This past Tuesday we did something I never imagined I would do, we had ourselves a Dominican Republic horseback riding adventure.
The thing is, I often see tourists riding around on their high horses–no pun intended ;)–on silly little tours through not-so-impressive parts of town, and, having never really gone horseback riding, I didn’t realize how fun it could be, so it just looked like one of those overpriced attractions for silly tourists.
Here’s a lesson in never saying no to new experiences.
A few days ago, a couple friends we LOVE asked if we wanted to go horseback riding with them. I trust their judgement, so we agreed, despite the price tag.
Holy !@#$ are we happy we did.
First things first, this country is absolutely gorgeous. It doesn’t matter if you’re by foot, donkey, horse, motorcycle, car, guagua, or hummer, getting around the “backwoods” of the Dominican Republic will take your breath away and show you shades of green you never knew existed. (and also are really hard to capture on camera)
We went inland quite a ways. Here, besides farmland, the nature is free to be its wild self.
Rolling hills rivaling any golf green, Lazy rivers snaking through lush bush, air-plants and bromeliads filling in the voids, life taking up residence in all possible nooks and crannies.
Ok, the local fauna isn’t the most exciting…
But the landscape is to die for.
Hiking these parts alone would have been a day well spent.
Getting around on a horse just blew my mind.
At first I had a rough time getting accustomed to being on a horse’s back. When we did Pico Duarte we rode mules part of the way, and sitting on another animal so it could do the work for me made me feel lame. The same thing happened this time.
If someone were on my spine, bobbing up and down with every step, I don’t think I’d enjoy it much.
Controlling the horse was also new to me. I’d never really had a horse follow my lead, so the idea of controlling it by a rope in its mouth was a foreign concept. Luckily for me, these horses are trained to follow the leader and be gentle, so I didn’t need to understand much.
Then we hit our first gallop, and that’s when I realized the horse has a flow, and if you move with it, your butt isn’t hitting its flank quite as hard. I did what I could to take my weight off him during the rest of the ride, the trots being most challenging.
By the time we made our first pit-stop at a local colmado, I’d gotten the hang of maneuvering my horse left and right on the trail, and had developed a satisfactory technique and stance for minimizing my impact on my live transportation’s spinal chord.
The colmado we stopped at was quite rural, and it was a wonderful break in the shade, chatting with the locals and our tour fellows.
The local kids posed for the camera.
This pig came over to see what was up.
This turkey thanked his lucky stars.
Our tour operator and guide, Tommy:
Tiva chatted me up about riding bareback with some girl friends in Alaska and I realized I’d been hanging around the wrong kind of ladies my whole life.
A good rest for us and the horse, we got back on for the more interesting part of the tour.
The river part!
Not only did we have gorgeous view of the surrounding landscape from the mellow river bed, we also got a fresh break from the hot sun splashing around in the water with the horses, the water sometimes getting up to our ankles.
Some of us were lucky enough to be on horses that knew how to swim!!
Serious?! The only thing that could beat riding a swimming horse in the DR would be riding a flying unicorn through space.
Then we took another break and all had ourselves a swim in the river!
Of course, boys will be boys.
While we all enjoyed a water bath, Chiquita the chihuahua preferred the small gravel and dust bath.
Well refreshed, we got back on the horses, but with only a half hour left to go and very wet socks, I opted to finish the ride barefoot.
Well it wasn’t long until I realized that my slippery feet weren’t doing good job of staying in the stirrups, so I pretended for the last gallops that I was riding bareback and got rid of the stirrups altogether.
At this point a connection happened between the horse and I that I didn’t even know was possible.
The closest I’ve ever gotten to this feeling is duck diving in surfing. That moment when you glide through the element you bathe in with perfect flow.
But a surf board doesn’t have a heart beat, and a wave passes over you in seconds…
New on the bucket list: Learn to ride a horse. Bareback.
Do you ride horses? Have you had any adventures riding animals? Elephants maybe? Camels?
Have you ever said “I will never!!” to something, and then realize it was way cooler than you thought?