June 27, 2004

i'm a stupid sucker

and i know it. today me and ronda went for horse back riding outside of beijing. it wasn't the greatest experience. i really should have known better than to think this would have been a good idea.

ronda loves horses. she really loves horses. so i though that horseback riding might be a good idea. (it was a great idea in Hawaii.) turns out not.
we followed up with a recommendation from a local magazine here. when we showed up in the morning i got on a bus that was full of young college girls. out of about twenty people there was only two guys (including myself.)
we drove for about an hour and a half to get out of beijing to an area which was described in the article we read as "the grasslands." it really wasn't. as far as i can tell, it was a dried out lake bed that was subject to flooding. there was lot's of dirt, some grass, lot's of sea shells, and even some washed out graves where we got to see human bones (skull, jaw, femurs, etc.)
some of the horses were in decent condition, and some were clearly very underweight. all of them didn't have enough water. how do i know? it was almost a hundred degrees outside and there was no water in sight. when we came up, there were horses coming back from the "the grasslands", and they weren't given any water. we just got right on them and went back out.
when they took us out, what it amounted to was all of us on horses, and a little chinese person holding the rains and waking our horses for us. when the horses got out of line or tried to eat something or walked too close they would hit the horses with a whip. me and ronda extricated ourself from this sad group as quickly as possible. it was surprising to see that some of the people actually stayed in this type of a group for the whole two hours that we were out there.
ronda has ridden horses a lot, but i don't really have much experience. regardless, i was much better off without having my horse led around. we walked around the plain for a while, and broke into a trot here and there. at one point, with some instruction from ronda, i even managed to figure out the proper movements to prevent my ass from getting broken when my horse would trot.
there were two notable incidents that happened while we were out there.
one was that one of the straps holding on my saddle came undone. this required us both to get off our horses while ronda fixed the strap. not a simple task since our horses didn't seem to get along too well. getting back on was also fun.
then, on the way back to the "ranch", two people who were on horses and racing decided to race past me. of course this got my horse excited and it decided to join them. unfortunately my horse was not the most responsive horse to different reign movements or pressure on his sides. (perhaps this was because he had a bit that didn't fit, as ronda point out, and he had probably had his sides beaten too much to notice when a rider was applying pressure.) also we were galloping in the direction of home, and our horses had a very strong homing instinct. needless to say, it took me an unnerving while to get my horse to slow down.
before getting back we stopped for a while to just let our horses graze. then when we were almost back, both me and ronda dismounted, loosened our saddles, and walked the horses back. they were really friendly and ronda was very upset to let her horse go. my horse even looked disappointedly at me that i was leaving it. after we handed over the reigns, the horses were taken to other riders. (no water for the horses.)
after that we had lunch out there and headed back home.

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