20 December 2010

i feel it in my toes

"I'm just gonna ride out of this town the same way I rode in, and when I go, I'll take your heart with me."

-Flight of the Conchords

Thursday was a quiet day. Vale and I ran around the ranch and did a little painting, and then his friend Joaquin came over. Vale's friends are adorable, and so well-behaved. Joaquin even offered to help me make their snacks. He spent the night, and the next day we were off on adventures around the ranch, finding horse teeth in the horse cemetery, playing with kittens, and visiting the riding instructor's new puppy, Pipoca (a Jack Russell terrier-Chihuahua mix, as far as I can tell).

Vale had promised me that I would get to go horseback riding soon, and it finally happened on Friday. Let me give you a little background information. I come from a rural area in Kansas. I've spent my whole life around livestock, but they've mostly been of the bovine persuasion, and you can't ride them (unless you're this lady). I've also had a few less than enjoyable (some might even call them traumatic) experiences while riding horses. I know plenty about horses and horseback riding, but I am definitely lacking in practice.

Still, when I was shown Carpintera and told that she would be my horse for the afternoon, I wasn't that apprehensive. She looked old and quiet. I approached her from the side, so she could get a good look at me, and I let her smell me and petted her nose with my fingers flat and together, so she wouldn't think they were carrots (I feel like my mom always reiterated that horses would eat your fingers if they looked even vaguely carrot-like). And then I got up in the saddle, and it felt good.

"Oh!" the riding instructor said. "You have to sign a waiver."

She brought the waiver out, and I signed it from the saddle and handed it back to her. And that's when Carpintera freaked out. She whinnied, took a few steps back, and the next thing I knew, my field of vision had changed from including Vale and Joaquin on their horses in front of me, to nothing but sky.

As soon as I realized what had happened, I scrambled to pull my leg out from under the horse. Carpintera was on her side, not moving. The stable hands helped her up and took off her saddle while I tried to figure out what had happened. My sunnies had come flying off when I hit the ground, and my elbow was a little scraped from the landing, but other than that, I felt fine.

I was later told that Carpintera has a bad habit of sitting down or rolling when her saddle is cinched too tight. Some of the stable hands know this, others apparently do not. She was led back to the pasture to take the rest of the afternoon off, and Anastasio was brought back as her replacement.

"You want to try again?" they asked. Did I really have a choice?

Things went much more smoothly with Anastasio. He had a quicker pace than the other horses we were with, so he kept trying to pass them, and when he got bored, he would stop to graze. But that was okay, because at least he didn't fall on top of me. We rode through a couple of fields and around a pond, and even though the Atlantic was in view the entire time, I realized that this place looks surprisingly like Kansas.

After the ride, Marcelo, Loli, Paulina, and the rest of the riding team told me they'll turn me into an expert rider by the end of the summer. I'm definitely okay with that. Once I get a little more familiar with the horses and how to work with them, I'll be allowed to go along with the rides that the ranch organizes down to the beach. (Did I mention they have hitching posts at the beach, and I saw a horse parked there when I was in Jose Ignacio?) They even do a moonlight ride once a month, when the moon is full, with a barbeque and bonfire at the end.

The stables crew have been so nice. A few of them speak English, and I speak some Spanish (although not the kind they speak), so we talk a little. They've told me I can hang out with them and the horses any time I'm bored. I feel like I'm going to take them up on that. They always offer me a drink when I see them, whether it's mate tea during the day or beer in the evening. Really must party with them more often.

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