Soft sunlight peeps through the cracks in the dense jungle canopy as we make our way on horseback along a dirt trail. The rainforest opens up to a wide field and we trot through a verdant backdrop that makes me realize I never knew there were so many shades of green until now.
“This is what we want to show people – the real Costa Rica,” says Andrea Wady, a native of Cornwall, England who owns Discovery Horseback Tours along with her husband Chris.
The horse tours are conducted on a 1500 acre farm near Jacó, one of the most visited beach towns in Costa Rica. The farm has belonged to the same Costa Rican family since 1830.
During the trail ride through the private property, we encounter a flock of brilliant scarlet macaws, a troop of cheeky white face capuchin monkeys and a refreshing waterfall – seemingly everything that makes Costa Rica such a popular tourist destination.
I am atop the happiest and healthiest horse I’ve ever ridden – Shera. Her ears are up, her coat glistens and she seems to make her way along the trail with a bounce in her step.
I am told she is one of the “best conditioned horses on the Pacific Coast.”
This is because Andrea and Chris treat their horses differently than most horseback riding companies.
“It has become our path in life to show that working horses can be treated with dignity and respect,” Andrea says.
The horses at Discovery Horseback Tours are all rescue animals who have been rehabilitated by the husband and wife team and trained using the principals of natural horsemanship.
The horses here live metal free, meaning that instead of bridles with metal bits, they are lead by rope halters, and they roam barefoot. Instead of living in stalls, the horses are also allowed to roam in herds as they do in the wild. The horses also earn treats for their work.
“Horses never ask for us to ride them,” Andrea says. “There has to be something in it for the horse. If we can make it fun for them, that’s great.”
In training her horses, Andrea says the most important element is time.
“Riding is such a small part of horsemanship,” Andrea says. “To develop a relationship with a horse it’s really about spending lots of time with them doing nothing.”
Andrea says it’s also important to allow horses to express their own unique personalities.
“We massively encourage each of our horses to have their own personalities,” she says.
Shera’s gentle and food loving personality comes through on our ride.
Toward the end of the tour, the horses run up a mountainside and stop to rest by tall thick trees. We disembark and climb on foot to a nearby waterfall. I jump into the cool refreshing water and cover my body in natural mud that comes from volcanic ash that has solidified on the farm below. I sink into the water and relax. Now this is pura vida!
Discovery Horseback Tours is the perfect activity for a visit to Costa Rica no matter if you are on a family vacation, honeymoon, girlfriend getaway, or traveling solo. It is refreshing to find a company that not only treats their animals so well, but also takes the time to educate visitors about how to better treat them.
Discovery Horseback Tours has offers daily tours Monday through Saturday. For a more extensive experience, they also offer week long riding vacations. For more information or to book a tour, visit http://horseridecostarica.com or email [email protected].