Western riding is Roger Laestadius’ passion and livelihood. Here at Rånisgården in Svartbjörnsbyn, he keeps the cowboy dream alive. Join us on a horseback ride in the winter landscape!
Roger Laestadius leads a group of guests through the forest, along paths lined with snow-laden trees and out over vast expanses of white. The horses advance through meter-high powder and dancing flakes sparkle in the sunshine.
– A crisp sunny March day with powder snow is probably the best riding experience you can have all year round. You can ride anywhere and Buddbyträsket becomes like a prairie that we ride over, says Roger.
Some people may think that it is a bit too cold to ride in the winter, but according to Roger, the cold is rarely a problem. He does not usually recommend a full day in minus 20 degrees, but a couple of hours in minus ten is more than excellent. In general, summer is the high season at Rånisgården and in winter fewer guests come. This year, Roger has more time to train and ride other people’s horses and to keep his own horses’ knowledge alive.
– I want them to be obedient and put a lot of training on the horses to be sensitive and pressure sensitive, then they are perceived as well-trained, says Roger.
Among his twelve horses, the majority are American quarter horses. They have been bred for western riding, which is the farm’s specialty.
– The most important thing is not the breed but the horse’s mood. I want nice horses with good temperament. They should be calm but not too lazy, work well in the group and have a soft step so that it does not get so bouncy when they trot.
Roger Laestadius grew up here at Rånisgården in Buddbyn. Here the family has been farming with dairy cows since 1936, the farm was built in 1840. One day when Roger was ten years old, he climbed up on the cold wind and made a discovery that came to shape his whole life. He found a smoke-damaged old book about the Black Stallion.
It was the start of a lifelong passion and Roger started nagging his parents about getting a horse. When they saw him riding a heifer, they understood that the boy was serious and at the age of 12, when he learned the basics of riding school, Roger got his first horse.
– I think horses are fantastic animals. You can get them to listen to your body language. Being able to maneuver an animal of 600-700 kilos is a powerful feeling.
Many people stop riding in their teens, especially boys, and Roger also gave up riding lessons. But the interest in horses remained and he was the one who rode out into the woods himself, like a cowboy.
Roger opened his eyes to western riding at the age of 18 when he worked at Grans Naturbruksgymnasium in Piteå. This was where the first club for western riding was started and coaches were hired from the south.
– I found a style that suited me. I was not so interested in dressage, but had found a way to take riding further. Then the interest lifted even more.
The riding style was developed in the USA to move and separate livestock and to move in forests and land.
– You want to ride on one hand, that’s the philosophy. You should be able to have the other hand free to work with, throw a lasso and open gates, so you control a lot with body language and with your legs. The horse should be able to work independently, with loose reins, so you can trust the horse.
In 1997, Roger co-founded Western Farm in the old riding school right next to Rånisgården. Twelve years ago, he took over the parental home, moved the horse business here from Western Farm and became his own – but still with a good collaboration with the farm.
– My passion for horses has continued and I have chosen to work with horses. It’s a lifestyle. I will not become a millionaire, but I have a job that I enjoy and it has worked so far.
He lives with his wife and children on the farm and even if his wife helps, the horses and the stable are Roger’s responsibility, his one-man business. The business includes short and long tour rides in forest and land but also riding school in western riding in the evenings and intensive courses over weekends.
The riding tours often attract long-distance guests, while the most common riding school student is a middle-aged woman from the local area who has ridden earlier in life.
When Roger works with his hobby, he thinks it is important that he himself also gets a chance to develop. That’s why he always puts in an element of training, whether he is on a one – hour riding trip or an entire weekend course.
– Guests should learn to control the horse and feel that they can handle it themselves. It’s inspiring to me and people seem to appreciate it, says Roger.
An old-fashioned cowboy style can be seen in everything from clothes and hats to pastures and furnishings. The farm is old and has been passed down through the generations, so the patina is usually completely genuine.
– I have always been inspired by cowboys and that culture. To be able to ride out into the wilderness at sunset and find the interaction with the horse. I think it can appeal to many, so the dream of cowboy life permeates the entire business.
In 2019, it had really started to loosen for Roger in the international market, thanks to good collaborations with Treehotel and other major attractions in the area. But then came Covid-19.
– This summer I have had many guests from southern Sweden who requested a little more exclusive packages, but also guests from the local area and a price list that works here. It has been a rescue for me. It is very lucky that I work for all markets. July was not much worse than before. Now they skip the coffee in the saloon after the rides and on horseback it is easy to keep your distance from other people and everything happens in small groups. On the whole, Rånisgården’s conversion to the pandemic situation has gone smoothly and there has been no need to apply for conversion support.
– This is an activity that people have dared to continue to do so I have not been hit as hard as many others.
Roger looks positively to the future and hopes to continue to offer quality nature experiences to guests from both the local area and the southern parts of the country in 2021 and many years to come.
– When the weather is good and I am out with a group in the woods and on the ground, when the horses take care of themselves, you see that the guests are very happy and have a nice experience, then it’s fun. I think so. #
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