Tag Archives: horse

Summer Camp in January

Mid-January started to roll around and though I was still having a grand time with ‘J’ and ‘A’, I also didn’t want to out stay my welcome.  So once again it was time to think of something else to venture to.  I had really only scratched the surface of exploring Australia, so I wanted to stay a bit longer while also being able to afford it!

Oddly enough, one of my new friends whom I’d met back in Malaysia while at the horse facility emailed me in late December (once hearing that I was in Oz) about a friend of hers who was working at a horse farm on the Central Coast, about and hour and change north of Sydney.  Even though I had this information back in December, I didn’t follow up at all other than simply getting an email for her friend.

Fast forward to mid-January, though I wanted to actually be able to travel more of Australia, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to at least shoot off an email and see if they needed any help at the farm.  I can’t recall if it was later that day or the next, but very shortly after making contact I was given a number to call for a phone interview and a couple of days after that I made a commitment to go and help at the farm as a horse caretaker and groom.  Part of the reason I decided that route was, well, because I love horses!  But the other part was because it offered the potential to travel around to various parts of Australia with the horses.

I will never forget the day I arrived at the farm as it was one of the most memorable for me in a fun and funny way:)  Even as I’m writing this I can’t stop smiling about it!  Since the farm wasn’t terribly far from where ‘J’ and ‘A’ lived (and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going somewhere sketchy, lol!!) they offered to drive me to the farm and we made plans for a day trip before getting there.  First stop was along the coast for some beach time at shelly beach, then some late lunch at a chinese restaurant, then onward to the farm.

The part that made this trip the most memorable for me was when we were heading to the farm.  Firstly the changing of the surroundings was absolutely stunning!  The green, lush rolling hills surrounding us was just breathtaking!  The second part is harder to describe, but it was the overall scenario.  I had my backpack in the trunk, I was sitting in the backseat of the car being driven along the countryside into unknown territory and I was being fretted over by my two great friends about where I was going and whether the place was a good one…  Which put together all added up to me feeling like a child being dropped off at summer camp by her two dads!!  It was absolutely adorable!!

When we got to the farm we met ‘S’, my new housemate and fellow horse helper, unloaded my things into my new room (inspected first by my “2 dads”;)) and took a little wander around the front of the house.  That is where we first met Rudy the rooster.  I still recall ‘J’ and ‘A’ being cautious about the ridiculously fat, and I mean seriously rotund, rooster that was roaming around the front of the grooming stalls, while I simply brushed aside the notion that he could be dangerous by pointing out that surely they wouldn’t allow a rooster who attacks to roam around freely.  He wasn’t showing any signs of aggression or threatening motions, so I figured he was friendly…

Of course the next day I was warned by ‘T’ (the rider) and ‘S’ that I should be VERY wary of Rudy as he was quite well known for attacking people, especially strangers (both ‘T’ and ‘S’ had been attacked!)!!  So apparently ‘J’, ‘A’ and I were very lucky that first afternoon of arrival in that we did NOT get attacked!  In addition, I learned that the trick to keeping Rudy at bay and happy was to feed him bits of horse feed… No wonder he was such a chunker, lol!!

I ended up spending several months at the horse farm caring for the numerous horses along with ‘T’ and ‘S’ and have so many fond memories of my time spent there (to be listed in my next post).  And while I didn’t get to travel as much as I had hoped to originally, I was able to make it at least to one new State (Victoria) with the horses.

Originally I was hoping to stay for 6 months to a year helping at the farm, but energies started to change in a variety of directions that led me to decide to move on.  ‘T’ and ‘S’ had also moved on to better and brighter things for their path a few months before I left, but we of course still keep in touch.  It’s really amazing how even spending short periods of time with some people, you just know you will never lose touch, no matter the distance or time apart.

Best Times on the Farm

Back to Australia

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Reunited with Horses

For two of my weeks on the island of Langkawi, I took time out from volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter and headed over to Island Horses to volunteer there.  I had originally planned to volunteer there longer, but due to an unforseen event, was only able to do two weeks.

I’ve been a rider for most of my life but hadn’t been near any horses for over a year at this point, so needless to say I was so thrilled to finally be back in their presence.  Perhaps only horse people will be able to relate to that the smell in the air when approaching a horse facility.  It is perhaps my favorite in the world as it smells like coming home to me!

Island Horses is a working stable with three main functions.  First, they train endurance horses and have a team that competes worldwide (in fact during my time there the owner and his son were in Argentina for a competition!).  Second, it’s a breeding facility for Malay Arabian horses and finally, they offer jungle and beach riding tours for tourists.  They are very safety conscientious when it comes to taking riding tours out, which of course is very important!

As a volunteer at Island Horses a bed and bathroom were provided (shared with staff) but meals were not.  However the GeoPark (where the cable car was located) and the seven falls waterfall national park, were only a 5 to 10 minute walk away.  There, a variety of foods could be found all reasonably priced.

As a volunteer I was assigned 5 horses to care for and an aisle of horses to water 3 times a day.  Our days started at 7am until 7pm with a lunch break from 12-2:30pm.  All that was expected of me was to groom each horse twice a day as the stalls and feeding were done by the staff.  While I did spend my first day simply grooming my five horses (essentially with a fine-toothed comb so I could get to know every inch of them to get a baseline for any changes during my time there), three days didn’t even pass before I’d incorporated other little tasks to my daily duties.

I will admit that the first several days there were tough for me.  And not for any other reason except perhaps a bit of cultural differences and the natural environment.  The way I’d been raised to care for horses was not the standard I’d found there.  I’m not saying the horses were not cared for, because they were all fed quite well and watered appropriately and such, but other things in my opinion, were not up to snuff.  However, what made it extra tough was the natural terrain and weather of the environment, which made caring for horses in general that much harder.  Wounds don’t heal as fast as they would in dry environments and keeping stalls dry is equally difficult during the wet season.

As someone who was simply coming and going in only two weeks, my business there wasn’t to complain and point out all the things I thought weren’t right, but rather to simply lend my hand and do my job (so to speak).  So it was by the third day I’d made up my mind to take care of my five horses as if they were personally mine.  On top of daily grooming I also began to take care of cleaning their stalls, treating their boo-boos and cleaning equipment used for them.

In the short time I was there, I rode twice on the beach and through the jungle.  It was such an amazing feeling to be back on a horse!!  Words simply can’t express the exhilaration I felt!  It was also funny to me because while I’d been used to riding draft horses and having to physically put in a lot of work just to make them and KEEP them moving forward, I’d almost forgotten how easy it is to get Arabians to move forward, lol!!  And while I would have loved to have ridden more, since I was young it’s been instilled in me that as horse people our primary concern is for the care of the horse.  Riding is a privilege and comes only after all the needs of the animal are met.

The facility itself is undeniably in one of the most beautiful locations on the island.  Surrounded by lush jungle, nestled at the base of one of the mountain ranges and only minutes from the beach, I certainly got spoiled living in such a beautiful environment.  The wildlife in the area was also fantastic.  Aside from the horses, cats and dogs at the stables we would also be frequently visited  by deer, two types of monkeys, water monitors, bats, snakes, wild boar and stray dogs!  It practically was its own zoo!

While I was only there two weeks, leaving was just as hard as if I’d been there years.  Leaving the animals of course was the hardest part for me but also leaving Amirah (my staff roommate) and Shanto (a 12 year volunteer) was very tough.  Even in that short time I felt like part of the family and welcomed in ways I hadn’t imagined.  I think of them daily, as I do my family at the Bon Ton shelter, and look forward to being able to return there again.

On to The Majesty of Kuala Lumpur

Back to Malaysia

Unique View of Muay Thai Training…

I’m too cheap to pay for the upgrade to allow enough media space for video clips, so instead of simply uploading a video of some of my recent Muay Thai training from the beautiful island of Koh Tao, I thought I’d simply write out what a typical training round “sounds” like.  Plus, I also thought it may also be a bit more entertaining this way 😉

After stretching, several minutes of jumping rope, shadow boxing, 100 front kicks on the bag and my hands wrapped and gloved up it’s time for training.

Before getting into it, I gotta admit a funny on my part.  I would hear throughout the training that the trainers would say “ma” quite a bit.  “Ma” in Thai has several meanings (dog, horse, come) and since I was most familiar with “ma” meaning “dog” from working at the animal shelter, I kept wondering why the trainers were calling us dogs, lol!!  But then I recalled it also means “come” so that made more sense!

Round 1 (written as I hear it from the trainers with accompanying translations and/or my inner thoughts as the round goes along…)

  • Ma, Ma (come, come)
  • Jeb, pap (left front jab, right front jab)
  • Pap (right front jab)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Pow-wer again! (more power needed in the punch, again!)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch)
  • Jeb (left front jab)
  • Ubber cut, ma (right upper cut, come)
  • Ook ma (left hook punch, come)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • One two, pap-pap (front punches, left first then right)
  • Oh-oi! (trainer is taking a swing at my head that I must lean back to dodge quickly or get hit)
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch)
  • Again ma!
  • Jeb jeb (left front double punch… again!)
  • Pow-wer!
  • Jeb jeb, ma (Ugh, punch harder!)
  • Yees, goud (yes, good!!! Happy day! 🙂 )
  • Ubber cut ma (right upper cut punch)
  • Four ma: one, two, three, foor (4 alternating front jabs)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (whoa, I almost got hit that time!)
  • Pap (right front punch)
  • Oh-oi! (hee hee, missed it!!)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust right knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Knee!  One, two (thrust left knee twice into the stomach pad)
  • Elbow (step forward, smack right elbow in the pad)
  • Elbow (remember to step forward first!)
  • Up Elbow (step forward, thrust elbow upward into face)
  • Ehy-uup (trainer is holding pads at his head signaling for a swing kick: right leg)
  • Oh-ehh! or Oi-ish-she depending on trainer (heard if the kick was powerful or good enough)
  • Ehy-uup (another right leg swing kick)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (yay-yaah!!)
  • Jeb (you get it)
  • Pap (more punches)
  • One-two, pap-pap (pretty much with every hit on the pads the trainer makes an accompanying noise, hence the pap-pap)
  • Block! (trainer is trying to kick my side, so I block his kick with my shin and fore arm)
  • Ehy-uup (swing kick again… Man this is getting exhausting!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Sweech keek (this means to avoid his low kick to my left leg by changing my stance of left foot forward, right back to right foot forward, left back so I can then easily kick the pads at his head with my left leg)
  • Oh-ehh!/oi-ish-she (oh man I’m really getting exhausted…  Just gotta breathe!!)
  • Ma, ma ( really it isn’t break time yet?!?!?)
  • Jeb
  • Pap
  • Foor: one two three foor (4 alternating front punches)
  • Elbow ma (strike with elbow)
  • Elbow ma
  • Ehy-uup (oh God another swing kick, BREATHE!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day!!!)
  • Ehy-uup (I can make it, I can make it!!)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (happy day again!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick right, come)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she (seriously is he just trying to make me feel better about my dwindling energy?!)
  • Front keek, ma (front kick left, front kicks aren’t so hard really)
  • Oh-ehh!/Oi-ish-she
  • Jeb, elbow ma (left front punch, swing behind with right elbow and strike, then back to original position)
  • Pow-wer, again ma (not forceful enough, more power, dang-it!!! come)
  • Jeb, elbow (Ugh, that powerful enough??)
  • Yees, good (yay!! Happy day!!)
  • Ten: one, two, three, foor, five, seeks, seven, eight, nine, ten (10 alternating front punches at rapid speed… Energy, energy!!)
  • Again! (Phew, breathe, ok, again…)
  • Yees, again! (Seriously?!?!?! UGH!!!  Breathe, I can do this!)
  • Yeeah-pap! (final right front punch… Thank goodness!!!!)
  • Five ma ehy-uup (ok, ok, breathe, just 5 right swing kicks)
  • Five ma Ehy-uup (OMG now the left leg… I may vomit…Breathe, breathe, BREATHE!!!!)
  • Break! (Thank.Goodness!!!!! Can I go die now?)

Nope… 4 more rounds to go….

On to Koh Tao Fight Nights

Back to Thailand

Monteverde Horseback Ride Tour

My tour was due to start around 11am.  As I sat in the common area of my hostel (Cabinas Eddy) I was surprised by a delicious homemade tamales that the Eddy family offered me, as well as to learn that I was the only one who had signed up for the horse tour!  The people who ran the tour however were very good friends of the Eddy family and as such, Eddy the first and his wife opted to come along on the tour with me!

Eddy Sr and his wife didn’t speak a lick of English, and as I was still learning Spanish, communication was quite entertaining!  But certainly not impossible as my knowledge of Italian helped a lot and hand gestures and charades made up for the rest.  All during the ride to the horse facility Eddy talked about Monteverde explaining how the majority of the land is used for the growth of coffee beans and chocolate.

We reached the facility about a half hour later and were greeted with open arms.  As mentioned earlier, the “horse” family and the Eddy’s were good friends so we were all greeted as such.  We sat in the main lobby area as the two families caught up on each others lives, then we set off on horseback for the tour.

The tour was led by a girl about 12 years old who knew the land like the back of her hand.  She was patient and kind and was very knowledgable about the land she grew up on.  It was quite entertaining because there were several times when she would begin to explain something about the area only to be interrupted by Eddy Sr. who would continue the explanation as if he were the guide.  I found this to be humorous as I could see that everyone was eager to share their knowledge of the area!

The horses are a much smaller breed than those found in the states, and since I had just come from a horse facility riding draft horses, it made these horses by comparison feel like ponies!!  But nonetheless it was great just to be back on horseback!!  It probably was a good thing that the horses were so small however as there were many areas that I literally had to throw the reins away and allow the horse to navigate their favorite path through the terrain!  Parts were so narrow and muddy and slippery and on the edge of cliffs and through rivers that it honestly made me nervous until I just allowed the horse to do their job and get us through safely.

Over hills, through jungle, along hillsides, to the top of a small mountain we finally arrived and my-oh-my what a view!!!  Our final destination felt like we had made it to the top of the world with a 360 degree view of everything around us!!  You could see Monteverde, Santa Elena and all the way to the Nicoyo Peninsula including the Gulf!!!  Though it was a little windy up there, the view was absolutely spectacular and honestly had it not been for the wind, we probably would not have been able to see so far!!

We got off the horses at this point and just spent time walking around enjoying the magnificent view all around us as the horses took a well deserved break, snacking on the grass around us.  After we all had our fill of our surrounding views, we mounted back up and headed down a different path to get home.  As some areas on the way back were safer to canter along, we did so enjoying the faster pace.  You could tell the horses were once again quite familiar with their jobs as though they would never take off without instruction, they always slowed down when they knew they were coming to the end of an area that was safe for speed.

All sorts of day-critters were spotted along the path, including a large variety of butterflies and birds, and of course spiders and webs!  Once we made it back to the ranch, I was shocked to realize that almost 5 hours had already passed!!  How time flies when you are having fun!!  I was very pleasantly surprised upon our arrival back to the ranch that we were greeted with a delicious homemade lunch!!  Now, I’m not entirely sure if lunch was ever part of the tour itself or if it was simply that I was being joined by friends of the family that I was served lunch.  Either way, it was delicious and I was very thankful to have had lunch as it had been a while since I ate anything as well:)

After our meal we all took a walk to their garden where we were shown a large variety of plants that they grow on their land including sugar cane and a very large variety of spices!  Our young tour guide cut some cane down and led us to and old shack that had a hand-crank machine designed to crush sugar cane.  She placed a bucket at the mouth of the machine and fed sugar cane bark through the machine as Eddy Sr. and I worked the hand cranks to make the machine work!  After several feeds of the cane through the machine we had several cups of pure sugar-water entirely from the cane!!  It was quite amazing to me how much sugar-water was squeezed out of only a few pieces of cane!!  We all took shots of the sugar cane juice and cheered to a wonderful day!!

After our garden tour, I was asked if I minded taking a trip off the normal path of the tour and instead join Eddy Sr. and his wife on a trip to one of their friend’s house.  Absolutely, I would love to join them was my response as any opportunity to see real life and real family life in different cultures is part of the reason for any of my travels to begin with!!  We headed off on foot to their friend’s house (who I later learned was the family of our young tour guide.  She was the eldest of the children in the family) where we were once again greeted with open arms and offered refreshments.  I was absolutely taken aback by the beauty of where they lived!!  The house was modest as all of them are, with only 3 bedrooms (to be shared by the parents and 7 children) and one bathroom, living room and kitchen.  I loved the kitchen as though it was simple, it was the largest of all the rooms and was completely open with a large table in the center just welcoming family and friends to join.  The roof was tin and as with most of the homes here the walls didn’t meet the roof but rather had a gap of about half a foot all the way around.  I could just imagine how wonderful the sound of rain would be off the roof, echoing around the vast area!!  How splendid!!

A better spot for the house as well could not have been picked as the land it was on had a phenomenal view of the mountains around them!!  The sun was getting lower on the horizon and it simply lit up the land around us in a fantastic glow that changed in color as it set lower.

Just being with the family, listening to conversation, being present in their tremendous hospitality humbled me.  There was nothing but love and fun radiating from them and though I couldn’t understand a lot of what was being said, the general feeling was of community.  We headed back to Cabinas Eddy about an hour later and though it was technically still early, I was definitely exhausted and just relaxed the remainder of the evening.  Of course I did make sure to thank everyone profusely for the fantastic day as none of it would have been possible without first the Eddy family joining me, and second for everyone’s amazing hospitality all along the way!!

On to Manuel Antonio

Back to Costa Rica