November 16, 2011

Mediterranean Mountain Ride

I know you've felt it.  That need, your mind and body awash with unrequited desire.  Feeling the rush of pleasure as you read endless forums, secretly watch videos and keep a hidden picture collection, all in a vain attempt to substitute for the real thing.  Nothing will satisfy it, nothing except getting your legs around...the barrel of a horse.

What kind of a blog did you think this was, anyway?

I'm looking for ponies here, probably.
By my second month in Italy (this was before Fiera Cavalli), the desire to ride was so strong that it was keeping me from living a normal, healthy study abroad life.  I would squeal walking by carriage horses and gush to my non-horsey roommates about their tack, shoes and conformation.  I would spend entire evenings on COTH and Dreamhorse instead of wandering the city like I should have been.  It got so bad that my non-horsey roommate actually called me out on it, and took me on a vacation to an agritourismo in the south of Italy, vicino Napoli.

...which is how I found myself on the single scariest horse ride of my life.  Scarier than being run off with by a dead-fit racehorse, scarier than jumping a fast, green horse when I was green myself, scarier than my first (and last) collegiate IHSA fences round.

Our lunch table.  The white/blue haze in the background is the ocean.
As we were eating lunch at a tiny restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean, I began chatting up our waiter.  Since it only took me about four seconds to disclose that I was a horse-deprived American to everyone I met, he immediately told me about his uncle's riding stable down the road, and that he'd make us a reservation for the ride that was leaving in just a half hour.  I would have been skeptical, but for the degree of my equine desperation.

...And that's how I found myself facing a tiny, scraggly little bay with the bit set way too low in his mouth, heading straight up what felt like a 45 degree asphalt road headed up a rocky mountain.  From what I could tell, these horses spent all day standing tacked and tied to a hitching post, waiting on enough tourists to come by to warrant a ride.  (This is not a tourist area by any means.)  I didn't have the language skills to discuss farrier care, deworming and proper tack adjustment, but even if I had had the language at that point, I probably wouldn't have brought it up out of not wanting to be "that American."  I can recognize a futile effort when I see one.

My other companions, one of which was a blonde in 4" stilettos, were on similarly equipped animals.  About five minutes into the ride, that blonde decided she couldn't handle her horse, a Thoroughbred mare with both front feet so clubbed, it looked like she would knuckle over at any second, so Stiletto Blonde rode double on her boyfriend's horse while Clubby alternated between following and leading, loose, still fully tacked, the entire rest of the ride.

This is not the exact scene I looked down on, but it's from the same 
I have flashes of memories from that ride - going up and letting my little bay pick his way gingery around the Mediterranean mountain rock and shrubs, going down that steep asphalt and being terrified that Clubby would lose her balance and roll face first down the mountain, ripping my pants on a nail sticking out of a fence post in a vineyard - but there's one memory that almost erases all the bad for me.

We finally made it to the top of the rocky mountain, and there we stood in silence on our horses for a moment, taking in what was around us.  From the beige rocky crag, interspersed with green-grey shrubs, we looked out on the endless, blue Mediterranean sea, until the horizon where it met the bright blue sky.  It was hundreds of meters below us, but that only added to the charm.  There I was, sitting on a real live horse in the most beautiful setting I'd ever ridden in.  For a moment, I forgot about the terrifying ride up.

...but then we had to go back down.


  1. You are a talented story teller! Description takes you right there. When is the big day with Contender?

  2. Thanks, I try hard to immerse people into my memories rather than just tell a chronological retelling! Hopefully that will keep things interesting around here for you.

    I just found out like four seconds ago, we officially have set this coming Monday for pony delivery! I can't wait, it'll be three weeks between accepting her offer and actually getting him moved, the suspense is killing me!