A 2014 update – Esperanza Riding Company, now in it’s third season in New England, has changed its location to Cape Cod. With this new location, you can even choose amazing trails right along the beach. To find out more, check out their website.
Are you ready to to ride? These Paso Fino horses are just too irresistible to not want to!
In June, I had heard about a new company, Esperanza Riding Company (ERC), which was which was going to offer horseback trail riding on Martha’s Vineyard. Interest piqued, I had met the women behind the company founder, Elizabeth Buyrn and her colleague, Krissy Jones. If you want to find out a little more about them and how they decided to come to the Vineyard, check out my first post about ERC, See Martha’s Vineyard In A Whole New Way…Horseback Riding Tours.
How amazing these two woman are – bringing this type of riding back to the Island. It’s been years since people have had the opportunity to meander along the Vineyard on horseback. Before ERC, the only way you were able to get on a horse here was at a lesson or if you knew someone who had one you could ride neither of which applied to me. No longer the case, ERC has been showing visitors and locals a different side to the Vineyard landscape, on horseback.
Elizabeth and her staff and her team of Paso Fino horses have had a busy first season. Through word of mouth, people searching for horseback riding on the Vineyard, their website, and horse lovers, they have been booked for most of their rides. Not a surprise since they offer a unique, memorable experience.
ERC offers two rides a day, 9am and 4pm, seven days a week. Our schedules finally worked, and I was going to do a 9am ride. My only instructions were to wear jeans and boots (or sneakers). I couldn’t help but think how much I wish I had a cool cowboy hat.
Not knowing what to expect when I got there, my nerves were starting to get to me. I know that may sound silly, but it’s been so long since I’ve been on a horse. Who was this scaredy cat? As I approached the beautiful barn that ERC uses for its horses, I began to calm down a bit. Also I was greeted by a couple of Elizabeth’s dogs who are a great welcoming party.
Walking into the barn, which is the most beautiful barn I have ever seen, there was soft reggae playing which put me in an even better mood, and I saw the rest of the group I’d be riding with. Two of the women had on professional riding gear, a bit intimidating, but the other woman was dressed like me. Everyone was full of smiles and anticipation.
Chatting with my new riding friends, I learned that Kristen and Grace (who jumps and does dressage competitively) are very experienced with horses and Marie has a lot of riding under her belt as well. All assure me that this is going to be an amazing experience. I apologized even before we get on the trail for any hiccups my novice level may cause. One thing we all had in common was that we had never ridden Paso Finos and we’d never gone riding on Martha’s Vineyard before.
Meeting the Paso Finos
I found Elizabeth and checked-in with her. She and Gina Tecce (many of you may know her from Alchemy, were going to be our guides today. Marie and I selected the right size riding helmet, Kristen and Grace had their own of course, and then began our tutorial on how to ride and handle the Paso Finos. Paso Finos are the best horses for trail riding.
They have a smooth gait and instead of trotting, they paso which is four-beat lateral gait. They are such beautiful horses with kind eyes and put you at ease immediately.We were all going to be riding geldings (males). The boys are well behaved with only a little mischief here and there and the occasional snacking on the trail.Apparently the female horses are a little complicated. Also, the mares are Arabians, a different breed in a number of ways.
We are introduced to our horse – I was riding Bombi, who is 15 years old, has been a part of Elizabeth’s family for over a decade, and is the most gentle of all the kids. Elizabeth calls them kids – because in essence they are her children, and they frequently behave as such. She jokes a bit and talks to the horses which I think is really sweet – she really does love her horses. There’s also Fuego, Alto, and Chino – who are younger with a bit more sass.
Elizabeth was riding her horse Cimarron. Cimarron, 18-years-old and full of personality. He was a prized show horse, so it’s not surprising he has a bit more attitude, who has been brought out of his semi-retirement to ride the trails of the Vineyard. Not a big gig if you ask me. Gina was riding Maximo and would be bringing up the rear of the group.
We led our horses out of the barn into the riding ring where we mounted them. After touching and talking with Bombi, I felt even more at ease about riding. We rode around the ring a bit, getting comfy with our new four-legged friends, and then we were ready to hit the trails. I kept reminding myself of a couple of important things Elizabeth told us about riding, heels down, posture straight, loose reigns, no holding the horn on the saddle (which was tempting), gently tug to the right to go right, left to go left, and the click click of the tongue to speed things up.
Hitting the Trails
Esperanza Riding Company is located on a beautiful, pastoral piece of property in West Tisbury. Being up-Island, I had an idea of what part of the Island we were about to explore and was excited about it since I don’t spend a huge amount of time is West Tisbury. I was the in the back of the group, thankfully, with Gina right behind me. As we continued on the trail, I became more and more comfortable with Bombi.
After about 10 minutes, I was really enjoying the experience. The feel of the horse and his movement, gentle yet strong. He easily navigated over stones and logs through sand and dirt. We meandered past the beautiful female Paso Finos who were munching on a late breakfast in the fields.
We crossed a small bridge over a stream, and it felt as though the journey was really about to begin. We were surrounded by nature and that was it. The only sounds you heard were the birds, the wind, and the sound of the horses’ hooves walking the trails. I was entranced by the whole experience.
This is how people have traveled and experienced the world for centuries. How amazing. The only thing that snapped my back to the 21st century was the sound of a plane every once in a while.
We were in an area known as Middle Ridge – the second highest elevation on Martha’s Vineyard. We rode past the most scenic view of Black Point/Hancock Beach. Though beautiful beaches at anytime, the view seemed even more special on the back of a horse.
We continued on, and I was so happy with how responsive and well behaved Bombi was. I felt as though I was a pro. I even snapped a couple of photos on my phone, yup holding the reigns with only one hand. Probably a big no-no, sorry Elizabeth, but I had to for the blog. We continued on, spotting wild turkeys and wood peckers, savoring the fresh air, and feeling close to nature. The silence was just so relaxing and so enjoyable.
In a world typically filled with chaos, this was a special treat. There were portions in the trail where we picked up the pace to the paso. I was able to experience this four beat lateral gait for myself. It was fun! Bombi was smooth and responsive, and we even broke into a little canter, which was a bit faster. It was awesome, and I can understand how people become addicted to horse riding.
We were almost at the end of our ride and of course I was confident at this point in my riding skills when Bombi decided to test me. We were heading down a hill, and he decided to veer away from our group. I was surprised a bit by his boldness, but was immediately able to get him back to the group. I could not have been more proud of myself. Not too bad for someone who hasn’t been on a horse for years.
As we rode down to the ring to dismount our horse, I could not help but be sad that the ride was over. I am not the most outdoorsy person, but this was really a special experience. Something I’d love to do again. You really got to experience the Island in a different way, a really intimate way.
I’m glad Esperanza Riding Company has come to the Island to offer this and of course I would recommend it to visitors but also to those who live here year-round.
If you haven’t gone for a ride yet, don’t dismay there’s still plenty of time to schedule a ride, 508-939-1001. Give yourself about two-and-half-hours for the experience. The ride itself is about two hours. I hope to do an afternoon ride next time, and then maybe grab dinner at State Road, a little special up-Island trip. Something different for girls night out.
ERC is going to be open until Columbus Day. Then the kids (horses) are going on vacation to Elizabeth’s family farm in Virginia to rest up for next Summer. Elizabeth and Krissy, and now Gina too, will be returning to Puerto Rico to Esperanza Riding Company in Vieques. No rest for these horse lovers. When they come back in the Spring, they hope to have more trails to offer to riders. I promise to update you once they do.
Involved in the Community
One more thing – for those of you with little ones – ERC did a Equine Adventure Elective with the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard Summer Camp. This 9-week program focuses on getting know horses including how to lead and care for them and so much more. ERC will be offering this again next year.
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