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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: World Travel

Horsin' Around in Jamaica
Cheryl Gregory

I felt the cool, salty water soaking my pant legs and the level was rising rapidly. Soon it would be up to my waist, and there was nothing I could do about it. It would be soggy drawers all afternoon. The words repeated in my head, "Why did I wear pants? What was I thinking?" and decided then and there that this was something I needed to add to my ever-growing "Note to Self" list.

Ah well, it’s only water and what a great excuse to go shopping.
I didn’t care; I was in Heaven. You see, one of my passions in life, other than travel, is horseback riding. When I travel, I like to research ranches beforehand, so that I can explore the region on my favourite mode of travel. It's a great opportunity to see nature in another part of the world. (By the way, being close to nature is also near and dear to my heart).

This particular adventure took place about an hour’s drive outside Ocho Rios, Jamaica, at Chukka Farms, a well-maintained ranch and polo club just far enough away from the tourist area to make me feel that I was away from the touristy area and somewhat connected to nature. The horses are well-groomed and the riding pace is structured for all levels of riders. After all, I was not there to tear up the turf or pioneer new trails – I was there to enjoy the hot sun, the astounding scenery, the fresh air, the flowers and to get lost in the fantasy that I was exploring some tropical island by myself.

After riding through trails and alongside the rolling surf, feeling that all this just might be a dream, I arrived at the coolest little half-way point where guests dismount and the English saddles are replaced with a very intriguing canvas sheath. While this exchange is taking place, the guests retreat to change rooms to put on bathing suits, shorts and T's, or other appropriate water wear, and return ... barefoot.

A very simple climb up a few steps and I was back in the saddle again to go headlong into the surf. It was, quite literally, the coolest experience I have ever had – I know, bad pun. But really, after riding in the hot sun, it was quite soothing to go into the water, which was at one point, up to my waist, and feeling the cool salty surf wash over me. The canvas sheath/saddle had a loop handle to hold on to which came in handy for the few times the surging surf tried to push me off.

Who enjoyed the swim more; me, or my horse? I’m not entirely sure, but I swear I saw the horse smiling. I loved every moment and refused to think I would ever have to return to shore. Alas, our frolic in the turquoise surf eventually came to an end, and we returned to the half-way point, changed clothes and saddles, then enjoyed a cool beverage before our leisurely ride back to the ranch.

There will always be a special place in my heart for Chukka Farms (and yes, I bought the T-shirt), and I definitely plan to do it again, only next time leaving the pants behind and going with shorts or bathing suit.

I think it may be just as special as the moonlight ride in St. Maartin that I also hold near and dear to my heart; the ebony sky, completely encrusted with billions of stars from horizon to horizon, the gigantic full moon punched into its centre, the sound of waves and the pounding hooves of wild horses running in the fields, the roaring campfire ... but I digress.
... I’ll share that story another time.
© Cheryl Gregory Nov 2009
cherylgregorybiz at gmail.com

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