Author: Isaac Gritz
MONTEVERDE – Day 5 of trip and after a brief breakfast at the the cozy eco-friendly hotel we took a van along a rough, bumpy road to our main activity for the day – horse-back riding. Personally, I have been horse-back riding in the US before, but today’s journal would be unlike any other horseback riding experience I’ve been to. As we got out of the van, we were immediately greeted in Spanish by a rough-and-tumble but friendly Tico man who introduced himself as Martin. He spoke little English, instead relying on our group members to translate all but the few words he knew.
We approached the man and noticed 11 horses, some slightly larger than others and different colors, all lined up and a long field and beautiful landscape surrounding us. We were given a brief introduction and overview of the course in Spanish, followed by an offering to store our bags. After a bit of back and forth regarding the payment between Stuart, Sharon, and Martin, we were immediately handed helmets and Martin helped us to put on the helmets and matched each student and staff to a horse.
As we each mounted a horse, we were given its name and brief instructions on how to steer, stop, and accelerate the horse in broken English. In a surprisingly harsh tone, Martin handed me a long twig and instructed me on how to hit the horse with the twig or kick it if it was not moving fast enough. I was surprised by the seriousness of his tone, but nonetheless moved along. My horse’s name was Texas. He was a beautiful brown horse, healthy and strong with a smooth brown main and a long tail. Yet, he was clearly an impatient one; not having much interest in standing lined up, moving his head left and right to sniff my shoes.
And, we were off. Sharon was leading the pack on her horse, followed by the rest of the group with myself, Daniel, and Stuart, on his small white horse bringing up the rear. We were led through beautiful fields, and alongside gorgeous mountainsides with views that really showed off the vast and bio diverse nature in Costa Rica. The path was primarily a dirt path that narrowed in parts and became much wider than others. It was anything but flat and smooth. There were roots, trees, rocks, and steep upward and downward inclines throughout the course. We wove in and out of the woods and in deep muddy trails. Texas often struggled to keep up with the horse in front and I often had to “instruct” him to speed up, although I can hear him panting. As a looked back, poor Stuart and his little white stallion were falling behind, while Martin, the guide was much further ahead and I could barely see him along the trail.
It was a long and adventurous trail, exceeding all of my expectations with all of the scenery and the challenging terrain of the course. It wasn’t the most pleasant ride by any means, and I certainly questioned whether I will be able to have kids after a few spots, but nonetheless there was not a dull moment. There was a point where we were told we would be changing the route because there were “bees” along our normal route. They weren’t bees but there was certainly an infestation of flying insects along that route so I was glad with the change. Along the route we took a few stops to take pictures and we stopped halfway before we went back, giving us just enough time to recover from the minor pelvic and thigh injuries.
We took a slightly different route back, and then we were arrived back at the start, Martin came around to help us dismount and thanked us for our patronage. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and beat the already high expectations for our tour attractions that already included a bull fight and an unbelievable natural hot spring experience. We experienced nature in its most natural state and were given a much more authentic and scenic horse ride than any of the heavily commercialized experiences I’ve had in the States.
However, that doesn’t mean it was perfect. I was certainly thrown off by the serious tone of our guide. At one point one of our group members rode too close to another horse and that horse kicked his, at which point Martin showed visible anger before recovering and resuming the tour. It was also difficult to understand with the lack of English and I didn’t really know what I was getting into without clear instructions. For this horseback riding experience, especially for all of the international travelers, it is important to focus on safety and clarity to make sure all riders are safety and understand what they are signing up for to avoid any misunderstandings. In addition, to make it a more enjoyable experience, creating smoother paths with clear markings will further help to improve the experience and avoid any confusion. Overall, it was certainly an excellent and enjoyable experience but additional considerations would make this a truly exceptional experience for international travelers.