Even I must admit that the tiny banjar (hamlet) of Timbul, a half-hour’s drive up to the highlands and rice fields north of Ubud, so off-the-beaten-track that Google has yet to map its location, is a rather unusual place to find a quartet of horses (kuda). And two ponies. Not just any horses, mind you, but a perfect hybrid of American thoroughbred and local breed – to ensure the presence of necessary antibodies. They have names like Ayu, Anisha and Bagus (“good” in Indonesian). From their outward appearance, you’d remark that they are well-tended, properly groomed, in excellent physical shape. Even their lower limbs are wrapped up in protective gear, aimed to prevent (unintentional) harm to themselves. You’d also wonder how they ended up in a place like this; at the back of a traditional Balinese compound, where the only tourists that pass through are the ones seeking out Ubud Stables. That these horses have ended up here is testament to the vision and planning – and, of course, a good dose of serendipity! – of two young Balinese friends, Yogi (a hotelier) and Danu (an architect), who teamed up to bring this venue to fruition. Opened only one month ago, these stables are a product of Yogi and Danu’s love of horses (and all manner of equestrian-related gadgetry); and their desire to bring more horses into the wide-open spaces that characterize this part of the island – where vast swaths of rice fields and forest across the horizon are untouched by the same development frenzy that has overtaken other parts of Bali. They also yearned to share their love of horse-riding with the local children, while offering more work opportunities to the adults as well. To start off, they invited Heru, a horse trainer from Java, to spend a month training local staff – teaching them how to clean and feed the horses, how to saddle and mount a rider, how to lead them down the paths. Once the training wraps up, the locals will have the run of the place. They will direct the programs, lead groups of tourists around the village and through the fields. The children will continue to run underfoot, and the adults will still linger under the shade of the shop on the main road, surely puzzled at these silly tourists – garbed in helmet and leg coverings – passing by atop a horse. Kudas in the compound? Welcome to a culture clash. When an elderly farmer, in bare feet and a conical straw hat, lugging a load of withering banana leaves, notices the approaching procession (so foreign to the ceremonial parades native to his village) he will, without missing a beat, turn to climb the treacherously steep steps into his compound. I will wonder what on earth he makes of it. A stranger sight I’m sure he’s never seen. *Enjoy more photos from Ubud Stables on my Flickr page!