Horse Riding!

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 23, 2011

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Happy Horse Ranch

Flag of Cambodia  ,
Saturday, October 1, 2011

On Friday 30th Sep we went for our eagerly antcipiated ride at the Happy Ranch Horse Farm in Siem Reap. Our planning was a bit last minute for this and we ended up having to rush out in the morning and skip breakfast (this will become relevant). We were soon in yet another tuk tuk and speeding our way through many potholes to the ranch. The HRHF is a really lovely place and the horses did look well looked after, there were 47 in total of which 26 could be ridden. Our trusty steeds went by the names 'L.A'(Los Angeles) and Baloo. Once we were mounted and ready to go, Sam heard the words that a novice rider (especially in a forgien country) dreads to hear – "Keep him on a short rein as he likes to race!". No sooner had we left the stables, our guide informs us we’re going to have to take a different route due to the flooding – so we were to be her guinea pigs!

For the first 20 minutes (of our two hour ride) all was well, beautiful rural countryside with not a building in sight in any direction, nor a road, or indeed any man made structure. The flooding was a bit of an issue, it kept the horses cool which was good, but they weren’t too happy about their normal route looking weird (disappearing paths!) and refused to walk through some sections. Also, the water was so deep at some points, that our legs got wet as well. Any hopes Sam had of keeping his feet in the stirrups went out the window as soon as this happened!

We eventually came to a reasonably straight and flat section and I (Sam) knew what was coming next. No sooner had our guide said the word ‘trot’and L.A was off! Any illusions I had about him having a comfortable, gentle trot vanished instantly. Anna looked all graceful in her saddle, whilst I was stuck on the back of this thing being bounced all over the place like a small child on a bouncy castle with a bunch of fat kids. Holding on became about all I could hope for. Luckily the crazy horse couldn’t get past Baloo as it was a single file track. We slowed to a walk and I began to appreciate our incredible surroundings again. We went past several houses (shacks really) which contained any number of small children who would rush out to meet us shouting ‘Hello! Hello! Hello!” like it was the best part of their day. These pleasant moments were regularly inturrupted by a spell of trotting.

After some time of trying to get to grips with a horse I am sure is the Cambodian descendant of See The Stars I remembered something Anna had once said to me – ‘Cantering is so much easier and smoother than a rising trot.’ Why not I thought, in for a penny, in for a pound! So I suggested to the guide that we try cantering instead. It came as no surprise that L.A needed no encouragement. Within three strides I was right on Anna’s tail and as her horse took one step to the left, L.A saw his chance and took it. I was beyond Anna and heading for the lead a lot faster than I was comfortable with! Our guides horse entered my vision – and left it very quickly, as L.A made his point and took the lead. When he decided to slow down, (I had no say in the matter) I felt that cantering may have been a mistake. However,  as the rest of the ride would prove, Pandoras box was well and truly open and it would seem that the prospect of cantering was not one L.A was prepared to forget.

There were many Water Buffalo out and about on the roads, which we were unfazed by until our guide informed us that her horse had had a nasty incident with one that resulted in it (and the rest of the group she had been with) bolting to safety. Everytime we came across one, our other guide (who was bringing up the rear – ‘Dee’the Khmer guy in the video) had to lead the way. A couple of times we had to change the route completely to avoid them.

This revelation prevented us from relaxing at any point on the ride, for fear of our horses getting the heebie jeebies and running home – with or without us!

After a two hour hack we made it back to the ranch in one piece, and it was at this point that our lack of breakfast that morning became relevant. After struggling to dismount, Anna quickly took a seat saying she wasn’t feeling too clever. It was very hot and I assumed she was dehydrated so I got a bottle of water thinking that would solve the problem. It did not. After three sips Anna said she was feeling worse, and informed me she was beginning to lose her vision and hearing. Soon all the colour had gone from her face and she did indeed black out. The people at the stables were very kind and helped move her onto a table to lie down. This seemed to help hugely and her vision and hearing slowly returned – much to her relief! A girl from the Ranch got her a high sugar drink which seemed to do the trick and the colour returned to her face. We have since stocked up on this sugary powder drink and will not make the same mistake of skipping breakfast ever again!

The next day, Anna woke up feeling much better apart from a nasty pulled muscle in her back. We decided that maybe a massage was in order.  We booked in for two massages (gentle one for Anna, deep tissue one for Sam) at a place that had received really good reviews on trip advisor.

We arrived and were given a strange drink that changed colour and taste completely  when you squeezed lime juice into it and were treated to a free foot spa. Then we were led upstairs and took our places on the massage tables. The atmosphere was calm, cool and relaxing and as the treatment began it was in keeping with this mood. However, the Khmer massuers soon seem to step things up a notch and before I knew it this tiny lady had leapt up on the table and was exerting more pressure on the most tender areas of my back than I ever thought possible! This continued for a whole 60 minutes in which my face contorted itself into any number of anguished expressions!

At the end of the treatment I looked over at Anna and could see that she had gone through a similar experience. Don’t get us wrong, the place was amazing and I think the massage itself was of a very high standard, but Oh my! I don’t think our muscles would recover if we were to return any time soon!

We are still catching up with blog entries – we went on a ‘small tour’ of Angkor Wat today and are gearing up for the ‘grand’tour tomorrow. Blog to follow!

We’re both enjoying Cambodia so far and there is a different feel to it than Thailand (definitely in a good way). The flooding seems to have actually changed our plans for the better and we are looking forward to the next bit of our trip on Wednesday.

Lots of love to everyone,

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