Get ready for quite a doozie!! I have a whole week to update about so this may get long, but i'll do my best to keep it abridged.
Sunday I arrived at the airport in Málaga to meet up with Andrew who was picking me up to take me to the riding holiday. We grabbed a quick sandwich and met the two others who would be on the trip with me. Linda and Nicky were a mother daughter combo from somewhere near Leeds, England who were taking a quick weeks vacation before Nicky headed back to school Monday. She goes to an ag college in England. They were wonderful to be with and I am so glad that they decided to come on the trip. Being alone the whole week may have been a tad boring.
Anyways, we drove the 2.5 hours to San Abrosio which is this little (tiny) town near Vejer de la Frontera which is somewhere in between Cadíz and Tarifa. We passed by Gibralter on the drive and looked at Morocco, which is literally... Right there. The house where we stayed at was a really cute little compound with 8 rooms for guests with a big living room/kitchen combo to lounge in as well as a house for the family who runs the place. Andrew and Rhiannon lived in the house with their son Jack and then Rhiannon's dad, Derek, lived in an apartment at the base of the hill. Andrew's sister, Rachel, had a house in another one of the small villages nearby and she was the main one in charge of the horses. She was also helped by José who was a local who helped feed and ride the horses. I think those are all the important players :) My room was one of the 8 for the guests, it was a nice room with a comfy bed and my own shower. Right outside my door was a courtyard with beautiful orange trees and these huge black rhinocerous beetles. Sunday night we had a wonderful dinner and went to bed early.
Monday, we got up and went to the horses at about 10. I rode Duende, who was a really sweet grey Andalucian gelding. Most of the horses here are Andalucian crosses. The area is actually called Andalucia and almost any purebred horse from around here is Andalucian. Anyways, the ride this day was mostly through the forests. We rode past some old guard towers where the soldiers used to sit in and look out to the ocean to see if people were coming to attack or just to come through the straight of Gibralter. The pace of the ride is very comfortable. It can be kind of "trail ride"-ish in parts, where we may be walking through the forest single file, but most of the ride is side by side. We trotted when we felt we wanted to trot, cantered when we would get to far behind and walked most of the time. We had quite a few organized canters and gallops where they had previously checked the ground to make sure it was safe for the horses to run through without hurting themselves. I had never felt a horse gallop so powerfully as Duende on that first day. If you had told me he could go any faster than what he was doing when we were cantering, I wouldn't have believed you. It was absolutely amazing. We settled for lunch at a really cute little restaurant near the forest and had some swordfish, Russian Salad (my new favorite thing) and Summer Wine (which was a little like Sangria, but must have had some lemonade in it or something).
Tuesday was similar, riding Duende again, we took a ride down to the beach today as well as going through the forests. We walked along the sand dunes towards a magnificent lighthouse that is still in operation. We walked to a tidal lake near the lighthouse that was no more than 3 feet deep in the middle and had a gallop through it which was fantastic. We were soaking wet and had sand all over our faces by the end of it but it was amazing. We went through it a couple of times before heading off to lunch on the beach. Here we ate these wonderfully fresh tuna sandwiches with a plate of chorizo and cheese. After lunch, we headed home and went hiking near our house. Me and one of the horse girls, Jackie, walked up to this old windmill by the house that is absolutely beautiful. It looks like a cartoon the colors are so vivid. It's this gorgeous green hill with a little white windmill on top and the perfectly blue sky behind it. I took some pictures that didn't do it justice, but, I tried. We also hiked to this old dove cote about 5 minutes from the barn which is the oldest dove cote in Europe. It was HUGE!! I'm not sure how many thousands of birds would fit in this thing, but there had to be thousands when it was completely full.
Wednesday I started the day out on Pecasa who was another very pretty grey Andalucian cross. When we were trying to get through one of the gates though, her bridle broke and I had to switch Cathy (one of the horse helper girls) while she took Pecasa back to the barn to get her fixed up with a new bridle. This is when I was introduced to Soraya who was a beautiful 5 year old dapple grey Andalucian mare. I was the first non-employee to ride her and I could tell Cathy was a little nervous with me on her. She was PERFECT. I fell in love instantly. The rides were a little quieter (she's not in as good of shape as the rest of the ponies) and so I tended to keep towards the back to keep her at a more reasonable pace. We did partake in the roller coaster though, which is a firebreak that you gallop down which goes down some hills, I may have been wary of on foot. Imagine that feeling when you are running down a hill and you can't stop, you just keep going faster and faster and your stride just keeps getting bigger and bigger? Ya... now picture that on a horse... it was incredible.
Thursday was quite a change of pace. We gave the horses a day off and headed into Jerez which is a town about an hour away about half the size of Tulsa. We had breakfast at a local restaurant and then went to a nice tack shop down the street. I have to admit, I got a little out of control - but it was so cheap!! I had to. I got a really nice new bridle and a pair of gloves for €30. Amazing. So after that we headed to the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre. Here, there are two different schools. One is dedicated to carriage driving and the other, classical Spanish riding and showing. We went to the carriage museum which had a lovely display of different passenger carriages and their harnesses. We then went into the barn to hang out with the ponies who were sooo pretty. They're all purebred Andalucians, mostly grey with a couple bay and a couple black. There was a preggers mare who was sooo sweet and most of the boys were stallions. We then walked over to the Riding school side where we watched some of the horses be warmed up and then went to the show at the school. It was very similar to a Lipizzaner show, but with local horses, and actually at their shcool. It was so wonderful. They did all kinds of leaps, kicks, dressage, it was beautiful. Then the carriage drivers came in and did a show which was amazing as well. After the show, we watched the ponies some more and then walked to eat some lunch. After lunch we went to this little sherry store. Now, what I didn't know is that Sherry is a region. Like Bordeaux, Champagne, Tuscany, etc... Sherry is just a wine from this particular region of Spain, right where we were. We learned all about the different varieties of Sherry, how long they age, how to tell them apart and then tasted about 5 different kinds. It was sooo interesting, and we were drinking them right out of the barrel!! After buying too many bottles of that, we walked back to our car and then drove out of town. On the way out we saw some Flamingo's grazing in a little tidal swampy thing. It was really neat because I wasn't expecting to see wild Flamingos in southern spain.
Friday was back to the saddle. This day I was on a solid black Andalucian/Quarter Horse cross gelding. His name was Lucero (because he had a huge white star on his face). Today was the infamous beach ride. We rode down the the beach and spent about 1.5 hours galloping back and forth and down and around, all over. It was absolutely amazing. The horses were all playing in the water and loving the opportunity to just let loose. We galloped so much up and down the tide that by the time we stopped. I had to ride up at a dune and look at the ground so I could get my grounding back. I was so dizzy from watching the water and I almost got sick. But... it was still amazing. We walked back towards the lighthouse and then back through the lake so the ponies could get a drink of water and then had some lunch and a little "Wobbly Chocolate" or Hot chocolate with Bailey's in it. YUM!!
Saturday was my favorite day by far. I was back on Soraya, which was a surprise, because I had expected that they weren't going to let me get back on her after our first accedental encounter. Today included a trip to the old roman road, which is a road that goes along the side of the cliff on the Atlantic side of the straight of Gibralter. José informed me that Morocco was only 8 km from where we were standing at the top of the road. We had a couple more beautiful gallops and canters on the way down including the "corkscrew" which was a lot like the "roller coaster" except there were some pretty quick turns thrown in there. At one point, José said something to the extend of, last one to the light house buys drinks tonight... which i thought was rather strange because, not only had we not left the house the entire week (it's literally in the middle of nowhere) but our conversations had never been personal. Always about the horses, where we were going, what we were looking at... things like that. Before I knew it we were racing to the light house, which was about a half a mile away. Of course he won... He was riding a thoroughbred cross and I was on a really little andalucian... i mean, he not only beat me, but he royally kicked my butt... he was a good 25 strides ahead of me when he got the light house. Anyways... so he says i have to buy him drinks, i laugh, think he's probably kidding and we ride for another 3 hours or so. When we got back to the barn... he said, what time will dinner be finished tonight... to which I replied, about 10, why? He said, I'll be by to pick you up at 10:30 if you still want to go... So now, I know the guy's serious, and of course, I hadn't been out in a week and was feeling a little confined anyways, so I agree and I go back home to eat some lunch.
So, he comes to get me at 10:30 and we head down to a bar on the beach. One thing I hadn't thought about at all... He was the ONLY person in the entire bar besides myself that spoke even a TINY bit of English. If I wanted to have a conversation with anyone but him, it was in Spanish. It actually turned into kind of a game... Him and his friends would try to explain something to me in Spanish, which naturally took me about 5 minutes to understand and then we would all laugh when I finally got the whole story. It was actually really fun because I started making jokes in Spanish, which... lame as they were... was really fun to do!! One of the guys thought it was really funny to talk really fast so I had no idea what was going on and I just sat there looking dumfounded... then at the end he threw a "you're really beautiful would you like to go home with me" thinking that I wouldn't understand and I did and I was like "NO!!" out of no where which of course, everyone found extremely hilarious (I'm such a joker...) After a few more drinks, the bar closes. So, we get in the car and I thought we were driving back home, assuming that everything was closed. It was about 3:30. He asks if I want to go dancing (um... DUH) and so we drive about 20 minutes away to a larger town called Canil de la Frontera. We walk into this nice little calm looking club which literally looks like a scene out of dirty dancing havana nights. Think like any salsa/flamenco/rumba dancing scene you've ever seen with sweaty half dressed dark skinned people dancing like crazy. There were no seats, no stools, nothing even to lean on. It was just a HUGE dance floor with probably 200 sweaty Spaniards gettin' down (yes... i just said gettin' down). So, naturally, we dance, A TON. I dance with some of his friends, with him, with random guys. Everyone. A total free-for-all. Next thing I know, I'm drenched in sweat, quite tipsy and it's 6 in the morning. These people are STILL going. We head home shortly after that and I go to bed sometime close to dawn. All in all, a successful trip. Tomorrow I head to Tarifa where hopefully I can catch a ferry to Morocco. I'm not going to go unless I can find someone to go with me though, so hopefully I'll meet someone in the hostel. XOXO