Five years ago, not long after I had started taking riding lessons, I visited a ranch in Mexico for a vacation. The ranch staff thoughtfully paired me up with their slowest, smoothest horse and I had a marvelous time. It has been a dream since then, to go back with my family and to enjoy a riding vacation together. Finally, this year, I was able to schedule the trip, joined by my husband and my daughter.
From the minute we boarded our plane, and throughout our week-long vacation, every cell of my body vibrated with joy, excitement and gratitude. To share this experience with my family was a dream come true.
This time, as a more proficient rider, I was partnered with a stallion named Gigolo. At this ranch they have no mares, only geldings and well-behaved stallions; this was my first experience with a stallion and at first I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Gigolo and I got along just fine.
I loved his smooth canter and gallop, and I really liked his personality; he reminded me of my horse at home – always looking around and keenly observing everything. When we went out on the trails, I noticed how he would do things differently than the geldings in our small groups: he had that stallion instinct to take care of the band. He was very cautious about where to step, and I trusted him completely, even in the most rocky areas. We worked as a team – I let him “lead the way” and choose the path he felt was the safest footing, while he looked to me for encouragement when crossing the creeks and rivers. I smiled every time he would hesitate at the edge of a creek, looking at me as if to say, “Really? We are going to cross this again?” Then he would very cautiously take me through – although also making sure to wisely take advantage of the fresh water by taking a long drink halfway across.
His protective instincts also kicked in – literally – as we passed through the little villages. Local dogs would chase after us, barking, and Gigolo would shoo them away with a kick, regardless of whether we were at a walk or at a canter. Good thing those Mexican saddles have huge horns to hold on onto!
Gigolo was also quite the extrovert, talking to any new horse we passed on the trails. Passing through the mare pastures of adjoining ranches was especially exciting for him, and put our newly forged partnership to the test. Being firm and reminding him I was the leader wasn’t always effective and I had to try different approaches to keep his focus on us and off the pretty mares making eyes at him. At one point I had to sandwich him between my husband’s and my daughter’s horses to keep him in check so we could make it safely through those fields. I definitely learned some skills for the future on that ride!
Overall, though, I always felt safe with Gigolo. I was certain he would take care of me in any situation, no matter how hard the trails were – whether we were crossing creeks or climbing rocky hills. If I centered myself by taking a deep breath in and letting it all the way out, he would do the same, coming back into connection. Even when his instincts were to focus on the mares – he is a stallion, after all – I was able to find a way to hold his attention and re-establish our partnership. Our rides were true collaborations – sometimes I followed his lead and other times I took the lead – always in synch and always completely present with each other.
To be able to experience that kind of power and grace with my beloved family alongside, was a beautiful gift. I especially loved how the three of us were each able to enjoy our own unique experiences with our horses, while sharing the time and creating special memories together. Thank you, Gigolo, for being a true gentleman, and to you, my daughter and my husband, for an unforgettable riding vacation.
My wish for all of you in 2017 is that you make your dreams come true and invest in creating amazing memories with your loved ones. I will always remember my journey with a stallion called Gigolo. Happy New Year!