Horse Nonsense: Etseri, Svaneti


My good friend and occasional guest had spent a couple of weeks around the place, doing all sorts of renovation projects and making himself most useful. Just before he left, he asked to go horse riding, so I arranged this: one horse from one neighbor, a saddle and another horse from two others. Assembled thus, we left.

His horse was a mare, with young filly in tow. Early on, the little one was startled by a dog and began trotting back towards home. But she’d only get lost; and the separation would be bad for both, with the mother likely refusing to leave her even right with the owners, so come she must. We reunited them; tied the reins of the mare to the saddle of my stallion because she was rather reluctant to proceed; and set off up, towards Lake Meziri.

The trip up was more or less fine, and we even saw the peak of Ushba en route before intervening mountains blocked it. But by the time we reached the pass, alas, it was enshrouded in cloud and unlikely to reappear that day. Such are the caprices of Ushba.

The horses did their level best to scrape us off as we had a small stretch of trees to pass through, under or around; return journey: get off here and walk! Then we arrived at the lake. All I could do was take some reference shots, one standing in the water with a nice ring of reeds surrounding the Mountain, as it refused to cooperate with a summit view for more than about a second. Better luck next time, mornings are generally better than later on for these photos. We rested, tied up the horses to graze, and waited but to no avail.

Return: thunder started pealing through the mountains, and I hoped fervently that we would not get rained on. We detoured to see some different views, all of which were spectacular, got a bit lost and then found again and returned to the right path. Led the horses on foot through the forest bit to avoid low-hanging branches. The worst rain was some very gentle and spare spitting, and it could have been a downpour, so we got off with a warning that time; some wooden cowherds’ huts on the way down would have afforded some shelter at need, but we bypassed them and hurried on.

The real rain did begin to fall as we reached home, so that could have been much worse. Meantime, I had two couples from Australia, and a German hiker whom we found on the way, as my guests for the evening. But my young helper and I could hardly move after seven unaccustomed hours mostly in the saddle, so we hobbled around like old men getting things ready for supper.

This morning, my back and butt still feel the workout from yesterday, so I’m unlikely to offer my services as horse guide in the future; I just don’t do it regularly enough to get in proper shape for it! But there are plenty of local people who have both the horses and the time to take tourists, and are in much better form, plus needing the money. We’ll gladly call on them, win-win all round.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

By Tony Hanmer

27 June 2019 18:14