One thing I love about riding outside of North American is less worry about liability and more about experience. On a ride in the Dominican, I’m one of the few tourists in jeans and boots astride a western-ridden horse very familiar with the brush we trotting through, though having no interest in following the herd nose to tail. We first follow the trail to the stream running through this property, making it ideal for riding and ranching. It’s been dry, so the water levels are low but the horse dive their heads in anyway. At first, I resist my horse from doing so (as taught) until I realize this is part of their daily water supply. We continue through sparsely forested areas, past a herd of horse penned in a tight area, not as fortunate as the ones we are riding. We head across a road where two guides move ahead and stop whatever traffic might be coming so we can cross.Here at HorsePlay Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the ride is less regimented – some tourists even wear shorts and flip flops (clearly a bad idea) – as we bounce our way through the forest, some horses pass each other, while three guides herd us in the general direction we are going: a cigar rolling hut, a stop on the tour where we dismount and buy (if desired) a cold beer and cigars.
On the way back, the horses keep together though not in a line. They ride alongside each other, pass along narrow paths and take advantage of riders who just hang on. It’s all at a walk or light trot, and those who wore flip flops might be regretting their choice. At a clearing, HorsePlay owner Jose Castillo says to me, “You come with me,” then calls out, “Whoever wants to canter stay with him; the others follow the guides.” Within seconds the horses bolt across the grass and I’m cantering, cowboy-style not worried about grace, reins in one hand, and loving the ride. A few who didn’t want to follow couldn’t persuade their horse to go the other directions, so they scream (yes, scream) behind us holding on to hopefully the horn. It’s a short adrenaline rush matched only by the crazy highway drive back to the hotel.
Anywhere I travel, I’m interested in seeing the landscape from the back of a horse, so earlier myself and others from nearby resorts are picked up and driven, about an hour, along a rural paved road, while sitting on benches on the back of a tarp-canopied truck. The drive is a bit harrowing at times, wind whips through my hair, while the truck occasionally passes farmers on horseback or is overtaken by mopeds, motorcycles and cars. But it’s an excellent way to see the country-side of wooden shacks, roadside food and souvenir vendors, and fenced grassy properties, before experiencing an authentic Dominican ranch.
And that’s what I found, with a little help from Canadian neighbours who both directed me to Horseplay Punta Cana, and have a vested interest in sending others travellers to the Dominican there too.
To be continued….