My Day of Living Dangerously: I Fell Off a Horse

On my third day in Easter Island, I manged to fall off a galloping horse, go caving on the spur of the moment and ride a motorcycle with no helmet. It was an action packed day.

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Such a serene scene belies the violent way I got to the top of Terravaka…

We’d agreed to split up the night before, as I was determined to go horse riding. While my plan to walk over to the outskirts of town where the stables were failed miserably due to copying the map upside down and walking in the opposite direction, one of the many extended family members that ran our campground saved me, arranged my ride in rapid Spanish and waiting with me for the van.

While we sat waiting, we discussed his 12 years in Washington state and how he made big bucks as the best lawnmower in the area, becoming an amateur golf pro in his spare time. “How did you meet your American wife?” I politely inquired, not prepared for the lascivious wink and response “Sitting here talking like we are right now, getting on like we are.” Cue awkward laughter, something I find myself perfecting thanks to the forward approaches of South American men. Eventually the van came, and I left my wannabe hubby behind.

When I got to the stables I was marched into helmet and put on a horse. Gruffly asked if I’d been on a horse before, I enthusiastically said Ohhh Si!, unaware of the ordeal that lay in front of me. At this juncture, I’d like to point out I’ve been horse riding many times, both as a child and adult, and enjoyed it every time. Up until this day, I fancied myself a confident enough casual rider. For whatever reason, it was decided I would be put with the French speaking group, not the Spanish one. However inadequate my Spanish may be, I can assure you my French makes my Spanish sound like the Reiná’s Espanol. It was all a bit chaotic and unorganised, but eventually we kicked off, sans introductions or safety briefings. I was a little perturbed, as despite my previous experience, it had been several years since my last time atop a horse.

But pff! I said to the voice in my head, thinking it would all come back and smugly assuring myself I knew the basics of horse riding. I realized quickly I had an unruly, disobedient horse who wasn’t very interested in following my commands and that all of my fellow riders weren’t particularly friendly, chatting away in French. I have no idea what they were saying but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something along the lines of  ‘haha that non-French speaking Kiwi has no idea what’s in store for her.’

The first half hour passed without incident. Upon beginning the upward path, all eight of the French people suddenly turned psychotic, pulling tree branches to swat their horses with while screaming ÁLLEZ! VAMOS! and other foreign things I didn’t understand. I can’t properly put into words the sight of eight previously civil, seemingly normal people turning into mad, crazy beings swatting the bejesus out of their horses, to the point they had to find new branches every two minutes because of how vigorous they were.

I’d expected a nice quiet ride with occasional trots and canters thrown in, just like every other ride I’ve ever been on in my life. No no. I spent the next hour bouncing up and down as we galloped our way up the valley, surrounded by French madmen cackling with evil glee as they tested just how quickly they could break their branches across the horses’ backsides.

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A brief moment where we weren’t racing through the valley. Note disappointed expression on Frenchman´s face.

It was all slightly surreal, though I didn’t have time to reflect on this, trying to get used to walking for 10 seconds before my horse burst into a rapid sprint in 2 seconds flat – no gradual change in pace, just a sudden bolt and off we went, slightly disconcerting for someone who had never galloped before. Bump bump bump along we went, me desperately hanging on and trying to prevent my horse’s preferred route, which was based on the premise of ‘Why go on the clearly marked trail when we can trample through these bushes instead?’

It all reached a head when we got some open plains and started galloping for ages. Normally after awhile there would be a physical barrier requiring a slow pace, allowing me the chance to rearrange my saddle and catch my breath, but this just kept going. I could feel myself slowly sliding with the saddle slipping to the side. My horse still going the speed of light and ignoring my desperate rein pulling, I slid and slid and all of a sudden, my foot came out of the stirrup and I felt myself falling down, screaming bloody murder as eight other horses galloped past.

Thankfully, I avoided death by trampling and rolled to a stop with no injuries. I got straight back on the horse and rode on. Only two of the Frenchies asked if I was okay, the rest looking annoyed I’d put a temporary stop to the psychotic galloping fun. When we set off, the teenage girl who was leading the ride demonstrated how to react to a sliding saddle. In my head I very bitterly fumed that would have a lot more useful BEFORE I fell off the horse. The pace resumed and my horse and I begun a bitter tug of war, as my desire to gallop for long stretches of time had fallen to zilch. I hated my horse and he hated me.

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It was all worth it for the view

Soon we reached the top of Terravaka and it was beautiful. I’m glad I got to see it. I got to switch horses at the top and wasn’t the least bit sad to say goodbye to my jackass of a horse. It was an uneventful ride back down, with my bum staying firmly in the saddle, which was highly appreciated.