Erika, this one's for you.
I was thinking the other day about how long it had been since I was been on a horse (maybe two months? Maybe less? Can't be bothered to do the math . . .), and how I didn't really miss it, surprisingly enough. But then we got to Naxos, and everywhere we went--literally--we saw a sticker for Naxos Horse Riding, "horses for advanced riders and beginners," with a number to call. All of a sudden, my familiar prepubescent obsession with horses came back with a vengeance, so I called, and joined yesterday evening's sunset ride (Ian got a haircut and did some works). Iris Neubauer asked on the phone how much experience I had and I said "30 years", and she sounded excited and promised me a horse that would be fun to ride.
Iris is German, so the whole thing was incredibly well organized, and she was right--she had horses for beginners and for advanced riders, and everyone in between. I was put on Fedra (Phaedra), a lovely white and freckled Lusitano/Andalusian mix who was taller than the Naxian horses most people were on, and not quite as bomb proof (read: more fun to actually ride.). The most beginner of the group was a late middle-aged British man with one prosthetic leg; both of us had a great time, and felt that our mounts were chosen well for our abilities. Fedra was built much like my dear friend Shadow--i.e. no withers and very round after her winter of not too much work--and would probably have been a perfect horse for bareback riding through the waves, if we'd been allowed to remove saddles.
Our ride wound through rustling, creaking bamboo forests (I have a scrape across one cheek from an errant, wind-blown stalk that makes me look at bit like the Joker), around fields full of world-famous (so we were told) Naxian potatoes, and eventually onto the beach for a sandy gallop and a trot back through the shallow waves. Fedra really was pretty calm through everything until we got to the beach, and then some flapping flags freaked her out and she pranced around a bit and pretended they were going to attack her. She was irritated at me for not letting her gallop ahead of everyone else when we galloped (we were second in line after the guide), so she pranced around a bit more and tried to kick the horse behind her. At the beach we paused for 15 minutes at a cafe and had sodas and water and used the bathroom; when I got back on, Fedra, impatient to be on the move again, started digging holes in the sand with her left front hoof. This was all fine until she caught her foot on some long slender stick which evidently reminder her of a snake; she leapt around a bit like a big goof for a few seconds, but then calmed down again and the return home was uneventful.
On the ride I met a young American woman, K (or C?) on her first trip to Europe. She joined us for dinner, which allowed us to order more than the usual two dishes, and, since we had someone to talk to, actually made dinner last more than about 20 minutes. Also, the proprietor gave us a a 1/2 liter of wine on the house (to go with the 1/2 liter we'd bought), then dessert on the house (something his children had made up for his wife to cook for them--cookie crust, thick custard middle, pink jello top), and some little shots of Kitron, the local liqueur, also on the house.
In all, a fine Naxian day (aside from the fact that I have a cold).
And a couple corrections, which Ian pointed out (my fact checker, i.e. me, isn't as careful when she's typing directly into blogger at an internet cafe): The place we stayed on Folegandros was Anemomilos Apartments, and our conversation about St Pantalaimon actually had me saying "St Pantalaimos," to match "St PantaMIMEus," because that's what the St was called on our map. But I think everything else is more or less correct.
Thanks for reading!