One day I took a lazy horse ride along the path behind my cabana, from where the sound of the horses had came on that first morning. Once a horse mad child, I hadnt ridden for a long while. As I expected the poor horses were quite thin and their tack was tatty. The people are poor and the horses are poor. The smiling guide asked me if Id ridden before and I told him I had, however, not wanting a spirited mount after such a long break I didnt elaborate. This didn’t develop into a favourable tactic. As a result of this short survey I started out at the back with only the expedition leader behind me and there I remained.
I heard the swish of a fresh strong twig and felt the flinch of my mount a couple of times before I was somehow compelled out of a cocoon of cowardice and not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ to tell him to stop it. Of course he didnt like it one bit but immeadiately flung the stick into the countryside and sulked, tantrumesque for the rest of the ride. He could no longer keep the whole thing going by beating my mount, who would, when whipped, crowd the horse in front in compelling him to go faster. He had a strategy in ordering his horses and keeping the whole thing going.
The scenery winding through the valley was spectacular. I had chosen to go at four o clock to avoid the mad dogs and midday sun and the late afternoon had a dreamy sun drenched and shadowed quality and the only sounds were the sounds of the horses hooves and the man behind me occasionally shouting ‘Rosella!’ at a apparently troublesome mare. We meandered through the narrow gullies in the fertile red soil.
I had just about cleared the first (metaphorical) hurdle. My horse was no longer flinching, the man behind me was no longer surreptitiously whipping him and the red soil was blazing spectacularly in the early evening sun. Then the German woman in front of me decided that she was so relaxed that she needed a cigarette. I had been enjoying the fresh fresh air in the valley and felt this tainting of it an affront but rather than create the cinemaesque tension that ensues after telling someone to stop talking I decided simply to overtake. This wasnt simple. Everytime the I egged my switch freed steed forward the German woman’s horse speeded up. I retried this manoeuvre a couple of times before it dawned on me that it wasnt the German woman’s reluctance for me to overtake but her horse’s, she wasnt actually doing anything other than sitting back in an almost post coital way and smoking into the cleanest air I had breathed for years. It dawned on me that the horses always went in this order, her horse was outraged that mine, the obedient one was trying to disrupt the order of things.
So eventually of course her cigarette was finished and my horse continued to plod nose to tail behind hers on the journey he probably made a couple of times a day like a commuter. And my mind wandering away from the marvels of the scenery to dwell on the characters of the horses. Ascribing ‘human’ traits such as the compulsion to keep up one’s place in some sort of social order to beings other than human or to inanimate objects we call anthropormothism. But humans dont have the monopoly on so called human feelings and traits just as they dont have the monopoly on joy, pain and sadness…