Yah! Caballo, Yah!

I was on wake-up duty early the next morning. Knock…knock…on Serendipity’s door, “time to suit up, it’s ridin’ time!”

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We had a tasty breakfast at the Hostel el Tenedor; pineapples, guavas, papayas, bananas, ham and cheese bites, fresh squeezed mango juice, and fresh brewed espresso complete with steamed milk. Our hostess allowed us to keep our bags in the bedroom while we were out for the day. At 8:50am we walked down the hill on our street and sure enough there were Daniel and the horses ready to go.

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We asked Daniel the horses’ names and he told us they were brothers and sisters then proceeded to rattle off their names. I don’t remember my horse’s name, but Brian remembers that Mariposa was his companion for the day. Initially, I was feeling confident atop my horse. I’d grown up with horses and had competed for several years English style for equitation, hunters, and jumpers. My legs were in shock to be back in the saddle and I was appreciative of the Western saddle providing me some support (I hadn’t the luxury of kneepads in my English saddle). I held the reins in one hand as Daniel had instructed, casually rested my other hand on my hip, and marveled at my horse’s response to light directional signals via rein. I say I was initially confident because I thought I had control of the horse. In reality, these horses were voice trained and they traveled in a pack. The horses were content to walk along with one’s nose in the other’s rear end. At times the horses jostled for the lead; except Matt’s horse who was tragically behind the entire day. Daniel rode along behind us. He carried a short, metal bar that rattled when he shook it. Every time the horses heard the rattle they trotted forward. Ok, so I could control left, right, and stop but really this was like an amusement park ride where the man behind the curtain controlled the speed. At any rate, we were off through town and admiring the countryside that lay before us. We grew infinitely proud of our horsemanship each step of the way.

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Daniel explained that a cluster of houses we’d passed were the homes of people who worked the sugarcane and banana plantations. We learned that sugarcane could be harvested year-round, bananas could be harvested six months of the year, and mangos could be harvested five months of the year. Along our route we met an Australian couple and their cowboy guide. We all got along quite nicely.

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Soon we were off the road and on a trail, nearing the ranch.

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The horses were happy to rest.

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Welcome, to the sugarcane plantation!

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They also grew bananas at the plantation.

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Daniel introduced Brian and I to Jose. We were equally curious about one another, unfortunately could minimally get acquainted with our broken Spanish and broken English conversation. Jose worked the plantation, we think he was the boss farmer. We noted his hands and complimented his dificile trabajo (difficult to work). We explained to him that our casa (house) is actually a barco (boat) and that this was our first visit to Cuba, we’d traveled to Trinidad from Cienfuegos con mis amigos (with our friends) to see the city. Mid-conversation, Daniel called us toward the sugarcane press.

After a brief demonstration, we each took our turns grinding the sugarcane. Thanks goodness we’ve hauled that anchor so many times. Grinding sugarcane is hard work!

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We got the job done with cheers of encouragement from our fellow horsemen.

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And then we took a rest and enjoyed a sugarcane and rum drink. Tasty!

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Jose played beautiful songs while we danced and sipped our drinks.

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I took this siesta time as an opportunity to stroll around the plantation.

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It was springtime! I greeted all the baby animals, including a seven day old calf.

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Back in the saddle, we rode and hiked to the waterfall for a refreshing dip in the freshwater pool. We minded Daniel’s instructions to not speak to the park ranger; we accepted our entrance tickets and continued on our way. (Daniel had somehow included the $6 park fee into our $12/person fee).

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Cliff jumping!

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Matt’s turn!

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Ahhh…

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Soon it was time for lunch and we headed back to the plantation. Daniel was rattling the trotting wand and the horses were moving along quickly…and then Daniel yelled, “YAH! YAH!” The horses burst into a gallop. We loved it! We galloped along also yelling, “Yah!” while Daniel laughed and laughed behind us. The horses made a bit of a race of it as each galloped at full speed to take their turns at head of the line. I guess everyone was hungry. The plantation had set the tables with linen and we were seated for a delicious four course meal.

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After our fresh salad with green beans, beets, and cucumbers followed by potato and cabbage soup, followed by pork or shrimp with rice and beans, fried bananas, and green beans followed by bananas and mangos for dessert…phew! We were stuffed. To the cook we gave our compliments and to Daniel we said, “No galloping!”

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What an amazing day! We rode back into Trinidad on our autopilot horses exhausted but thrilled with the day’s events. And it wasn’t over yet…we’d get off horseback and hoist ourselves onto those mopeds for the journey back to Cienfuegos.

3 thoughts on “Yah! Caballo, Yah!

  1. You two and your friends are amazing! Stephanie, I had no idea you had done all that riding and competing. When I was a kid I rode but more than that I attended a lot of both English and Western shows! My home area in Ohio was split between Western and English. I am so glad you all had this experience as a contrast to all your nautical life. You found muscles you didn’t know you had, right?

  2. Oh, MAN were those muscles screaming at me that evening and the next morning…try getting off a horse and then saddling up to a moped for the day. It’s nice to hear about your own riding experience. It’s something that someday I hope to do again and it was a real treat to get off the water and onto the open trail.

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