It Could Only Happen To Me – Getting thrown off a horse on my first riding trip in Bolivia

When I signed up for a horse riding trip in Tupiza I’d had a romantic vision of being carried leisurely through countryside which wouldn’t look out of place in a Wild West film. After all, this is how the Lonely Planet describes the Bolivian town: “If there’s ever a place where you want to throw your leg over a horse, brandish spurs and say, “ride ‘em cowboy, this is it.”

What I hadn’t expected was to be thrown off a crazy horse less than five minutes after getting on it.

In hindsight, I should have read the warning signs when the guide asked the four of us who were taking part in the trip who was the most experienced rider before allocating the horses. It turned out that I held that somewhat grand title, merely based on the fact that I had actually sat on a horse before, while my three companions hadn’t. However I hardly think the few times I’d been on short horse riding trips as a child could count as “experience”.

I explained this to Marcel, our guide, as I ungracefully tried to mount my horse and I joked “No es loco?” [“he’s not crazy is he?”] Having assured me he wasn’t, Marcel then said the ominous words: “Hold him tight and never let go.”

Feeling slightly nervous, we set off and for about two minutes everything seemed to be fine. Pretty quickly we were surrounded by beautiful scenery of red rocky mountains and cacti. It was at this point that I realised I’d left my camera in my backpack so, as we were moving very slowly, I thought nothing of reaching behind me with one hand to get it out.

It was at this precise moment that my horse went insane. It broke away from the group and started bucking furiously. I’m certain an “experienced” rider would have handled the situation in a much better way and I’m pretty sure that horse books would advise staying calm. But instead I did what an inexperienced rider would do, which was panic and scream.

I had no idea what to do and was just holding on for dear life when I heard Marcel shout “Your bag, your bag.” I took that as a sign to hurl my backpack to the ground and a second later realised that I was going to follow it. I fell off sideways, landing on my right arm. But all I could think about was standing up as quickly as possible as images of being stamped on by an angry horse filled my head.

It all happened very quickly and I was shaking all over as I walked back to the group where Marcel had managed to catch my horse and was trying to calm it down. “He’s a little scared of backpacks,” he explained to me. Great. I didn´t bother to point out that it might have been good to mention beforehand that my horse has a fear of something all tourists wear.

“Here, get on this one instead,” Marcel instructed me, handing me the reigns of the horse he had been riding. What I actually wanted to do at that moment was sit down (preferably on something that wasn’t moving) and have a good cry. And I probably would have done that if I’d been with friends. But, as I was with three strangers I’d only met half an hour ago, I did the terribly English thing of saying “Sorry about that boys,” as though it had been awfully rude of me to spoil their ride by being thrown to the ground, before getting straight onto the other horse.

Luckily Rosalita (my new horse) didn’t share Crazy Horse’s backpack fear. She did however speed up and slow down at will, ignoring any commands I tried to give her. She also had her foal in tow so any photo opportunity for us was a chance for her to feed. Multi-tasking at its best.

The scenery in Tupiza really was stunning and I enjoyed the rest of the ride, albeit in a nervous kind of way. But judging by the bruises on my arm, I don’t really think I’m cowgirl material.


2 responses to “It Could Only Happen To Me – Getting thrown off a horse on my first riding trip in Bolivia

  1. I’m sorry to hear you got bucked of your horse! It’s probably best you got straight back on another though. I too went horse riding in Tupiza but had a very different experience, I’m a some-what experienced rider and I like to go fast. A crazy horse would have suited me fine. Unfortunately our guide, Jonathan, had other ideas; he was the most miserable “guide” I’ve ever met, he certainly didn’t want to be out entertaining folks on horses. Every time I got up to a trot he yelled at me and told me to slow down. He didn’t speak to us other than to shout at us for trying to gallop and spent the whole 4 hour trek sulking and playing with his cell phone. To lighten the mood my boyfriend and I invented a story about how he’d had an argument with his girlfriend and was having a text argument with her whilst showing us around Tupiza.

    • Oh dear, sounds like we definitely could have done with swapping horses Steph! Yes, I very much got the impression that most people who take the “tours” just happen to own a couple of horses and wander around with you for an hour or so. On our way back we were led through a rubbish tip which didn’t really show off the best of the town! I like the story you guys made up to entertain yourselves though;)

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