Thursday, March 24, 2011

Island Time: Giddy-Up

This morning all of the Tom James employees had to go to a meeting (I think they have to do a certain amount of meetings to call it a "business trip" for tax purposes).  Finally, a perk to not working for TJ anymore...I didn't have to go to the meeting!  After breakfast, Barb and I hit the beach.  While we were getting some sun, Buddy's 2 sisters, Jess and Julie, were walking on the beach and came to join us.  I think we waited until about 11 to have our first drink...self-control. 

When the meeting was over, Steve and I got ready to go HORSEBACK RIDING!  I was so excited...I LOVE riding and haven't gotten to in awhile.  I knew this would be more like trail riding, but we would get to take the horses swimming and it would still be a fun thing to do together. 

We got to the stables and checked in.  For a Caribbean island, it was in pretty good shape.  There were about 20 horses on the property and so, of course, I had to go pet them all.  While we were waiting for the other couple that was riding with us to show up, a huge truck arrived up to deliver some gravel.  After running over their front gate, it began it's very loud and very slow back-up onto the property.  There were 4 horses out front that were ready to go.  3 of them were completely relaxed during the delivery, one of them was jumping around, bucking, and losing it's shit.  It was so scared they had to move it to the back of the stables away from the truck to calm down.  Our guide came over to say hi and asked us about our riding experience.  Steve said he had only ridden a few times and that I used to take lessons and rode some in college.  At that, the guide decided that I should get the freaked out horse.  Of course I should!  ugh...I hope she calms down when we start moving. 
Getting his head in the game.
Quite the equestrian.

As they were putting me on Magic (aka Nervous Nelly), the other girl who was riding with us (for convenience we will call them George and Martha...yes, we rode with the Washington's), who is about 5'1" and weighs about 85 lbs, decided she wanted a bigger horse than the one they had picked for her.  I personally believe that as long as your feet aren't dragging on the ground and you aren't breaking the horse's back, the horse is big enough.  They were obviously a little concerned, but Martha insisted that she used to ride and it would be OK.  Steve got on his horse, Aztec, and while the 2 horses were enjoying some hay, his horse decided to be a bully and get Magic freaked out again.  She started jumping around a little and I thought...this is gonna be a long day. 

Finally we were all saddled up and our riding order went like this: guide, Martha, me, George, Steve.  Apparently Steve's horse keeps the rest going so they like him to be in the back.  I really didn't understand why they would break up the couples, but whatever.  I learned very quickly that Martha's "riding experience" entailed a short pony ride at a birthday party when she was 5.  The guide kept telling her to kick her horse because she needed to keep up with him (at this time we were on a road and I was praying no cars would come by for fear of how Magic would react).  We were barefoot and so the kicks generated from her toothpick legs, were completely ineffective.  Especially since she would only gently kick the horse once while also pulling back on the reins.  That horse didn't respect Martha from the start.  Since the kicks weren't working, the guide suggested she slap the horse on the neck with the reins.  She would barely tap the horse (for fear of hurting it) and wonder why it wouldn't go.  I was doing my best to give her tips...which was easy because my horse was about to run hers over...but she was completely unresponsive.  It became very clear how annoyed our guide was with his "super experienced, I need a bigger horse" rider. 
Action shot from aboard Aztec

The pretty beach we rode on.

Quite possibly the worst picture ever taken of me, ever.  It's the only one though so I had to post it.  Sure wish Steve had told me to quit slouching....gah.  (There's George in the background gracefully dismounting his horse.)

Another shot of the pretty water. 

We look so official.

We got out to the beach where we would swim with the horses and he took off 2 of the saddles (mine and Steve's)...I felt bad for the ones who weren't getting to cool off.  Steve decided he didn't care much about swimming the horse and would just sit this out.  Since I was alone, I told George and Martha they could go first.  George got on my horse, and Martha took Aztec.  The guide explained how we needed to stay in the sandy part, because there are rocks to the right and left, and then once we were out in the grass, they would be safe.  Then after sizing up the situation he decided it would just be best if he walked them out to the grass himself so there wouldn't be any injuries.  What he didn't expect was that Magic wanted nothing to do with this swimming nonsense and headed back to the shore.  Once she hit dry ground, she took off running and George was a sitting duck.  He had the reins so loose there was nothing to hold on to, and then next thing we knew....thud...George was laying on the beach.  I tried to see if he was OK but nothing makes me laugh harder than someone falling.  George got up and was clearly shaken and then started to put his shirt on.  I advised him to go rinse off since he looked like a giant snowman. 

The guide then threw me up on Magic and told me to just go for it and go out as far as I wanted.  He told Martha to go out with me and to stay close. 
Off to a good start.

You can see us right by Steve's finger (yes, he is a professional photographer)...that's about as far as we got.

By this point, Magic had had a very long day and was over this whole swimming thing.  She was not going out deep in the water no matter what I had to say about it.  I tried as hard as I could to show her who's boss, but with no saddle, on a wet slippery horse, and my wet slippery legs, it was a lost cause.  She seriously was not having it.  I now have a huge bruise on my leg to show for my efforts.  I decided it was time to put Magic out of her misery and just let her walk on the beach. 

On our way back.  BTW...the guy in his boxers is our guide.  I think I'm going to mail him a bathing suit.

She was very happy to have won this war.

We all got back on our horses and headed down the beach.  There were some people on the beach and I was praying no one wanted to come pet the big pretty white horse who was having a very rough day.  There was a couple sitting off to the left, a little bit in the bushes, and I worried they were naked since everyone around here seems to either be naked or swimming in their underwear.  I saw clothes on the woman and took a sigh of relief.  When I got up to them though, I noticed that the man had clearly missed the clothing memo.  For the love!

As we walked down the beach, I told Martha to kick her horse, hard, and to continue kicking until it started to move.  She listened and it would trot about 6 steps and she would panic and yank back on the reins.  This went on for awhile and I was picturing the chafing that was going on between my wet, salty legs and the leather saddle.  Magic was getting so irritated, she had buried her nose up Martha's horse's butt.  Martha's horse kept turning around to give Magic the stink eye and I knew that if something didn't change fast, there was gonna be a fight.  I tried to slow Magic down but she was determined to get the horse in front of her moving.  I finally consulted the guide (aka Boxer Bob) and he told me to pass Martha and come up front.  Magic couldn't have been happier.  She really was a good horse when I was riding her.  We had a little talk at the beginning and she knew I was boss...except when we were in the water apparently. 

Boxer Bob and I had a nice little chat as we rode back to the stable and at one point I turned around and saw Steve passing the other 2 horses and coming up behind me.  The 3 of us were having a great time, but I noticed Aztec getting comfy up in Magic's booty and asked Steve to back him off.  The guide agreed and said that they put him in the back normally because the other horses know that if they don't keep moving that Aztec will bite them.  Just as he's explaining this, Aztec opened his big horsey mouth and took the hugest bite out of poor Magic's butt.  Magic jumped and bucked and was PISSED.  Bob suggested that we keep our horses away from each other for the rest of the trip because Magic was out for revenge.  Luckily we were almost back to the stable and this experience was over.

We have checked this experience off the list just like we did cage diving with the Great White Sharks...except I think this was more dangerous.   

Wow...this post has become extremely long...if you've made it this far...thank you.  I will tell you about our evening out another time. 


  1. I loved reading about your horseback riding adventure on St. Maarten. We will be going there in June and I was wondering if you could tell me the company you booked through? Thanks for your help :)

    1. I don't remember the name of the company. We stayed at the Westin and booked through them. It wa on the French side of the island. Sorry I can't be more helpful. Thanks for reading!