Of Ponies, a historic castle and a small wheat field. Some personal thoughts from Carol Streefkerk

My name is Carol Streefkerk and I was born in the Netherlands. As a child always busy with my pony, the logical consequence was an education at the technical college NHC in Ermelo with a focus on dressage. In addition, I studied equine psychology according to Henry Blake in my spare time. After graduation I moved to Italy, opened a small riding school with about 15 horses and ran the business successfully for 6 years. During this time I obtained my international trainer license and became a certified cross-country riding guide. Show programs under my direction and guidance for the Haflinger Federation of Italy were the result. Among others I was present at the Verona Fair and at the biggest horse fair in Europe: the Equitana. Since 2005 I live in Austria.

Carol Streefkerk with one of her Shetland Ponies on the Wheat Field

The more I learned about the world of dressage, the more I was sure that there must be another way to deal with horses. I wanted to go back to the roots. I took a course "Contemporary Use of Working Horses" and since then I have been working with my animals for Ludovico Tacoli at the Fridau Estate Management.


Fridau estate with its castle

The Lower Austrian Estate and Forestry Administration Tacoli is located next to the Fridau Castle and has been established for many decades in the production of logs and Christmas trees. Products range from horse jumping poles, gardening, orcharding and viticulture products, hunting high seats, carports, playground equipment, fencing and more.

The cultivation of a ten-hectare Christmas tree culture is carried out with ponies. The clearing work after the brushwood harvest and the individual tree removals for the pole wood are done with these work animals in a way that is gentle to the soil. Here, the use of a machine is not practical or even impossible. The harvesting method with a small horse is actually the ideal variant.

Besides, corn, wheat and lucerne are cultivated for the own need. Work is done with 2 ponies. In addition, the landscape conservation is carried out with goats. These are the undisputed winners when it comes to shrub and weed control. Also a symbiosis between goats and butterflies is a topic here.

The Fridau Castle is of historical value. And this is also true for the park that lies directly around the castle. Some of the trees and shrubs are hundreds of years old. At the very back of this park I got permission to use a small area as a field. Because it was known that in the last weeks of the Second World War the front line ran right here, we asked a gentleman with a metal detector to search the area in order to make sure that no shells or other objects were present. We had a hard time with the plowing because the ground is very clayey and very dense.


A small vineyard plow, suitable for ponies, was used to prepare the wheat field

After the plowing we had to break up the big chunks by hand before the work with the harrow could start. We did not get it completely flat, but I hope that this does not affect the grain.

We ended up seeding by hand and I have to say that gave me a very beautiful feeling. The great feeling when you grow something and the cooperation between animal and human: that just fascinates me.

The wheat field during preparation of the soil with one of the working ponies in the foreground

I then took a manure that had been stored for about half a year to the field. Pony and goat manure, without straw. The grain germinated well and now in spring it doesn't look so bad, although it is a bit too dry in Austria at the moment. Over the winter I have dried goat manure and saved it for this wheat area, because goat manure is very good. This I will bring next week.


To let the public know more about this great project (A Year On The Field), I organize goat treks and walk with guests and the pack goats to the castle, through the park and then to this small wheat field, where we then also stay for a short time.


Draft goats are an integral part of Carol Streefkerks concept

During the trekking tour, the topic is how to grow wheat on small plots and how simple draft animals such as ponies and goats can be and how you can put your own hands to work. The offer is well received and seems to be "a hot topic" at the moment. Therefore, it is planned for the future to carry out the work in the field with guests. The interest is already there.