HALF MOON BAY, Calif., October 10, 2011—Before a recent trip to Nicaragua, the word I most associated with San Juan del Sur was surfing. On the country’s Pacific Coast, the region is most certainly popular with surfers. But one experience on that trip convinced me that I needed to expand my San Juan del Sur vocabulary.
A short distance from town, Rancho Chilamate runs daily horseback rides from the ranch to a picturesque nearby beach. They’re far more than the typical vacation horseback ride, and are worthy of an important spot on any Nicaragua travel itinerary.
When it was time to fit riders to horses, owners Jamie and Blue asked me about my experience. While I told them that while I was comfortable with galloping, I didn’t ride often, so wanted a horse that would pay attention to what I was asking.
I was assigned to Malcoche, whose name I was told is a local nickname for caramel, which made sense, considering the rich color of his coat. We joked about the other possible meaning: bad car. Jamie warned me that while my horse would pay attention to my direction, he was a speedster and would likely position us at the front of the group. Less dust, I figured.
We rode out from the ranch, through the neighboring village, down back roads and across rivers, until passing through a dry tropical forest with napping howler monkeys dripping from the branches. Malcoche kept me up front the whole time.
“Your horse likes to go fast,” said Franklin, with a smile. A ranch hand along for the ride, he spoke to me in Spanish, which I didn’t entirely understand since my Spanish language skills are a little rusty. But I understood that sentence. The entire ride, Malcoche surged ahead when another horse threatened to take our place at the front of the group. He often tried to canter far ahead, but when I pulled back on the reins, it was enough to slow him down.
When we arrived at Escamequita Beach (a “Survivor” site), after a tack check, I was told I could take my speedy horse for a run. Jamie told me that if I was worried about Malcoche, I could take another horse. But I felt I owed it to Malcoche. After holding him back on the trail, I thought he needed to fly for a little while.
Those few minutes of running back and forth on the beach were enough to make me move horseback riding high up on my list. The next time I’m in Nicaragua, I’m carving some time out from surfing to take another ride at Rancho Chilamate. I hope I can get the same speedy caballo.
Half- and full-day rides are available at Rancho Chilamate, and include Western boots and hats, an English-speaking trail boss, and photos from your ride. To top it off, a portion of funds from each ride goes to Rancho Chilamate’s community development fund.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com, her Facebook fan page and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill and her husband are avid kayakers and own Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.
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