Thursday, September 17, 2009

Les caballos de rosas


A long day on the trail. It started gloriously however, well before sunrise and as we packed our saddle bags and headed out for the pastures to catch our horses, a sliver of moon still hung low in the sky. The first pinks of dawn were just cracking through as we brushed, fed and tacked up. The reason for our early rising? A vamos a playa por favor! And vamos we did, to la playa de rosas, the Beach of the Roses, located on Catalonia's Gulf of Roses.The horses swished and froliced as we marched to the water's edge, and then, with waves lapping the shore and the sun just cresting the horizon, it was "Vamos gallope!" once again! And gallope we did, along several miles of clean, white beaches. The horses enjoyed the race, blowing and tossing their heads as the surf sprayed up into their long grey manes.

After our invigorating ride we felt electrified and ready for our day. The neach ride was a perfect beginning to day four, and an equestrian dream come true for more than one of us. We left the beach and headed for the quaint town of la Sant Pere Pescador, a resort village turned sleepy hamlet for the off-season. After a stop for coffee in a quaint Viennese cafe it was back to the ponies, and we trekked the rest of the morning alongside a large nature preserve and up several dry river beds. A blue heron sighting was one of the many treats of the day.

Lunch came just in time, as the sun was beginning to bake, and the terrain was relatively unforgiving between the banks of the dry river. We tied our horses near a secluded lake, and picniced happily on salad with pine nuts, and a delicious pesto pasta with mozzarella and sundried tomatoes. Not entirely Spanish perhaps, but with the addition of a couple of bottles of cava, no one seemed to mind.

After lunch a short dip in the cool, clear green lake, and then, ahh, an afternoon siesta beneath a pine tree. Once we all finally roused ourselves it was back up and back on, and we headed out for the afternoon.

The afternoon's ride was admittedly tiring, and seemed to wind endlessly up hills, through very dense forests that required much ducking beneath low trees, and then trots and canters over long, hot expanses of land. It was arduous, I am not going to lie, but luckily by this day I had gotten into a rhythm with the faster work, and learned to really wrap my lower body deeply around the horse so as to avoid too much strain on my knees. I used a great deal of core strength and lower body muscle to stay balanced without taxing my joints. The knee pain on the trip has been pretty difficult to bear at times, and wasn't a side effect I expected to be so acute.

The afternoon moved on slowly, and I realized what a true test of stamina, fitness and riding skill this trip has been. There have been points, especially near the ends of the days, or when encountering unpleasant surprises such as the wasp that stung both me and my horse today, that it has been a bit of mind over matter. I have to remind myself that I am here as much to conquer the challenge of doing something this adventurous as I am to see Spain and experience all of the life and vibrancy of its towns and countryside. There have, of course, been many great and exhilarating moments, when my breath has been taken away by the sheer beauty or excitement of the places we've been. But it has been a challenge too, and one I will be happy to say that I met.

A final observation about the trip thus far is that it has really given me an up close and personal view of the horse herd mentality. All throughout our trip, our horses, who are very used to living amongst one another, continue to both assert their independance and hierarchical positioning on the trail (my horse Senega has been one of the most defensive in terms of keeping other group members from usurping his position in line), and act, when necessary, as a tighly knit unit. We've had a couple of gallops that turned into mass chaos as one or two horses got too spirited and others decided to follow suit. We also had a group spook on the trail today, that sent a previously dead calm group of ponies into a simultaneous flight. I am happy to report that my well mannered mount wheeled to spook with them, but parked himself when I asked him to ease down and relax.

But now we are here at the Las Palma manor house, about to enjoy an outdoor candlelit dinner. So until tomorrow, buenos noches!!

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