Friday, January 16, 2015

A Field Full of Horses at the Trio Ranch

Our girls love the book "A Field Full of Horses" by Peter Hansard. So when we were invited to join a couple other families for a quiet Friday morning at a horse ranch, we quickly accepted. Since I don't have my Saudi driver's license yet, our sponsors picked us up and ferried us over to the designated convoy assembly point: Dunkin Donuts. A dozen donuts and a box of munchkins later, we were on our way.

Girls on horseback at the Trio Ranch
The lead car was using Google Maps to get us to the Trio Ranch just outside Jeddah. Since the highway is under construction, it took a few U-turns to get onto the back roads that raised questions on how they found this place the first time. It felt like the driver was taking us somewhere that we'd never be found again: nondescript roads and walled yards with no street names to speak of. As it turns out, his employer kept a horse or two at the stables and he'd been here several times before...but still used the GPS to find his way.

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As soon as we'd pulled inside the walled compound (Seriously, everywhere in Jeddah seems to be a walled compound), the girls saw horses milling about and wanted to touch, feed, and ride them. Our older daughter has already been on a horse a couple of times by herself, but always with a handler guiding the horse. And while we've toured stables before as well, I think this might have been her first time in the stable area of the horses she could ride.
Let's get going already!
We weren't sure what to expect on how the morning would go, but fortunately the other families we were with brought enough pre-cut apple & carrot chunks for all of the kids to share. I think there were something like 10 kids total, and they definitely outnumbered the adults.
I'm told the mask keeps the flies out of their eyes,
but they can still see through it.
One of the other mothers was an experienced rider, so she helped select the better helmets and made sure that they fit the kids properly. The weather was perfect, slightly cool and breezy with clear skies. If you forgot where you were, it wouldn't be hard to believe that you were somewhere in the foothills of Southern California.
While this horse was too large, it was her favorite.
Once everyone was geared up, we headed out to the practice grounds. There are at least four fenced in areas. We had the ponies in the group lesson/ride, a couple other children had semi-private lessons with an instructor, the experienced mother took her mount to a third area for free-form riding, and the much larger area on the other side of the stable was occupied by a guy practicing for the equestrian events that are occasionally held here.
Kind of like NASCAR, Chungy the horse only turned left.
I wasn't keeping track of the time for how long they were riding, but at some point I could tell it was time to switch out the older daughter (who was looking a bit tired out) for the younger one (who was looking hopefully at the horses for her chance to ride).
The fences are PVC, and no, she didn't break it.

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We swapped out the girls and I walked alongside the little one on horseback for a few laps, holdng her pink striped overalls in my hand until my arm got tired. She had her feet in the highest stirrup setting, and seemed to be balancing well enough on her own that I figured I could let go (but stayed by her side, just in case).
Living out every little girl's dream
Kacey switched out escort duty with me for the last couple of laps, then the whole group broke for snacks. We had already finished eating and cleaned up by the time the last family in our group arrived, maybe 15 minutes before prayer time. Not to promote stereotypes, but the father was Greek and didn't seem particularly concerned about being prompt. But lateness still has its price: It had only cost us about 70 SAR as part of the group (I think the whole pack of group riders on 6 horses came to 450 SAR, but don't quote me), but for the late family to send their daughter out alone ran something like 100 SAR.

We headed home shortly after, and everyone passed out exhausted in the living room. A satisfying end to a great day.

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