Excited little children bounce in to equally excited little horses. It’s time for Ridkul in Bredåker, for the very youngest riders and the farm’s smallest Shetland ponies.
With skilled hands and the help of parents, the children saddle the horses, which are waiting nicely for the little riders to get on their backs. Outside, a larger horse whinnies, trying to attract attention when he is not allowed to join in.
He is acquired for the adults. But tonight is the children’s night. Two groups of four or five children each take turns.
The joy is palpable when the participants arrive at the home of sisters Nathalie and Isabelle Hansson. The location is Nathalie’s family farm in the village of Bredåker. The farm is beautifully located near the Lule River and the forest, about 20 minutes each way between Boden and Harads.
Many of the children in the riding activities are from the home village and neighboring villages. But some come from other towns and municipalities. One of the families who travel a little further each week is the Selberg family from Luleå, which is about six miles, or about 45 minutes, away.
– It’s definitely worth the drive. “If our son had been able to decide, we would have been here all the time,” says father Hannes, who is here with his son Theodor, 2.5 years old.
– It is good for children to learn and spend time with animals and nature,” says Hannes.
One of Theo’s friends in the group is three-year-old Lova Öhman. Today she gets to ride the favorite Caramel. And Caramel is a favorite for many. Maybe because she is so small, very kind and extra cute. Maybe also because the name is Caramel.
The sisters Ines and Elsa are also present during the visit of Närhetsliv. Ines is going riding and Elsa is there with her mother and grandmother to help and watch. Elsa is in a group that rides on a different day but still enjoys joining in and meeting the horses and friends.
All participants are accompanied by an adult, but the children themselves do the chores and learn the practicalities of the animals. When the horses are ready, everyone goes out into the yard and the children sit up. With an adult next to each horse, the children then ride out in a line, eyes sparkling and smiling.
Nathalie and Isabelle Hansson grew up riding horses themselves. When they had their own children, who now range from 1.5 to 14 years old, they wanted to pass on the opportunity to live with horses. They got some Shetland ponies and soon started dreaming of offering it to more families.
– At the end of February 2021, we started testing the idea. We saw pretty quickly that there was a lot of interest in pony riding. It was a bit bigger than we expected,” they smile.
– It quickly spread from mouth to mouth that we existed and now we have children here from all over Fyrkanten (Boden, Luleå, Älvsbyn, Piteå).
What drives Isabelle and Nathalie is seeing the joy in children and giving them a first start as future riders.
– “We get so much energy from being out in nature with the horses and children,” says Nathalie.
The concept of success consists of several ingredients.
– On the one hand, there is not much for such young children that we turn to
from zero to eight years. Then it’s quite undemanding, we start from the children’s needs and wishes,” explains Isabelle.
Both Nathalie and Isabelle can draw on experience and skills from their other full-time jobs. Nathalie works with work and employment in a stable for the Labour Market and Education Administration and supervises people who are outside the labor market. Isabelle works at Save the Children with children and families in migration.
– Treatment is key, they say.
They currently have riding lessons, or riding fun as they call it, three days a week. In addition, they offer drop-in sessions and the opportunity to
for children to look after a horse themselves on certain days. It has become very popular with children and families who want to try horse riding but are not ready to get their own.
Judging by the level of interest, there are good opportunities for growth. Among other things, they have started a partnership with a neighbor who is setting up a tour with Icelandic horses. Together they will offer the opportunity for parents to ride with their child. The adults ride an Icelandic horse and the children ride ponies.
For the future, Isabelle and Nathalie also hope to meet the increasing interest by having riding tours on more days and times.
TEXT: ANNA BERGSTRÖM