selfportraitCThis is really more of a bragging photo journal than a travel blog post. I had such an amazing afternoon horseback riding at Rancho Chilamate, and I wanted to share these fantastic photos with everyone.

Growing up on a Central Illinois farm, I lived every little girl’s dream and had a pasture full of horses to hug, groom, and ride. I was literally horse obsessed and read every Black Stallion, Saddle Club, Black Beauty and National Velvet book I could find. My bedroom walls were covered in horse and pony posters, I wrote dreamy equestrian stories, and drawings of my beloved pets (both real and imaginary) filled my school notebooks.

An Arabian mare named Heather was my best friend for thirteen years, and we spent many weekend afternoons racing up and down the dirt road near my house. She eventually passed away due to old age, and, over the years, I had several horses try to fill her place in the stables. My favorite was a pure black Arabian that my parents bought me for my fourteenth birthday. (I think they must have gotten the hint from the pictures of black horses that I taped to the refrigerator when I was younger.) On weekends, my father often accompanied me on long rides through the country. Sometimes, we crossed the river to ride in our timberland; other adventures found us riding clear across county lines on multi-day rides to a cousin’s farm. It was an quintessential childhood – one that I am very thankful to have experienced.

crossingriverCIf you don’t share a love for horses, it is hard to explain the bond that develops between human and horse, or the absolute adoration some of us have for these sensitive, gregarious creatures. My family no longer has horses on our Illinois farm, and it has been years since I have ridden, but my head still whips around when I drive by a herd of grazing horses, and I often pull over just to watch them for a bit.

Of course, there are places that offer horseback riding trips, but since I really can’t stand “nose to tail” riding operations, I only ride with stables that allow me to have a little fun (i.e – canter, gallop, or run with the horses). These types of riding facilities are hard to find! However, as fate would have it, I met a young couple who told me about Rancho Chilamate in Nicaragua, a stable that not only takes excellent care of their equines (a plus), but also allows riders to race along the beach (a double plus). And they donate a portion of every ride to benefit those living in their community. I would be silly to pass up this opportunity!

ranchoCHorseback riding in San Juan del Sur: When I arrived in San Juan del Sur, I immediately contacted the ranch’s owner, “Blue,” to organize a sunset ride, and a few days later, I was eagerly touring her beautiful eco-friendly oasis (and it is indeed an absolutely stunning off-grid ranch with all inclusive accommodation for “cowboys” who want to spend the night).

After dressing up in complementary cowboy gear, I was introduced to my steed for the day, a dashing bay named Colorado. We rode off the ranch through the local barrio, along ox cart trails, and into a tropical forest en route to the beach. While howler monkeys entertained us from the trees, Blue told us tales about the community and explained the area’s native flora and fauna. Here is some trivia for fans of the Survivor series: the beach we were riding to was recently used during the filming of this season’s Survivor: San Juan del Sur. When the tropical forest eventually gave way to the now famous beach, we saw the deserted, white sand spectacle with large cliffs bordering either side. I’m still amazed that it hasn’t been developed (but very glad that is was still free for us to use).

sanjaunhorsesB

Finally, I was able to give my friend, Colorado, his head and away we went to race in the surf! Many of these photos were taken by Blue and are property of Rancho Chilamate. Enough said – the photos speak for themselves about my absolutely brilliant riding adventure with Colorado.

racinghorsesBridingonthebeachBracingcoloradoBgroupinwaterBnightfallBPretty neat, huh?

ridingthroughthebushCWhen the last rays of crimson sun dipped below the horizon, we turned our horses to head back to the ranch. Night fell quickly, and we were soon riding in complete darkness. The occasional “hello” flicker of fireflies or shattering growl of howler monkeys punctured the still blackness. From time to time, we passed tiny dwellings that were softly aglow with flames from wood fires, or heard children giggling from unlit front porches. Luckily, the horses knew their way home, and we were content to give them rein, relax in our saddles, chat with new friends, and simply absorb the surreal experience. Once back at the ranch, I sadly handed Colorado over to the stable hands, and Blue invited us inside for a cocktail to toast our wonderful day together.

Then it was back to the real world once again…..

 

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