The Horses / by Michael Pung

A little over four weeks ago I embarked on a trip to Mouries Farm. It's a horse breeding farm located on the Greek island of Skyros which is around 119km north of Athens. Working with horses was something I've never done before and probably something that was not normally associated with and thus chuckles were received from a friend every time I mentioned the words 'horse farm' to him. Regardless, I was excited to see what it would be like to work with horses on the farm and see what life was like...

Marion, Manolis and the Ferrari

I was greeted by a gregarious lady called Marion upon arrival from the port who took me to the farm in the Ferrari -a car affectionately named and not for its prestige- and introduced me to the other volunteers. They were many! When I started there were 4 Italians, 6 Belgians, 3 English, 1 Scottish, 1 Spanish, 4 Greeks, 1 Brazilian, 3 French, 1 Estonian and 1 German. Marion helped run the farm along with her partner Manolis who ran the tavern. The aim of the farm is to help the species grow in numbers and thrive.

Everyone worked 4 hour shifts for 6 days a week. We were tasked with feeding, cleaning the horses, cleaning AFTER the horses and taking them on tours with kids who come to visit with their parents. There was plenty of time to take it easy and visit the beaches and towns. There was one problem however: there wasn't a public transport system on this island and getting around can prove costly, especially for people who were on a budget (like us). I was told by one the volunteers that to get around this island one would have to hitchhike! And so, this was the way we got around the island during our down times.

Taking the horses out for the tours.

We were a huge family - working together, having dinner together, beach days, hiking, the siestas...  but because of the nature of the volunteer work we also had to say goodbye many times. It's never easy to say goodbye especially with people who you develop such bonds with but the way I see it that it's more "see you again sometime..." and I hope to keep to that.

Farewell selfie

It wasn't always easy hitching a ride.

Now let me talk about the horses! The Skyrian horse is a rare breed that has existed on the island for around 2000 years and most grow to around 11 hands tall (112cm)- they even made me look big! (At least in images). They are an endangered species with only around 270 of them left in the world. Upon meeting them for the first time I thought that they were gorgeous. The horses were friendly, affectionate, intelligent, shy, cheeky and social. Some times they were annoyed and during others they were loving. They were truly beautiful creatures and it was a wonderful experience getting to know them.

The horses roam free in the paddock and work on tours for two and a half months in the year. For the rest of the year they live up in the mountains where they are looked after by the people living on the farm.

A highlight of the trip was when a group of us woke up early in the morning to take the horses to the beach for a swim.

We were worried about the weather though because the night before we had gale-force winds and an overcast morning. But it gradually cleared up and by the time we got to the beach, this happened:

We spent nearly an hour there, watched the horses splash and walk around in the water and just enjoyed some time away from the farm.

The three weeks I spent on the farm eventually came to an end and I made some incredible friends, bonded with the horses and just took some time out of the busy life that I lived in London. It was more of the quiet life but it was also a beautiful life and one that I would say was quite perfect for my summer away.