 25 Noriker horses. He doesn’t know the exact number; only yesterday he helped one of his mares to foal. Peter is not only a coachman, but also a foaling partner and farrier rolled into one. He also has four "Tyrol Grey” cattle – an ancient, robust breed of cattle.
Peter shows me chutes he has skied, or wants to ski. At the mere mention of the word “Renna”, Lola and Ricardo stop automatically, so that I can take a good look at the couloir that their human herd leader has already tackled on skis. With every chute that Peter shows me, my eyes grow wider. Lola snorts. Ricardo is indifferent to everything apart from Lola’s presence. Peter grins broadly – snow-filled chutes and Noriker horses – what more does he need to be happy, I think to myself. I ask him if winter is his favourite season, and get a clear “no”, because he also loves the summer. Then he spends his days barefoot and clad only in a pair of leather shorts, unless he is on the carriage, in which case he has to put on a shirt.
Every fairytale comes to an end ...
Meanwhile, we have reached the yard. During our journey, neither have hazelnuts fallen into our laps, nor has a monkey played a trick on us, but Peter’s stories about horses, together with his happy-go-lucky, youthful attitude and mischievous grin, have reminded me a lot of the colourful, carefree children's TV series I used to love, and occasionally still like to watch... I thank Peter, crumple Ricardo's soft muzzle, and whisper in Lola’s ear that she will be a great mum. Suddenly, I am back in the present – the next group has arrived, laden with provisions and excitedly looking forward to their trip. I would love to know which films pop into their heads when they see Peter and Ricardo