Day 8: Costa Rican Equine Adventure
With Michelle Mantor
PetTalk Editor’s Costa Rica Equine Adventure – Day 8
It’s a bit rainy this morning but the rain here never seems to last long. It can be raining one minute and sun shining the next so I head to morning Yoga in a light mist. Kinda cool actually. We work on postures that are good for riding, opening our hips and we do a guided mediation to focus on being connected to our surroundings and feeling peaceful. I am able to make it into some of the tougher stretches but getting out of the stretch is not so simple.
After breakfast (bacon, eggs, pancakes, fresh cut mango/pineapple/watermelon, and good Costa Rican coffee) we do some ground work with our horses on imitating the 5 roles of the herd (dominant, sentinel, nurturer/companion, leader and predator). I won’t go into this much because it’s a large part of the course and I can’t do it justice but suffice to say you can learn a lot about yourself as you delve into these roles that we all move in and out of in daily life. To learn more check out Linda Kohanov’s 2013 book The Power of the Herd, and her upcoming book The Five Roles of a Master Herder (due in June 2016). It is truly fascinating to apply the power of the herd dynamics to our human lives – so I encourage you to research this concept.
Later in the day we take a group ride from the facility down to the river to ride our horses in the water. I am assured by all that this is fun, not scary. Hmmm. Not sure I am all on board for that assessment but I get up on Suzy and we head out. And as usual, Suzy and I are last. She is a slow starter and also a bit tricky about taking the path on the edge of the road so she can grab a bite of grass now and then. I’m not supposed to let her but I would say she won that battle about 70% of the time. By being last, we get a chance to chat with our guide Enrique, who spots some howler monkeys in the trees and I listen and learn more about his life in Costa Rica. The people here are always smiling and are very family oriented. A good example for all.
We reach the river on a not too difficult ride and we each tie our horses to a tree. We start by doing another mindala with the question, “What is my biggest challenge each day”? and we are painting our mindala on our horses. Cool! I’m seeing the advantage immediately of having a white horse LOL! I paint a mindala representing my struggle with trying to control my everyday life – it’s hard to let some things just go. Everyone shares their paintings which are all really cool and then it’s time to play with our horses in the river.
Some horses immediately laid down in the water and some wanted to swim but Suzy decided to just stand in the water and watch. Although she is known for loving the water, her 7 month old foal is with us on the trip so I think she was in “mom” mode, not fun mode. It looked like a blast for those that got to jump bareback on their horse and swim along.
After swimming, we changed and got ready to ride back. Suzy and I had a near disaster that I still can’t get out of my mind. It was like the perfect storm. I put my foot in the stirrup to mount while she was still tied to the tree. This is apparently a no-no but I had no idea this was dangerous. At the same time, her baby, Arenal (see him in the photo in the trees where I am painting on his side as he stands next to mom Suzy), was chewing and pulling at the tie rope, which made her rear her head back with a lot of force. The brass clasp broke, sending her flying backward, landing on her back. I got my foot out of the stirrup at the last second. She got up and ran off, shaken but ok. We were both lucky. What was a totally awesome day left me feeling anxious about how either or both of us could have been seriously hurt. The strength and power of the horse is overwhelming at times.
We make it back home ok, with Arenal continuing to bump into us, chew at the rope, cut in front of us and basically be a teenager. But he’s so cute it’s fun to be in his energy even if he can be a little annoying at the same time. Dinner is served and we all relax and share stories from the day. It’s a peaceful end to the day and I realize how grateful I am to be part of such a supportive group – all different in many ways but yet the same – seeking a deeper understanding of both horses and ourselves.