15207With Michelle Mantor

15195 PetTalk Editor’s Costa Rica Equine Adventure – Day 1

Sitting in the middle of the 4th largest city in the U.S. can make it challenging to connect with nature, slow your pace, appreciate the smallest details of God’s incredible earth and find moments of true peacefulness. I live a very scheduled existence – production schedules, deadlines, events, children’s schedules…you get the picture. I imagine many of you are the same. And, there are all of the distractions to boot, from cell phones to iPads to TV and more. It’s no wonder we have road rage!
15203 So, for the past several years, I have chosen to take vacations to destinations that I believe are basic, simple and blessed with an abundance of natural beauty and wildlife. A few years back I traveled to Costa Rica (you may remember my blog of that great trip) and I loved the people, the nature, the animals and the food. What else is there to love, right?

At the same time over the last few years, I have been exploring my fascination with horses. I’ve had a few false starts on learning to ride (injuries, schedule, etc.) so this year I decided why not find a place to get back to nature while immersing myself in an equine experience. No distractions, no way to back out. As luck would have it, I spent only a few minutes on Google before I found a mountain retreat in no other than Costa Rica offering a week long program called “Eponicity” – a combination of the words equine, infinity and synchronicity. This “horsie immersion” as I call it, is a riding and psychotherapy program which explores the transformative potential of horse-human relationships for development and healing. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the therapy part as much as I wanted to learn more about horse behavior, care and riding but the emotional connection element sounded like a big bonus.

15211 Eponicity is one of many types of retreats or vacation experiences offered at a remote, lush, tranquil 26-acre mountaintop retreat, Leaves And Lizards (www.leavesandlizards.com). I contacted the owner and the next thing I knew I was booking my trip.

So here I am on day 1. I arrived yesterday – after a nearly 4 hour flight from Houston to San Jose and then a 3 hour ride to Leaves and Lizards, who graciously sent their van and brave driver Jorge (I say brave because if you’ve ever traveled in Central America by car, you know what I mean). Jorge also stopped to pick up a cheery young gal named Savina who was going for a job interview as the receptionist and yoga instructor. Her command of English was excellent which was another stroke of luck or Jorge and I would have been giving hand signals along the trip. After the hairpin turns, altitude adjustment, hilly terrain and a not so slow speedometer, I was ready for a big girl drink!

15199Debbie and Steve, the owners of Leaves and Lizards, met us when we pulled in along with their welcoming committee, Sam (Golden Retriever), Willie (mixed breed) and itty bitty Tootsie (probably a Chihuahua of sorts weighing in at 4 lbs.). After check-in, we headed to my cabin…back in the van we traveled through the property which has multiple pastures for the horses, cows and other farm animals (the retreat produces their own milk, cheese, butter, some meat and some fruits), past various cabins to my cabin, the Toucan. It’s hard to explain the charm of this property and my home for the next 7 days. My best description is a treehouse that’s not built in a tree. The interior makes ample use of the local wood, even using branches in creative ways (see my pic of the bathroom) and gorgeous murals everywhere you look (painted by Steve). The front porch juts out over the jungle canopy with a direct view of the Arenal Volcano. It truly feels like you are living in a tree but with modern amenities (coffee maker, fridge, robes) and the coolest table built from a local tree (see pic, my temporary office).

15215Debbie left me to unpack and to report back to the restaurant for dinner at 7 – “Be sure to stay on the gravel road and use your flashlight because of snakes”. What!!?? Home of many venomous snakes, I had no desire to meet up with the most famous one, the Eyelash PitViper. Gorgeous but deadly. Even though everything is nice and all, I started to wonder what I’ve done…I’m going to be living with jungle creatures, no A/C, facing my trust issues with horses, giving up electronics (no tv or wifi in rooms), ziplining 300 ft. above the ground and participating in a rodeo. Thanks to my daughter who sent me a text of an “I’ve Got This” emogi, I took a deep breath, put on my boots and headed out with my flashlight. Down the hill and back up another, I made it to the restaurant unscathed for a delicious meal – a sweet cornbread-like muffin, tomato basil soup, pasta, vegetables and chicken. We were joined by Savina who would be interviewing in the morning and Nina, a guest from Switzerland on an extended stay at the retreat.

Bothriechis_schlegelii_(La_Selva_Biological_Station)After the meal, we agreed that it would be a good way to interview Savina if she would conduct a yoga class at 8am, which she did quite adeptly. As I write, she is in her interview. She seems like a shoe-in – great personality for reception, knows her yoga, respects the environment and energy of the earth (she is vegetarian working toward vegan). I guess I will find out if she gets the job tomorrow.

In a half hour, I’ll have my first equine encounter. Meeting at the barn at 1:30. The sun is shining, the volcano is peaking out, tiny rain showers come and go, temp is about 85 degrees. Am I relaxed yet? No but I’m getting there. It helps that I haven’t listened to the news or read a newspaper so I can retreat from the evil of the world and focus on the beauty. The equine retreat starts tomorrow but I have arrived a day early to spend some time grooming and getting used to the horses. So…here I go….next blog tomorrow.