Hola! Due to my travels last week, I failed to satisfy some of the regular visitors to the blog. As a result, I received some emails this week from people who wanted to know if the blog is a regular thing and if they can expect a posting on a certain day of the week. You certainly can! Except for in the very odd case, I will post something weekly, usually toward the end of the week. So far Friday seems to be the day when it happens. When I occasionally do miss like I did last week, look for a double-up the following week with two posts. And of course during the World Cup Final next month in Vegas, I will be blogging daily. Viva Las Vegas!

So, Costa Rica. If you are thinking that I’m a lucky girl who got to escape Vancouver’s unseasonably awful March weather, think again. I was quite possibly the only idiot on the flight from Houston who was going to Costa Rica for three and a half days of work. No beach, no drinks with umbrellas, not even a glimpse of the ocean from my ringside position at La Caraña Riding Club. But if my visit was sadly lacking in R&R, I was generously compensated by the location: a lovely multi-ring facility nestled among mountains, above and away from San José’s traffic jams. The people were happy (how can you be in a bad mood in paradise?), the horses were talented, and I could get a cold Imperial beer at the end of my day at the little kiosk near the dressage ring. If I’m going to behave like a retarded workaholic, at least I picked a nice spot to do it last week.

The only fly in my Costa Rican ointment was working in close proximity to a yelling Brazilian with the unlikely name of William. William is the resident jumper trainer at the riding club. The demographics of this largest of Costa Rica’s riding clubs were similar to other parts of Latin America, and even the world. The people who ride over jumps far outnumber those whose jollies are gained by going from letter to letter. But back to Wailing Willie. While in the saddle he demonstrated the skill and swagger of a man with a lifetime of experience, but when he was teaching… well that’s another story. An oft-overlooked fact of Brazil is that the native European tongue is Portuguese, not Spanish. The difference between these two distinct languages appears to have been lost on William, who yelled at his students in what sounded like undiluted Brazilian Portuguese fired at machine-gun velocity. Not only did I find his cries unsettling, but I continuously wondered how his students could understand a word of what he was telling them. William’s internal batteries seemed to be permanently super-charged. He was already in full-swing when I arrived to start my work at 7 am, and showed no signs of slowing when I departed at around 6 pm.

I don’t know if it was the shrieking of the William or the loud music I was playing for a rider, but I completely missed the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Costa Rica just before lunch time on March 11th. In fact, no one I spoke to at the riding club felt the quake that caused several buildings to be evacuated in San José; it seems that horses are quite non-reactive to such quivers of the ground. Apparently if you are riding during an earthquake, you won’t feel it and your horse won’t show any signs of distress – though your dog might be shivering and whining nearby. Have we bred all the instinct out of horses I wonder? Surely we haven’t manipulated the genes as drastically as the breeders of a species that has yielded Chihuahuas, wiener dogs and Saint Bernards…

The horses and ponies I saw in Costa Rica were shiny, healthy and in good weight. I noticed that only the recent imports were body clipped, so the theory that horses adjust their coats to the local climate would appear to hold water. I guess paradise suits the imported animal population as well as the human one, though it does come with its perils. My friends Michelle and Chris lost their cute little Scotty after he attempted to make a poisonous toad into a playmate.  Michelle says that the best turn out for a horse in Costa Rica is one devoid of grass. The ticks there carry Lyme disease (and though I didn’t hear anything about Pyroplasmosis, I should think that’s also a potential risk for horses exposed to the tick population), so dirt paddocks are preferable to grassy fields.  In spite of the dangers, Costa Rica finishes high on my list of exotic countries in which to work with horses. Probably first, in fact.

If the horses in Costa Rica were shiny, so were those I saw this week in the Houston area. The difference was that some of the Texas horses were being subjected to treatment most of us would not wish on our enemies. I’m not talking about the dressage horses, of course, nor the hunters and jumpers. I’m talking about those aberrant people who show American Saddlebreds, Hackneys and Tennessee Walkers.  My gig took place during a very large multi-breed show. Some of the dressage horses were fairly wide-eyed with horror at those that were sharing the warm-ups with them, and rightly so. Do you know what they do to these breeds to make them look like they do? They shackle the front legs together with a chain – while the horse is in harness. They attach the equivalent of giant false finger nails on the hooves to create a higher step – much to the certain demise of the horse’s tendons. They BREAK THEIR TAILS and keep them permanently bound so that they heal in the broken position. I have a suggestion for these people whose vanity has transcended their own bodies and taken up residence in those of innocent animals. Let’s make it illegal to do such things to the horses unless they subject themselves to similar torture. Circumcision without anaesthetic comes to mind. I’m not saying the doping and abuse in the Olympic disciplines is okay, but it sure looks tame compared to this.