That’s the end of my first week at the Rancho done. The Mexican Creative Writing Workshop I tutored with my friend Lucy Christopher went pretty well. It was a small group, which meant we were able to spend more time with students and tailor the course to their needs. Everyone bonded so well – I think I picked up some friends this week. It’s fair to say that we covered a lot of ground, everyone was stretched and went away full of enthusiasm, even inspired to tell stories on their way and yet to come.
Now for the horse riding.
When Lucy suggested tutoring a writing course in a Mexican Rancho, I’d had a few lessons in the past, but not many. I’d never been able to rise to a rising trot – not long enough to remember how from one time to the next, anyway. I’d cantered once, on a beach in Morocco – straight into the sea. I remember the poor man taking usshouting – “”Not the sea, not the sea, she’ll roll over.” But would that horse respond? No way. He had to gallop in to pull me out in the end. It was fun. Everyone told me what a natural I was. I didn’t believe a word of it.
Of course I said yes to Lucy. I love writing, I love talking writing, I love Mexico. What kind of a fool would let a chance like that go? And I thought it was a good chance to learn horse riding – proper horse riding. Galloping along the track through lonely mountain ranges; wading through rivers, cantering by the rustling cornfields. You get the picture. Lucy was even talking about going on a Progressive ride – three days out, further each time, 5’ 6, 7 or more hours in the saddle. It sounded pretty heavy on the horse riding regions. But if I was going to be a rider…Give it go!
I did some prep. I had a few weekly lessons at the local riding school. I told them I wanted to able to gallop by the end of it. By the end I’d done maybe 30 minutes trotting – standing trot rather than that complicated rising business – and maybe five or ten minutes cantering. Well – it was a start!
So how did it gone on the Rancho?
First off I have to mention the landscape you’re riding in. Miles and miles of flat fields, with hills and or small mountains dropped here and there, some in ranges, some on their own. Lakes, small and large, fields of maize, tracks. You can ride all over, mile after mile. There’s eagles and vultures, flocks of pure white egrets, and little birds so red they look as though they’re made of paint. (OK, I’m a nature freak, I admit it.) But the point is, you really get to ride – up and down narrow gorges, through scrubby bush, by cornfields, but most of all on the flat. By the end of the first day I’d already done ten times more cantering than I’d done at the riding school in a fifth of the time, and I was looking forward already to my first gallop.….
Which I’ve duly done, in spades. Long, long runs, by lakesides, along tracks. It’s exhilarating, it’s fun, it’s exciting. Its great. There’s a horse to suit everyone, and the wranglers are sensitive to your level. One girl on our writing course, very nervous about horses, never got above a trot, but loved it anyway, and there was never any pressure to go fast and lots of advise and tips.
I’ve done day long rides, I’ve been bird watching by a lakeside on horseback, I’ve been up mountains, down canyons, sat by winding streams among astonishing rock formations for picnics. It’s been marvellous. I’ve never learned anything physical so quickly in all my life.
I can safely say at the age of 62, I’m a rider.
– Melvin Burgess