Hygge and horses, not something that I would immediately place together. When I think horses, I wouldn’t necessarily think Hygge and vice versa. However, under further inspection, it seems there are many intrinsic links between horses and Hygge.
You’ve probably already heard of Hygge, it was a bit of a buzzword or theme last year, which basically describes a feeling of cosiness and happiness produced by enjoying life’s simple pleasures. The Danes coined Hygge and it’s a big part of daily life for them. I must say that since I’ve discovered it, it’s also been big in my life too. But what is it and how does it involve horses? I hear you ask.
A quick introduction to Hygge. Hygge is a Danish concept, practised daily by most Danes. You can’t force Hygge, nor can you turn it on. It’s a feeling that you get from enjoying the simplest pleasures in life: enjoying a hot cup of tea next to the log burner when it’s arctic outside. Filling the room with candles and wrapping up in knitted jumpers, making home-cooked food to feed your friends and family. Hygge is about simplicity and life’s small pleasures, it’s about nature and rustic beauty, not about technology, consumerism or materialism.
When I first discovered the concept of Hygge, it really interested me and I bought some books and did some reading around the subject. To me, Hygge isn’t just putting on a few candles and getting snug (although obviously I do love this). It incorporates a whole lifestyle, which slotted in with my existing equine and country lifestyle so well. It’s made my life better, has given me the time to appreciate things and to be more mindful. It’s no wonder that the Danes actually have the highest happiness levels in the world.
I am not a city person. I’d go as far as to say I hate big cities. I like slow, countryside living, involving riding and horses, obviously. Home cooking, cycling, walking in the countryside, making my home pretty and keeping it clean, relaxing with Ben, maintaining our garden – our little piece of the world, and so on.
Here’s the difference between the country and the city: just a couple of weeks ago, Ben and I were walking near where we live. We are very lucky to be just on the edge of the South Downs National Park (if you’ve seen my Instagram then you’ll know how gob-smacking the hacking is round here). We were walking down a little lane between some fields. There were a couple of yards dotted here and there and some lovely country houses. It was a hot and hazy afternoon and a man was outside his house, trimming the hedge. Upon seeing us, he immediately put down his chainsaw for a chat. We’ve never walked up this lane before, I didn’t know him from Adam, but in that moment, we learnt a little more about his life and enjoyed exchanging pleasantries with him.
A little bit further on down the lane we had to pull on to the verge to let a Landrover come past. As it did, the driver rolled down his window, thanked up for letting him past, asked if we were having a lovely walk, commented on the sunshine and was on his way. These mini communications are a big part of country life. You ride past someone on your horse, you stop and chat. You talk to your neighbours, you get to know people who walk their dogs at the same time as you. Nobody is in a hurry to get away and it’s lovely to interact with people, expecting nothing from it at all.
The very next day I was working in London. As soon as I got on the train from our sleepy little station with just one platform, the comfort and tranquillity drained from me. Commuters hustled and bustled, pushing to get a seat. There was no gentle-manliness here, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Everybody looked so uncomfortable in their polyester suits, pretending an air of importance and just generally being one of the “I’m busy and work is my life” types.
Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that lifestyle at all, I am just saying it’s not for me. Do people get to the end of their lives and on reflection think “wow, working all those long hours and missing out on time with my family and friends was really worth it”? Probably not.
On arrival in London, I smile at somebody on the tube as they catch my eye, they look at me as if I’m crazy. I see another man who is obviously new to the city, trying to figure out a bus route. Nobody stops to help him, even though he is clearly lost. What is this world of rudeness? This world of being so stuck in your digital lifestyle that if somebody accidentally bumps in to you, you are so shocked by actual human contact that you retaliate with what can only be described as a “city death stare” and I’m telling you, you don’t experience that kind of rudeness in the country.
So anyway, after enduring a whole day of London, I head back on the train feeling quite drained. I feel dirty, but not in a good, hands in mud kind of way; I feel like I have pollution smothered all over me. All I want to do is get home, breathe in some fresh air, pull on my old jeans and go and see Hooch. And perhaps talk to some normal, non-rude people.
I start thinking about how horses and Hygge slot together so seamlessly. Hygge puts a lot of emphasis on being outdoors. The Danes have short days and long nights for most of the time and their winters are long and very cold and very dark. They place a huge emphasis on the importance of being outside and enjoying nature, but then taking the greatest of pleasure from sheltering indoors and enjoying home comforts and some much needed Hygge after a long day outside in the elements.
This to me is exactly the feeling I’ve felt for years, but never really knew how to explain it. That feeling when you’ve been out with the horses all day. You’ve ridden, mucked out, cleaned tack, done chores. You are dirty (but this time it’s good dirt), cold, hungry and the daylight is fading. You get home, make a hot cup of tea as soon as you get through the door and drink it standing up in the kitchen, chatting to whomever is home, hopefully with smells of a bubbling casserole or other home cooked deliciousness wafting around the house. You have a hot shower, put on some pyjamas and prepare for an evening snuggled in front of the fire. You can thoroughly enjoy it in complete cosiness and relaxation, knowing you’ve earned it. There aren’t phones or iPads, instead maybe a book or a film on TV. Or even a board game, if I can convince Ben to play one with me! That is a real Hygge evening.
Now Hygge is a year-round concept and the Danes make the most out of summer as they don’t get much of one! As an Equestrian, I enjoy this too. Spending more time at the yard than I need to, chatting in the sun with friends. Getting home from a great ride and sitting in the evening sun in the garden, enjoying a cold glass of wine and rehashing my hack earlier. Competitions. Getting up when the sun is rising, making sandwiches and snacks for your long, horsey day ahead. Spending hours bathing your pony and getting soaked in the process. All of these special little horsey moments are Hygge inducing.
Now I’m not suggesting that we all run off in to the British countryside and live in little cottages, miles from civilisation and make jam all day long. Although, that’s probably not far from my life dream to be entirely honest!
Most of us have jobs, busy lives and horses to look after too. But if you like the idea of Hygge and already have a horsey lifestyle, I would really recommend looking further in to the subject because they really do slot together so seamlessly. Here are my tips for incorporating some Hygge in to your horsey life:
- When you get home from the yard, take ten minutes to yourself. Don’t just rush on to the next task, make a cup of tea, sit on the sofa and read a magazine, book or just relax. Don’t pick up your phone and browse social media or check your email, this is your time to relax after physical activity. Have some cake, Hygge doesn’t allow diets, treat yourself to a little bit of what you fancy.
- You can still enjoy horses from the comfort of your home. Feeling horsey, but it’s hammering down with rain? Light some candles, make some tea and get on the sofa with some cushions, a blanket, the latest horsey magazines and put Horse & Country channel on tv. It’s okay to relax, us Equestrians are notoriously busy people, but sometimes it’s nice to do nothing.
- Recipes from the yard. I did a blog post a long time back on how to make Sloe Gin from sloe berries and damsons picked from the hedgerows. This week I’m harvesting elderflower to make cordial. These are fun activities that you can do with friends and there’s something so Hygge about enjoying a homemade product, particularly if it’s been grown where your beloved horse lives! I like to make things during Summer and Autumn to enjoy through Winter when the flowers and berries have long disappeared.
- Instead of resenting the weather, take a moment to appreciate it. So it may be pouring with rain and you can’t ride, but relish being inside a dry stable, spending time with your horse. Perhaps you bond over a grooming session. Enjoy the sight, smell, sound and feeling of being there.
- You might go to the stables every day, twice a day even. Or if not, you certainly spend a big chunk of your time there. Make a conscious effort to look around and notice the beauty. The scenery, how the fields look, the trees, plants, nature. Notice the surroundings that you might normally take for granted and notice them changing with the seasons.
I hope that this post has inspired you to explore the concept of Hygge and to be able to link it to your Equestrian lifestyle. Or if you are a Hygge fan already, tell me how you enjoy horsey Hygge!