I’m still sore. It’s been 48 hours since I got off “that horse”, but my arms, shoulders and area from waist to knee still feel him. Here’s how it went…
We are driving along “en famille”after a trip into Melaque for some basic provisions. Before we left Canada we had thought it would be nice for the kids if we could find horseback riding and had looked for a local horse riding experience to no avail. Anything on the internet doesn’t seem to exist in reality. So we’d kind of let that go but then leaving Melaque we see a Mexican version of a cowboy riding along the dusty street (because most town streets around here are not paved) with two white ladies. The “white” part is only relevant for us Spanish-challenged people as it’s a reasonable assumption that blonde-haired people might speak English. They do. “Where did you rent your horses?” I am prodded to call from the car window. “From him.” They point to their guide. Himey is his name. I’m sure that’s now how it’s spelled, but that’s how it’s pronounced.
A relevant piece of information about me at this juncture is that I don’t tend to be a “spur of the moment” kind of decision-maker. I can do it when circumstances force me to do so. However, it can cause internal strife and I’m sure much to my husband’s annoyance at times, quite a lot of second-guessing and thinking out loud about what could go wrong after the fact. It’s not a quality I admire in myself, but it does serve a useful purpose and I hang onto it for this reason.
After I am, again, encouraged by my car’s occupants, I make arrangements (with the blondies’ help interpreting) for us to meet Himey by the Mallorca bungalows in Melaque the next morning at 8:30 am. I realize after we drive away that I have no idea what we will be charged, where these bungalows are, and how it will work with no English. Our youngest, while he loves horseback riding and as done it in his short life more than I have, is not able to control a horse on his own. When he does ride, he usually has at least two people helping him at all times. I start vocalizing these reservations to my husband and he assures me that tomorrow we’ll find someone who will help us translate and if I’m not happy with how our youngest and his needs will be accommodated then we won’t do it. I know my husband’s negotiating skills and frugal nature will not allow us to spend a crazy amount on our little adventure. So I am pacified.
But also keep in mind on this trip I am not looking for adventure of any size. In our sunscreen, long pants and shoes (how foreign this feels now!) and baseball hats we show up at the appointed time. A leggy gal from LA (again, could tell right away this wasn’t an Alberta version of a cowgirl but something further south) was helping Himey and was coming with us on our two hour trip. Really?? I think to myself…two hours?? Wouldn’t less be better? But I wasn’t consulted on this, so I go with the flow here. And I’m feeling better as she zeros in on us and our needs and reads the situation expertly.
Except for the part about which horse to put me on. My daughter tells her proudly that yes she’s an experienced rider. She did a five day riding camp one summer with a friend so based on her ten hours on a horse, she’s ready for anything. Good for her, I think. I don’t know how many hours I’ve spent on horses, but I lived/ate/breathed horses as a girl and went riding on my grandparents’ farm whenever I could convince someone to take me. But that was a long time ago. While I read copiously about all things horse-related as a kid, there’s a huge difference between theoretical knowledge and practical knowledge. And I’d like to think I have the common sense in middle age to realize where my limitations lie and be aware of the gulf that separates theory from practice. And to any of my Saskatchewan relatives who may be reading this, and to whom my brother and I were, I’m sure, the “city kids”…well, I want you to know you know the truth here.
“Well,” our guide who is logically making choices for us based on the information that is presented to her…says to my daughter, “I’ll put you on this fellow. He’s a fine horse but a bit…spirited.” In the commotion of Himey and his helper getting the six horses ready, the only other thing I am aware of is that my son’s horse is the calmest. Good.
After all the horses are saddled and then with my husband hovering closely she asks me about my riding experience. “No.” I say firmly. “I am not an experienced rider. I do NOT ride.” My husband chimes in, uninvited “She’s from Saskatchewan. She grew up on the Canadian Prairie.” What does that have to do with anything? I think to myself but I am not going to say anything because there’s no point, and what purpose would it serve than to make me look like an argumentative grumpy person? And I realize that he loves me. He’s telling her this because he sees me as a capable, talented person and he’s proud of me. Oh, he is so deluded but adorable in his misplaced pride.
But there was my mistake. I should have started an argument right then and there. And in retrospect I do remember overhearing her say “Oh, so she’s a real cowgirl!” But I got distracted by my daughter needing something of me and I foolishly left my husband with our guide. I didn’t hear anything else that was discussed and went on faith that she would have absorbed me saying “I don’t ride.”.
The next thing I know I’m perched on my mount. I forget his name. He seems like an affectionate soul as he sidles up to my husband on his horse and starts rubbing his face in his horse’s neck. I didn’t want him to squash up beside the other horse, but clearly our relationship is starting off on his terms, not mine. I want him to stand still so I am yarding on the reins and now he keeps going backwards. This is what he was supposed to do and if I’d just given him a commanding “Woa!” and brief tug on the reins then he might have stood still. He didn’t.
The next series of events is somewhat foggy, but I sort of realized in that moment that my daughter was seated on a much lighter coloured horse than she had been introduced to and that I seemed to be on the largest and darkest horse.
“Wait a minute!” my brain screams…”I’m the one on the SPIRITED horse!! How did this happen?” Clearly LA cowgirl had listened to my husband, not me. Really, all I had wanted was to be on my son’s boring and calm horse but I had to be the adult and let him have it. At the same time as I am thinking this and not paying attention, my horse is bugging Shannon’s horse. Shannon’s horse doesn’t like it and bucks and all of a sudden she and I and our horses are in a tangle and I’m just trying to stay on mine, never mind move him anywhere. Things in Spanish are being shouted but I just want off. I want off so badly. But I want to get off him myself, I don’t want him to throw me off which I am worried is a distinct possibility. And Shannon does too…I can hear her as if from a great distance.
Himey, with my son’s horse tethered to his, comes to my rescue and starts directing my horse. But my horse’s ears are flat to his head and I remember enough from my book reading that this is not a good sign. My horse is NOT happy. I want my horse to be happy. I want him to be calm. And I want him to listen to my gentle “Woa!”. Geez, amongst all this I can hear my grandfather’s booming voice in my head and I just know what he would think of my timid attempts to control my stallion.
But Shannon’s horse is calmed as the cowgirl and her horse herd her away from mine. Himey makes mine move forward and keeps his horses between me and all the other horses. I am told my horse should not be with any of the other horses. What! Now you tell me this?
Why? Here’s the punch line…Shannon’s and my horses were the youngest in the bunch. Shannon’s had only been saddle broken for six months. She is a mare. Mine is a young stallion. This means he is not a gelding. He has all his male parts and all his male desires. And love was in the air because Shannon’s horse was in heat!! Thanks for sharing, people!
My horse and I managed to stay together for the full two hours. I won’t say it was enjoyable, exactly. A walk along the beach on a horse sounds relaxing, but it wasn’t! Every time anything spooked my horse, like another horse being within ten feet of him, dogs barking, things I could not perceive in the beach sand, he would start dancing around. Shannon was fine because her mare wanted nothing to do with my stallion. But he really wanted to be near her. I got better at more commanding “Woas!” and I learned to hold him in a tighter rein all the time. But that made my shoulders and arms sore after an hour and a half.
So at one point I flapped my non-rein-holding arm around to relieve the tension. Wrong. He thought I was getting ready to slap his flanks to break into a gallop along the section of highway where we happened to be on at the moment. We went from zero to sixty to back to zero in record time thanks to my memory of seeing my father and grandfather handle horses. Some DNA in my genetic pool must have surfaced because for five seconds during the whole two hours, I was in charge and that stallion was NOT going to gallop on my watch.
When I slid off my horse at the merciful end of our ride, it took all my pride and dignity not to slither to the dirt. My legs barely had the strength to hobble across the street because our cowgirl said the best cup of coffee in town was there. She was right. I regrouped over my cappuccino, feeling proud for sticking it out and not being a wussy city kid. On the outside. On the inside…ok….yes, one wussy city kid.