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2013: A new start - Aktivstall Mauerbach and Sorraia Mustangs


Sometimes the strangest things happen. Well, they do to me, anyway. I'm not averse to change, but I suppose I don't really go to look for it, which is maybe why sometimes fate steps in to give me a timely kick to the posterior.


All change!


After 8 years of ups and downs at the Harmony Centre, on February 1st, 2012 my landlord called me to say he was giving notice on my flat. For those who never visited the Harmony Centre - it was house divided into flats with adjoining stables, so being asked to move out of my flat had a pretty big impact on everything. Although it turned out that I couldn't legally be removed, the time had clearly come for a change. I found a place with rather less "character" than the one at the Harmony Centre, in that it has working electrics, efficient central heating, mains water and is on the public transport system. I had forgotten how luxurious city life can be.


There followed months of negotiations over the stables, as I and my fellow Harmony Centre members tried everything we could think of to strike a deal to allow our horses to stay there, and the horse side to continue. It was all to no avail, and in May we all found refuge with my old friend and colleague,  Elizabeth Haffner of horsetrainingsolutions.


A relaxing summer


Her place is idyllic, nestling in the Vienna woods, surrounded by beautiful countryside and offering excellent basic care for the horses. The only problem is, it is primarily a stable for Icelandics, and my Bigsy is a 17.2hh (178 cm) warmblood. Funny as it was to see Bigsy getting creative with Icelandic size hay stalls (when you have a really long neck, you don't need to go all the way in!), it was clear this could only be a short term solution, and he would need to find something more large horse friendly for the winter. All the local stables were either full or not suitable, and I could feel the finger of fate pushing me out of my comfort zone.


Time to get "Aktiv"!

Sunny and Bigsy with new friend Babsi on day 1
Sunny and Bigsy with new friend, Babsi, on day 1 in Aktivstall Mauerbach


Over the summer, I met Claudia Radbauer of Aktivstall Mauerbach. When we first met up, the Aktivstall was a plan on a piece of paper, and a huge open space. You can see where she started and the remarkable journey to where it is today in the "Building a Ranch" album here.


Along with riding and training her own riding horses, she was also setting up a breeding programme for Sorraia Mustangs. No, I'd never heard of a Sorraia, either - which is perhaps little wonder when you know there are only about 200 of them in the world. They are Portuguese wild horses, or strictly speaking, semi-wild. They are the ancestors of the Iberian horses, and are highly endangered. The Sorraia genes are found in some Mustangs and some modern Iberian horses, so some breeders are using these to bring in new blood and preserve the Sorraia type.

"Alegria" is the first foal of the Mauerbach group of Sorraia Mustangs


To cut a long story short, Claudia invited me to join the team, along with Bigsy and Sunny, and we moved in last December. The lifestyle is suiting them perfectly, and even though Sunny is now nearly blind, she's coping very well with her new hi-tech, but at the same very natural, environment. Check out the "A Horse's life..." album!


The opportunity to observe and work with true semi-wild horses is wonderful. My first impression is that their behaviour is similar to domestic horses, but much more highly tuned.

Snow, snow, snow and more snow! Snowy noses, snowy legs, snow down my boots...


The winter has been a settling down phase, and a time to enjoy the luxury of an indoor school, get to know the Sorraia Mustangs, and find a new rhythm to life.


It's been a long and cold winter and, pretty as the snow can be, we're all glad that spring seems to be finally on the way. Work with the Sorraia Mustangs has been sporadic, to say the least. There is only so long I can stand in sub zero temperatures and snow up over my boots! However, at last it's warming up and I can get to work. First job is to train Alegria to the halter. Although it's planned that the horses will live in as close to natural conditions as possible, it's essential that they can all be safely haltered and led, and handled as necessary by the vet, farrier etc. Another Sorraia type is joining us at the end of March, making the group up to 5, and a stallion is expected to arrive in May - so I'll be busy over the summer months.


New Blog

If you'd like to join me on this journey, I've set up a Thinking Horse blog that will cover the Sorraias, and general  training articles will continue to update (hopefully more regularly, now that my personal situation is sorted out!) in this section.The first one will be about the Aktivstall, as this is a relatively new concept in horse management, and a very interesting one!


You can get in touch with me at or join us on the Thinking Horse Facebook page!




Order the Thinking Horse DVD here!


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 March 2013

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