Once is plenty



At approximately 7:30 am on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, a stable boy leads a second horse along the shoreline to where he will pick up a customer.

It's not going to be me.

I'm out for an early morning walk before the sun gets impossibly hot and the beach overcrowds. The only observable activity is a cluster of surfers riding the waves. I'll watch them for a bit with my two feet planted on the ground firmly.

On a visit to Costa Rica several years prior, one of my tour activities was a horseback ride through scenic woods with a trail master. About half the people in the tour group were from the Western States, and of course, they were comfortable in the saddle. The rest of us were fearful of the whole adventure for one reason or another.

When our horses were brought to us, I held back as long as I was able. (Was I wishing that the stable didn't send enough horses)? One of the guides brought a tan horse over and pointed at me. I had no choice but to mount with help; for a non-rider, that is no easy feat until you get the hang of it. At least I didn't embarrass myself.

No sooner did I get my feet in the stirrups then the horse trotted through the line of twenty others, taking me on a scary start. Someone said that the horse was used to following in line next to the trail leader, and that's what he did. I raised my eyebrows at the guy, and he spoke in broken English, 'you'll be okay. Relax."

Sure. I sat on the saddle, not realizing how every muscle in my body was tense. At first, I couldn't look to the left or right at the scenery. Once I figured that I would not have to hold on for dear life, I actually enjoyed myself even to the point of forging a shallow stream and back up a hill through a scrub all in one piece.

When the ride reached its destination, I was assisted off, and for a moment, I was so stiff I couldn't move one foot in front of the other. That was remedied in short order when we all were taken over to mud baths on the ranch. I soaked the pain away and let the horseback ride sink in.

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