Horse riding on vacation is a bit strange. I’ve now ridden five times, and aside from the first time, each experience has evidently been a bit of a surprise to the people offering it. When we were in
Me: “Is this the horse riding?”
Them: “Yes . . .”
Me: “Um, I’d like to go riding.”
Them: “Okay . . .”
Me: “Um, how about tomorrow?”
Them: “How many people?”
Me: “Well, just me.”
Them: “Okay. How long have you ridden?”
Me: “About 30 years.”
Me: “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow, say, ?”
Them: “Okay, .
Me: Okay . . .
In Orkney, the girl who guided me was great—I liked her a lot—but she had just started guiding (although she rode well) and didn’t know where the trails went (although I enjoyed just being out on a horse . . . in the thick, trail-obscuring mist).
In Porto Côvo, since we were there 11 days, I thought I would ride twice. The first time, I had the above conversation, only they asked me to call back the next day to set a time (to weed out the people who weren’t, in fact, that serious about it?). The guide I had was a Belgian girl, from the Flemish part of
In Évora, of course, it was all organized by the Dutch owner of the house and I had that great experience riding through the Alentejo for a couple hours.
Horse riding in
We stopped a few days ago, on our way to the aborted fly walk. A groom named Mario was doing some horse care when we arrived—bringing in four horses who were in turnout, and letting out two young stallions (separately), changing bedding, feeding, grooming. He invited me to groom one of the horses, a lovely and sweet Lusitano named Huna (Oona), who clearly loved being scraped and polished. Fun for me, less work for him—a perfect setup.
After I’d had enough of horse-pampering, Mario found us the phone number of the center and the cell number of a guy named Paolo, who was in charge while the other manager, someone who spoke English, was in England, at Exmoor, either at a show or buying horses or something. My Portuguese isn’t that good at speed.
Later that afternoon I called the center and asked for Paolo; no, he wasn’t in yet. Later yet I called again, half-expecting a repeat of the Porto Côvo no-one-answers-the-phone-ever-again situation, but I managed to reach Paolo, and he invited me to ride today, from 4 to 5.
So when I arrived today, it turned out that none of the horses have shoes, so they couldn’t be ridden on the gravel roads running through the park. Instead, I would be able to ride in the small round arena, and in one of the pastures, if that would be okay. Since riding was what I wanted to do, and trail riding wasn’t absolutely necessary, I said sure, that would be fine.
Paolo handed me a helmet and put me on Huna, and then let me go to have my fun. And you know, it was great!
I’ve never yet had enough time in my riding lesson schedule to come up with a day for hacking (riding without an instructor—a practice session where you work, on your own, on things you’ve been learning in lessons), but when I start up lessons again I’m definitely going to make time for a hack. Huna and I circled around the arena for awhile, practicing sitting trot and leg yields and bending and cantering each direction (she preferred cantering left), then we went out into the pasture and tooled around there, doing extended trots and more cantering, and practicing turning away from the barn even though she didn’t want to. There were a few jumps set up, and I was tempted to do a couple, but decided that new horse, wrong boots (i.e. a pair of Puma sneakers—bright red, really cute), new field, and permanent jumps (they were made out of logs, not bars that can just be kicked away) were enough reasons for discretion to win. I rode a little over an hour, loving it the whole time, and at the end Paolo apologized to me for me having to work on the horse (because, I guess, she wanted to go back to her stall?). Anyway, absolutely no apology necessary. Huna and I each got some schooling, and I got some time in the saddle, and it all reminded me, yet again, that I love riding. I drove home listening to Free to Be You and Me, and grinning the whole time.
And Ian got some good work done.