The delights of horse riding are even upgraded by natural and cultural diversities of Bohinj, therefore, riding is an excellent choice to explore Bohinj.
Tours are very diverse, including short ascents to small hills (Senožeta) and also whole day riding across the Pokljuka plateau. All tours are guided. Considering the peacefulness and adaptability of Iceland horses, you can go riding in nature also if you are beginners (after introductory training).
Terrain riding is possible in all seasons. During the summer we ride in the morning or late in the afternoon (to avoid heat), horses also have a day to rest (usually Monday).
If you are on vacation in Bohinj, you are quite a nature buff. Those of you who like horses and want to try new things will probably agree that the panoramic views of the surrounding nature are more beautiful and exceptional from horseback. Robi Božnar, who has managed the Mrcina Ranch in Studor for almost 20 years, takes great care of Icelandic horses and other horses at the ranch who are prepared to take you on a short or longer tour around Bohinj.
An advance reservation for horseback riding tours is recommended, so that the horses can be prepared and that the guides are available. The best times for riding are in the early morning or before noon, when horses are rested and nature is awakening. The most beautiful season for riding is most certainly autumn, when temperatures are lower and riding during the day is not too strenuous. Riding is not possible on Mondays when horses rest (only in summer season).
The ranch cares for fourteen horses, mostly Icelandic horses, and more experienced riders can also ride with other, larger horses. Icelandic horses are somewhat smaller and are known for their peaceful character, patience and good nerves which come in handy when carrying inexperienced riders on their backs. Even very small children can ride them. Small children are taken on short walks, they get special saddles, and quite often, their parents join them with their cameras to catch some images of their children during this new experience.
All the horses have had years of diligent handling and learning. Robi does not allow any mishandling. Horses need a lot of love. Foals are taught early on how to act, so that when they grow they can be ridden by inexperienced riders without any worries that anything bad might happen. “We initially lead horses on a leash, teaching them to calmly bear blacksmith’s visits. At three years of age, we start with work on the ground: we teach them oral commands and to accept the saddle. Usually, I try to put a blanket on the horse while cleaning them, then I slowly advance to using a saddle. At four years of age we try to ride them. How they act depends on each horse. Sometimes it takes up to two years to get a horse ready, so that they can be ridden by an inexperienced person.
A lot depends on the horse’s character.” And their character is something that we could talk about a lot. In general, horses are sensitive animals, as Robi says. He got his first horse when he was 16 years old. He had wanted to have one for two years and finally, his parents bought one. “When you approach a horse, they read you. They feel your pulse, your fear. Some say that horses and dogs smell your fear from the air that we exhale. And they really sense this. When you meet a horse, you should not be scared, nor should you panic, because horses get scared, too. In the past, horses were prey and they had to run. This is why horses are very sensitive to every noise. And when horses are afraid, they run. This is especially important for us, who teach horses, to be calm and to approach each horse appropriately.”
Despite diligent handling, it can happen that we fall from the horse. “It’s no fun, but we have to fall from a horse so that we know that this can happen, too. After you fall, you should get back on the horse immediately.” Icelandic horses on the Mrcina Ranch are used to many disturbing elements and only rarely get so surprised that they become scared and start galloping.
You can enjoy riding at the Mrcina Ranch or on tours with their guides and horses and each tour begins with horse preparation, which is done by guides at the ranch and during introductory horse-handling learning, when riders meet the horse, learn about basic handling and those who are riding for the first time, try out basic riding in the manège. Riders also learn about proper conduct, and cowboy films are not considered legitimate learning material.
Experienced riders can go on a tour earlier. Those who don’t have much experience in riding can enjoy short tours to a maximum of four hours because longer tours require slightly more knowledge and riding experience. We should also add that riding is quite a strenuous exercise for our muscles, and if you are not used to riding, you can expect some muscle pain after a few hours on a horse. And what part of the body is most sore after riding? Robi’s big smile on his face says it all: “It’s better to ask what isn’t sore. We mostly use our back muscles, our core, thighs, buttocks, calves … well, we get sore all over. But up to three hours of riding is suitable even for those who are riding a horse for the first time.”