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Falling off a Horse


On Guapa

Most days Vanessa and I go with Cristobol, pharmacy Alonso’s 87 year-old grandfather, shop to collect almonds in their orchard near Alpandeire. We take Guapa, Alonso’s horse, and his dog, Ula, with us. Both animals get some exercise on the half-hour walk to the orchard, then they run free while we harvest, and when we are done we tie the sack of almonds to Guapa’s back for the return trip to town. On our way to the orchard, either Vanessa or I ride Guapa bareback along the mountain paths.

Ula is one of the smartest dogs I have ever met. She knows a number of difficult commands and is able to fetch either Alonso’s or Cristobol’s hat depending on which one is requested. But Ula has a weakness: she is a German Shepherd and her herding instinct is extremely strong. As a result, she is fanatically obsessed with horses and loses any trace of her intelligence when near them. Around horses Ula cries, whimpers, and runs in circles and figure eights around and through the horse’s feet. Ula has actually been trampled by a horse before, and is so blinded by her attraction to them that she runs injured and bloodied back under their feet as if nothing has happened. It is nearly impossible to get her attention or have her obey a command when Ula–an otherwise obedient dog–is in the presence of a horse. The horses, as you can imagine, are irritated and easily spooked by Ula’s behavior.


Moments before it all goes downhill…

I rode Guapa today on our way to the orchard. The ride was smooth and Guapa, a sometimes temperamental horse, was obeying my commands despite Ula running under her feet the whole time. We crested a hill together and had just started to go down the other side when Ula finally became too much for Guapa to tolerate. Guapa bolted downhill in an effort to escape Ula. I bounced up once as Guapa took off and as I came down I could feel that I had been jolted to my left. Bareback and with nothing to solidly hold on to I bounced once more off Guapa, this time being thrown even more to the left and I knew for sure I wouldn’t stay on. As I fell I managed to rotate so that I landed on my left shoulder blade against some rocks embedded in the path. My main concern, aside from not breaking anything, was to not be caught under Guapa’s feet: as soon as I hit the ground, I rolled away from her. As I rolled I glimpsed Guapa, whose expression seemed to indicate that even she was surprised I had fallen off; she stopped right there beside me.

An embarrassed feeling had spread through me even before I hit the ground, and I popped up as quickly as I could to save face and show I wasn’t injured. Ula was the instigator, but still I was the one who fell off the horse. I don’t plan on riding Guapa bareback again; I feel lucky enough to have fallen off a horse and walked away from it with nothing more than some minor bruising and soreness. Besides, after eating her brethren, perhaps I deserved it.

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