Our beautiful 11 horses are our team – we couldn’t do this without them! We pride ourselves with providing them with exceptional care both physically and mentally. Their wellbeing and happiness is our #1 priority.
The herd has been built over the years. At first, it was 8: Zara, Bolinhas, Loretta, Lola, Paloma, Lua who knew each other already, and Ellie and Tina who joined the herd back in the end of 2016.
Hakita arrived in May 2017, followed by Jennifer Lopez in September 2017. Last, but not least, Severa joined the herd in July 2018.
All of our horses have rescue-backround. They have all (apart from Lua, who was born in the herd) known abuse of some description in their lives. Some have lived in solitude, some have been pulling carts with gypsies, some have suffered accidents… Only they know their darkest stories, but below you can find out more about each character and what he know of their background.
Difficult to find the right words to describe this horse.... I hope I can do her justice; She is so much more than a horse, a very big personality and an incredibly beautiful soul. She touches people, someone once said “this horse goes straight into to my heart.” Bolinhas is old, wise and calm. She has this aura about her that makes you stop and stare. She is the perfect mindfulness guide, she takes you by the hand and shows you just how easy it is just to be in the present. Something about her that captures your attention and keeps it. Due to an old untreated injury, she is blind in her right eye. But if we didn’t tell, you probably wouldn’t notice. It doesn’t really show and she doesn’t let it bother her. She has chosen Loretta, the black beauty, as her guide horse and very often you will find Loretta close to Bolinhas on the right hand side. As in fact happens in most of these photos! I always remind people to keep chatting to her when they are handling her, just so she knows at all times where you are. Either chat I or keep a hand on her, this is also a good way to make sure she knows your whereabouts. She has a brand on her that tells us she is a pure bred Lusitano. We have not been able to determine her exact age but from what we know she is near 30. Not a spring chicken! She is not ridden anymore but comes out in hand occasionally and sometimes takes small kids out on the trail. It gives her purpose and makes her feel part of the working crew! As a character she is very friendly, stays out of harms way in the herd, she is never mean to the other horses. I have never once seen her pin her ears at a person! At food times she is funny; everyday, twice a day our horses get a meal of hay cobs to supplement the varying quality of hay. We feed them always after poo picking the paddock. While we clean, Bolinhas is there, walking next to the wheelbarrow all the way, occasionally nudging us and looking at the feed. “Is it done yet? The feed is that way! C’mooooon!”
She is the kindest soul, she does not carry even one bad bone in her body. Never once has she ever pulled her ears back at me, never once attempted to kick.. She always wants to please, wants to do the right thing. She allows anything - and this is probably why she has had to work so hard in her life. She is not young, closer to her 30s. A granny I call her. She really is like a grandmother, kind and sweet. I dare not to think the suffering she has endured in her life. She too has been a gypsy horse, has pulled carts. She has dents and scars in her body, ultimate reminders of the hardships she has experienced. Even in her skull has dents you can clearly feel with your fingers. In the early days she wouldn’t allow her head to be touched. She would flinch every time and then slowly relax and enjoy.... Now, she can’t get enough of scratches and grooming. You pick up a brush and walk in to the paddock and within minutes she will find you. Try to leave her and she will follow you, for more and more brushing. She will strategically place herself in front of you until you touch her, she will push other horses away to get most of the brushing. Neck and shoulder are her favourite spots. She is a beautiful soul, so kind and gentle. Trusting & trustworthy, fearless, reliable, sensible and happy. Our Ellie!!
This is a horse with Big Personality! She is a really fun, goofy character always involved in everything that’s happening. She is outgoing, social, inquisitive and exciting, really lives life 100% every day. Her sensible best mate in the herd is Zara and together with Lua they get into trouble. She is 8 this year, still fairly young but now really maturing and learning with every ride she goes on. Previously she would be described as ‘random to ride’ but nowdays she is happy to take and listen to instructions. Her attitude before was more on the lines of ‘ shut up you, trust me, I know what I am doing’ but after a few kamikaze rides down steep hills we agreed that sometimes people also have ideas and advice that’s good to listen to. I like my horses to have their opinions but it’s generally better if we can work as a team! She had lived alone tethered by her front leg before we got her, the scars still show. When we first released her into a paddock with no ropes, she just went around in circles... she had gotten so used to the rope that even without it it took a little while for her to realize she isn’t tied anymore and can actually move freely. It took a long while to introduce her to the herd, she had very poor communication skills with the other horses. She was like a bull in a china store with the others. She was a punk attacking everyone if they even looked at her in what she deemed to be the wrong way. A horse with a big bark! The herd is forgiving, they mainly just learned to move out of her way without getting into fights. A few times when fights broke out, Hakita always seemed to come away as the winner. Soon everyone learned not to get provoked by her and give her a wide berth. It was almost like the herd kinda went “never mind her, she is a bit special, we love her anyway, just don’t get pulled into her big talk, give her a bit of space..” She has been with us for 2 years and now things are settled, she has learned how to read other horses and her social skills have improved. Now she is a very important member of the team and doesn’t get into trouble with the others. She moves absolutely beautifully - her trot is airy and floating and her walk long and forward going. She is a big fan of clicker training and has lots of fun things in her repertoire. Now we are working on fetch and then maybe a bow.
When we first bought the horses, the herd of 6 and 2 more, Lola was a horse that could not be caught. You could get near enough to touch her most days, but some days she would not even allow that. If you had anything in your hands, at first even food was enough to make her suspicious, she would keep a safe distance. When she was caught, even when everything was done very gently and calmly, she shut down. A lovely calm horse, some might think! And she would be, lovely and calm, hidden deep within herself, just allowing whatever to be done to her and hoping to make it out alive. She was so frightened of humans that her only way of coping when escape wasn’t an option was to shut down. Learned helplessness one might call it. Her seemed calmness would last until she simply couldn’t take it anymore. Then she would explode. Unexpectedly, out of the blue, one might think....This horse is insane! She is not insane. She has been treated unfairly and inconsistently, most likely violently too. We know she was a carriage horse, one of a pair. I have her pair too, Paloma Faith, but she coped with her past differently. More on her on her own post later. Now that Lola has been with us for over two years, we can catch her, touch her, groom her without her shutting down. it’s been a learning curve for both of us. A journey where we have both developed. She has taught me many things and for that I am grateful. She still thinks strangers are not all trustworthy and prefers to keep her distance. Calm and steady you can walk up to her but so far she has not ever been the one to initiate contact with strangers. It’s work in progress. She finds equipment fairly daunting, especially the sound of buckles and other metal parts clearly worry her. But slowly we are working on it, breaking those past bad associations and making them better again. Our major breakthrough with her came with positive reinforcement training. That’s where she learnt that she can affect what happens to her. That her actions have positive consequences and she can be in control of situations. She loves food ( Can you tell by the photos 🙈) and she is one incredibly fast learner. What I found with her and clicker training was that it has given her so much overall confidence. From a worried and shut down horse, slowly a curious, brave and inquisitive horse started to come out. Even when we were not training, or playing as I like to call it, her attitude became so different. She is happier! She is a great horse and one day she too will be out on the trails with clients. She is not ready yet and that’s ok. Slowly does it, we take things easy with her and the end result will be a confident, happy riding horse who loves her life taking people out on adventures.
Our beautiful Spanish goddess. She is kind, gentle, loving and definitely a founding member of the ‘Grannies Club’ here. She is well into her 20s’ and judging by the state of her dipped back has been used as a baby making machine in her past. The brand she has burned into her leg says that she used to belong to the state of Spain. This was confirmed by the Spanish microchip she had, she was chipped but the chip was never registered. I guess the owners didn’t care enough.... She has been ridden harshly in her past and she used to be quite anxious about rides. Mounting was not at all her favourite thing, we confirmed there was no pain, the memory of the pains was just very strong. We ride her bitless and interestingly she still sometimes responds to slowing down cues by opening and closing her mouth, as if the pain of the bit was still there. Also when removing the head collar/bridle we have ridden with, she opens her mouth as if to let the bit drop. I don’t know what kind of bit she was used to, but all these responses tell us it definitely left a lasting memory for her. These days Loretta is mainly enjoying chilled out retirement days, teaching people a lot about mindfulness and clicker training but she still loves coming out on relaxed rides on the hills . She is a super granny with some serious power to march up hills! Once she gets going, there’s almost no stopping her, the feisty Spaniard that she is! She still enjoys a fun gallop on occasion. In the herd she is very calm and has a very knowledgeable vibe about her. She is a great therapist and a great listener! She is also Bolinha´s best buddy, these two are almost inseparable.
You will meet her when you come for a visit. Everyone does! A big personality, she makes sure no one comes around without being greeted. She is always there, always involved, almost always in some sort of trouble. If we are to find a horse on the wrong side of the fence, standing in the water bucket or in an otherwise awkward place...99% of the time it’s her. She is the mischievous one, the one who causes havoc, the one who is not scared of anything, or anyone. She can be a real brat to the other mares and gets away with most, the older mares hardly tell her off. Even if she bites them or ignores them... Because of all these liberties she has in the herd, and because she has never known a day of bad treatment in her life, she is a super confident filly. She was pretty much unhanded when we got her, but taming her was very easy. She had the natural curiosity all foals have so it was only a matter of weeks until she had no worries about being with people. Lua is the youngest of the herd, the daughter of Paloma. Baby of the chief, you can say. She was born in the herd in the summer of 2016, she was 6 months old when we got her. So all the mares in the herd have seen her grow up from a fluffy, clumsy hairball to a fast and agile young horse. They are all like aunties to her. I didn’t want to wean her, I wanted to give mum Paloma a chance to do it all as naturally as she liked. Lua turned one, showed no signs of slowing down on the feeding... Turned two, she was still very much a regular on the milk bar. I started questioning whether she had mum wrapped around her little finger....eventually, when she was closer to 3 I said enough is enough and during one of our relocations, I arranged the transports so that mum and baby were apart for two weeks and during that time Paloma finally dried up and when the herd was reunited, Lua no longer even tried to feed. It was very calm and stress free for both. Lua and Paloma are very close still, they have a beautiful bond between them and I am delighted to witness it everyday. Her personality shines through even on the photos, curious, inquisitive, playful, confident & happy!
If you read Lola’s story, you will remember that she was a carriage horse in a pair. Her pair was Paloma Faith. Paloma has a very different character compared to Lola. She is a tough cookie! She protected herself from the trauma and abuse by becoming aggressive - if you get into an argument with Paloma, you will not win. She has a mean & very accurate kick and a very fast bite. This is something I learned early on with her. Force and violence is not going to take us anywhere, Paloma had been beaten so much that she had become immune to it. You could pick up any whip or a stick and she wouldn’t flinch. Instead she almost took it as a challenge “ Yeah, that’s all you got? I’ve been beaten with worse things before, bring it on?” So it was obvious that force and pressure was not going to get us anywhere with her. For the first year, Paloma didn’t trust us or any Humans. Not one bit. She allowed handling, treatment and everything was seemingly fine, but you could see she always had reservations. Her attitude was negative, almost as if she was expecting us to turn against her at any moment. Now, after treating her with kindness and fairness for the over two years she has been with us, we are finally in a place where I know she feels completely safe and comfortable with us. She comes over for scratches and absolutely loves to go out for rides. She is always first, the leader. And although she is little, she is fast and forward going. When I first started riding her, I used a snaffle bit but very quickly realized I had absolutely zero control despite of the metal in her mouth. She brought me home on a few occasions happily trotting away completely ignoring my cues. She probably has had very strong bits in her mouth before and my gentle hands were very easy to ignore. Two solutions; stronger bit or better training. I chose the latter and have since sold all my bits - our horses are all completely bitless, no metal in their mouth at all here anymore. Paloma is the leader of the herd in a sense that no other horse moves her around. She is highly respected by the others. She is the very caring mother of Lua and has the patience of a saint. Lua, the little terror, can get away with all sorts of rascally behaviour and mom will never tell her off. Now that Paloma knows she is listened to and knows that she is allowed an opinion, she is very communicative. This shows especially when you are scratching her, it’s almost like a game of hot and cold. By slight swishes of the tail, turns on the ears and her position she will tell you exactly where she wants to be touched and where not. Don’t ignore her signs, they will just get louder! She is a great personality and a very brave and fearless horse. I am glad to have witnessed the change she has gone through and that she now has a positive outlook in life.
Tina is our second youngest member of the team, born in 2015. Although she is turning 4 this year, she is still just a baby and I have no plans to start any ridden work with her for a couple of years yet. She needs to mature both mentally and physically and there is no reason to rush. She can take all the time she needs to develop, we will take things easy with her. As a personality Tina is fun! She absolutely loves a good butt and teat scratch and will make her wishes known by placing her big palomino butt in your face. If you get the right spot, she will lift her leg for you, much like a dog. But she is very picky and will quite loudly tell you when she is not enjoying it. I am absolutely fine with her voicing her opinion, we are working on finding the correct volume together. Like teenagers very often, she likes to scream it out loud. “ Stop, stupid, that’s not where I asked you to scratch!” is what I imagine she says as she swishes her tail and pulls an angry face at me. Patience is not her virtue, and you could argue she is not the brightest. I simply say she is still a teenager and still learning to get to know herself too. She is calm, she is beautiful and she is sociable with people and horses. She is a very good mindfulness teacher, in fact I like to think of her as the meditative leader of the herd. Together with J.Lo these two are incredible therapists. Her early childhood story is very sad, she was born to a mare who was tethered into a tree. Somewhere during labour or on the days after her mum became tangled in her rope and tragically lost her life. Poor Tina stayed by her mums side until she was found. Since then Tina was sold on, but luckily to a good place where she lived her first year as an orphan baby with two other mums and babies, until she moved in with us as part of the original gang of 8 in the end of 2016.
Zara is an older mare, we don’t know exactly how old but definitely closer to 20 than 10. She has lived a tough life with gypsies until she got lucky and landed with a man who only used her to graze land. In fact you could say she had the dream job, moved with her herd (most of whom live with us now - that’s another post!) from field to field grazing. She was ridden occasionally but mostly she was just allowed to horse around. Her younger years with the bad gypsies have taken a toll on her, she has some scarring on her body and for a long time she was very anxious with us too, that tells us that she had probably not ever been treated with much kindness. Gypsy horses here often are treated like machines used to pull carts. Now days Zara is very calm and friendly. She is a horse who really looks after people. She is my trusted team mate who I can leave to look after even the riders who have never ridden before. She has a calm graciousness that gives confidence to people. I have witnessed how she speaks to children and to adults who need reassurance. She may not be pedigree, she may not be highly trained, she is only a “boring grey”, she has lumps and pumps here and there. She is not worth thousands, hardly even hundreds... If you want to judge her, there is plenty to judge. She is not perfect - in fact, like all our horses, she is far from it. But here is the important part; None of that matters to us. Absolutely none of it. To us, Zara is a gift, an absolutely incredible soul, a beautiful being who has so much to give. Her worth cannot be measured in money, her purpose here is something way bigger than that.
“There is a horse who needs a new home, the owners can no longer keep her. They have had her since she was weaned, at 4 months old. Much loved pet, she has been well kept with some sheep for company. “ No, I said, we really don’t need another horse, not right now. “The owners really can’t keep her anymore, and they fear she will end up with the gypsies, they just want a good home for her.” We can’t take in every horse that needs a new beginning…not with our principal where a horse is with us for life. But, tell me, just out of interest, what do you know about her? “Well, she is this colour.” he says, pointing at a chestnut horse. “Lusitano crossed with Arab, she is about 4 years old, not ridden or trained.” No, no, no definitely not. Chestnut mare, do you know what the legend says about horses that colour? Hell hath no fury like the chestnut mare, that’s what it says. Mental, the lot of them. “Can we at least go see her, she is young and healthy, she could be good, you know, for the rides.” Well....ok. But we are definitely not buying her. We don’t need another horse. We can’t take in another horse. “Fine, we will go now, it’s on the way anyway. Just a quick look.” This was over two years ago. Yeah, it wasn’t just a quick look! It never is, is it? Jennifer has had a huge learning curve here with us. She was not used to having a big space to move around in, she was not used to having other equines as company. Getting her used to her new life took a long while. She had no communication skills with other horses, she was bold and offensive to the others. For a long while I had her just observing the others behind a fence, in her own safe space. Then when I thought she was ready, I introduced her to just one other horse. Zara, older, calm and sensible, I thought would be the perfect first friend. It went ok. At first Jennifer, a fully grown adult horse, tried to feed from Zara. Zara wasn’t impressed at her attempts to suckle on her teats, and swiftly told her off. Then the next thing I witnessed was Jennifer mounting Zara like a stallion. This was a true face palm moment, I could tell this was going to be a very long journey into “horsehood” for Jenny. And it was. It was tough to watch at times... she was so confused. Didn’t understand the others and their behaviours and kept getting into trouble. This phase lasted for a good few months and I thought at times that maybe she will never suit herd life. Maybe she just needs to be alone? I wasn’t going to give up, until I was absolutely sure this was the right thing to do. But finally, our persistence paid off. Now, she is a very well established member of the herd. She is very good at communicating with the other horses and easy to read with humans too. Initially I had serious problems handling her, she would lash out unexpectedly and without warnings. Double barrels, biting and striking were things she quite enjoyed doing to people. Not because I pushed her or pressured her, but simply because she did not know how else to express herself. She was like a volcano, except that she had nothing between dormant and active. It was full blast fire or absolutely no activity. Talk about 0 to a 100! Now she is an absolute sweetheart. She loves people, she is social, brave and inquisitive. She has grown in confidence both with people and horses and all she needed was time and consistent handling. This summer, she will learn to carry a rider, see if this kind of activity is something she enjoys. I believe it will be, she is curious and enjoys exploring new places, so I think fun adventures out on the trails will be to her liking. She is a very sensitive horse and reacts to peoples energies with no filter, this makes her a very interesting horse to observe. The way she interacts with people is very interesting. She is our very unique freelance therapist, delighted to work on carrot wages.
Severa is a really beautiful chestnut mare. She has a tough background that includes a serious car accident. She has huge scarring on her belly, rump and shoulder from where she was dragged behind a completely unsafe horse transport that she had fallen out of. It is a miracle she is even alive. Her physical wounds had healed before she came to us, but she still has some trauma she is struggling with. She is suspicious with humans and is very confident in making her own decisions. For example while leading, she can easily barge through you and drag you along into a direction she feels safer at. It is easy to guess that in her life the humans have not been trustworthy in her eyes and so she prefers to take the lead and be in control. She is a kind and sweet mare but still reluctant to open up to us. In small moments she relaxes and accepts pleasant scratches and little by little we can build up on it. Now traditionally, she would probably be labeled ‘rude, bargy, no manners, no respect a pig, nightmare, typical mare, difficult horse....’ any of the above.... and probably the suggested training plan would to ‘ let her know who’s the boss’ or ‘put her in her place’ maybe in a round pen or with a whip/carrot stick/extension of your arm. Knowing her background, my question is; if violence and force trained horses, shouldn’t she be pretty bloody well trained now? We are at the beginning of our journey. So far we have had bodywork done on her to release tension in her fascia and we have been slowly getting to know each other. We will retrain her using as little equipment as possible. So far we have got to a stage where she stands by the mounting block at liberty and allows a rider to climb on without getting worried. It might not sound a lot, but it’s huge progress! So far she has taught me that the only thing that gets you respect, is not round penning or headless lunging and moving feet.... it’s respect. Respect gets you respect. If you can prove to your horse consistently by your own actions that you are a reliable, sensible, safe and trustworthy partner, not a leader - a partner, you will soon have a horse that walks by your side where ever you choose to go. We have given her autonomy too by clicker training her. It’s empowering for horses, because they have a full control of what happens to them in that moment. They learn that their behaviour has a pleasant consequence and keep offering it. It is my job to use the training wisely to reinforce the right behaviors. it’s always a safe learning environment because the wrong answers are ignored, not punished. Horses grow in confidence and try different approaches and succeeding makes them happy. Together we will forget about the dark past and focus on the bright future!
Country Quest is a small business ran by only two people, both passionate about horses and people. We speak fluent English, Finnish and Portuguese. You can get to know us better below.
Daniel – CEO & Finance
Daniel has a big heart for all animals and great natural skills with horses. Behind the scenes he can be found on the laptop engulfed in excel sheets calculating, estimating & budgeting. If not interacting with the horses, he is often seen building, fixing and creating solutions around the farm – he keeps it all going!
Pia – CEO & Operations
Pia has ever growing enthusiasm in respecting the horse as a living, sentiment being. She firmly believes that horses have a far greater purpose in life than just to be a tool to be ridden. Her vast background with horses includes working in racing stables, riding schools as well as with hobby horses and at rescue farms. The more she studies and understands the horse as an animal, the softer her approach is becoming. She does not believe in violence or fear based training methods, but believes in the science of learning and creating a partnership with her horses.