After our hike on Saturday (see previous post!), getting on a horse for a 6 hour ride was not the most appealing thought. However, a horse trip with Equus Ethiopia was something I had wanted to do since I knew I was going to Ethiopia. I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass!
Camille and I left for the stables around 8am Sunday morning; I couldn’t convince anyone else in the group to come along. It was hands down one of the most exciting things I’ve ever experienced: this was not the kind of trail ride where all the horses walk in a line, one after the other. Instead, Camille, Laura (who we met at the stable and was flying out of Ethiopia for home in Kansas City that night), and our guide (his name sounded something like “Elias”: my name was so hard for him to say he ended up calling me My the whole time) spent the whole day cantering through open fields, slowly picking our way down ravines, and trotting through eucalyptus forest.
We even had to take shelter in a village when it started to rain too hard for us to continue riding (typical rainy season). We rode our horses right through a family’s front gate, and sat in their metal-sheeting-roofed house to take shelter from the rain. We were able to talk to the teenage daughter, she just graduated high school. There was a moment of hilarious confusion when Laura saw her wearing a ring on her left ring finger and congratulated her on being married. The girl was very puzzled…it turns out she was just wearing it for decoration. (In the villages wedding rings on the left ring finger aren’t standard.)
Another interaction with locals was not as pleasant, unfortunately. One part of our ride took us through some open fields that on Sunday are host to about 20 games of soccer. Most people were friendly and waving, but some teenage boys (they really are the worst, aren’t they?) thought it would be funny to kick their ball at us. It hit my horse, which startled him into springing up and taking off. I quickly had him under control, and no harm was done, except to the teenage boys. Elias was not pleased, and rode down the kicker to berate him. (They also got a scolding from the adults in the vicinity.)
I was pleased to see that the horses at the stable, true to everything I’ve read about the company, were really well cared for. All the equipment was first class as well. Ethiopia has a long history of horsemanship, being one of the few countries in Africa where horses could thrive, given the high elevation of the highlands. The Abyssinian pony is an ancient breed, and Ethiopians on horseback are discussed in Egyptian and Mediterranean texts.
A highlight of the trip came after we had cantered down a wide lane surrounded by eucalyptus trees. We all were feeling like champion horsewomen, when from down the road behind us came a boy of maybe 6 or 7 full-out galloping on his horse with no saddle and only a rope for a bridle. He waved as he flew by, and we realized we were definitely outmatched by kids who have been riding since before they could walk (Elias was one such kid, it turns out.)