I hadn’t been on a horse since I was eight years old, at Campfire Camp, where we had probably received two hours of lessons before we even mounted.
The walk into Tayrona National Park had been billed as one hour by foot. How long it would take on horses was anyone’s guess, but it would have been impossible to bring our suitcases if we had walked.
As I lurched up and down and back and forth on my horse, I tried to recall those horse riding lessons as Lynn screamed behind me. Not to get too graphic, but I had to firmly lay my left arm across my bosom to prevent giving myself two black eyes as the horse pitched up and down. God help any woman with double DDs.
“Let me down this moment! Stop hitting the horse, you awful man!” Lynn kept repeating.
“Hie, hie!” was his response, as he urged one horse, then another, onward. I’m sure he was as eager as we were for this to be over.
I was a terrible friend. I started to laugh. I tried to do it silently, but thought it a good idea to yell back to Lynn, “This is the craziest ride I’ve ever been on!” so she would think I was laughing at the situation, not her. I haven’t laughed that hard since Lynn ran over the boulder in Cornwall.
“Stop right now—I demand you stop this horse right now!” Lynn shouted.
I knew she was terrified. “Try to stay relaxed,” I yelled over my shoulder as my horse suddenly jerked over to one side going over a hill of bowling ball sized rocks. “Don’t tense up!” I had read somewhere, maybe in Black Beauty when I was 10 years old, that horses can sense you are nervous and will take advantage of it by behaving badly. It was also advice I’d received in similar situations like a Jeep ride on a potholed road in Jamaica and a boat ride on the squalling sea in Italy—don’t tense up, it’ll make everything worse.
While all this was going on, I kept seeing this scenario: One of my horse’s shoes would slip on a rock, his leg would fly out from under him and break, and I would hurtle onto a boulder or off a cliff. Then the guide would have to shoot the horse in front of us and I would have to crawl on my elbows the rest of the way with two broken legs.
Several days later, I found a horseshoe on another path. Ignoring the airline rules about not transporting livestock items, I brought it home. It’s pretty much as worn and slippery as I assumed they all were.
As I was imagining my future on permanent disability benefits, I also knew my horse had done this hundreds of times. He was not thrilled about it, because the horrid man had to keep urging him on, but it wasn’t his first time at the rodeo. Ha ha.
“There’s a bridge!” I cried out to Lynn. “Bridge” is a very generous description. The riverlet was only about 15 feet wide but too deep to wade. Someone had laid rough-hewn planks across it.
“Nooo! I am never going across that … that!” Lynn inarticulated, and instinctively pulled up the reins to stop her horse and somehow got down. “I am not going across that river. I am not ….”
Lynn is not a fan of water. I heard her bargaining with the guide, who had slapped my horse so hard that it galloped headlong across the “bridge,” and on into the jungle.
I don’t know what transpired behind me, but Lynn arrived at the lodgings shortly after me. We each tipped the guide something and he skedaddled.
Did I mention it was 90F/32C, and 90% humidity? We were covered in sweat and dust. Lynn probably did stink at this point but I could no longer smell because my nose was clogged with dust.
“Welcome to Tayrona!” A young man with braces came to greet us. There should be something called “The Braces Index” to measure countries’ economic development.
Soon we were in our luxury hut, post showers, enjoying cold beers.