Hoof Trimming Clinic in La Fortuna, Costa Rica
We arrive in the most wonderful place on earth!
Although copies had been shipped all over the US, Canada and even abroad, it was very cool to receive an order from an exotic country in South Central America.
Leaves and Lizards, is an amazing place and if you go to their blog you will learn about Debbie and Steve, their friends and staff, and the wonderful work they do at the retreat. They educate guests about the rain forest and the reforestation projects there, the incredible wild life, as well as their therapy program using the horses for kids with disabilities.
Soon after sending the DVD, Debbie contacted me about her horses at the retreat. She had gone up against traditional logic and made the decision to take all her horses barefoot. Not an easy decision as these horses work every day taking guests on long trail rides over all sorts of terrain including miles of bumpy, rock and gravel roads. (What I didn’t know until I arrived was that those roads were jarring to ride over in a vehicle with great suspension. )
The transition was a struggle for most of the horses, but the deciding factor was that a couple of her young horses were shod and became lame with shoes on, when they were not lame before.
For several months Debbie, her trimmer and trainer, Juan Jose, and I corresponded via
email about the progress her horses were making and the challenges they were enduring with tender-hooves and abscessing as they were adapting to their unusual new lifestyle.
Their stallion, Juano, was in so much pain for awhile that he hesitated to move , became depressed and couldn’t even service the mares. They helped him through the most difficult times as best they could. It’s not easy to get supplies in Costa Rica that we can easily come by up here. Import taxes add so much to the cost of things, that the prices are often doubled.
At some point during this time, Debbie invited me, all expenses paid, to visit their resort, help with their horses' transition and booting, and teach a clinic on barefoot trimming to anyone in the area who might be interested in learning.
I didn't dare dream that I might be traveling to such a faraway exotic country. But as it turned out, I did and it was amazing.
We decided that Rich would stay home and take care of our equines here, and although I received lots of offers for helpers to carry my suitcases, I invited my good friend and trimmer, Deb G., to take the trip with me. Rich will go next time!
Everyday that I was there, I sent an email home to Rich, who stayed behind to take care of our horses, and to my sisters and daughter and a few friends. The emails were detailed as I wanted to keep a journal of my trip and try to help them imagine what my days spent there were like. I thought I would share that journal here with everyone. I would love to hear what you think about Costa Rica, your experiences if you've visited the country, and hope that I can encourage you to live your dreams as well.
Day One: We've arrived and it's wet here.
Deb and I are sitting in a cute spacious cabin just below a volcano and surrounded in jungle foliage. The ride up to this remote little retreat from the air port in San Jose was kind of...well, it was a wild ass, show no mercy, take no prisoners, if they get in your way - honk to let them know they are about to be mowed over, kind of ride.
The driver, a petite very cute lady named Lidy, has been driving since she was 10 years old and driving Taxi for 20 years. On the way up the mountain to the lodge, she knew many of the people walking on the roads with their kids. Everyone seems fairly laid back.
The locals call themselves Ticos. We are in the Tico time zone. That means no watches. But everyone I've seen had cell phones! So who needs watches? My cell phone gets NO reception here. No texting.
We saw many skinny cows and horses closer to town, but the farther out we rode into the countryside, animals started looking better.
We saw so many homes made of stucco with metal siding or metal roofs. Tile is popular for porches. I was struck by how tidy most all the homes are! It’s like most of the houses we passed were owned by proud people who didn’t have much, but what they had they took good care of.
Everyone seems to own one to several dogs from Schunchie size (but I didn’t see any poodles) to Murphy's size, (medium). I realized that he would likely be considered a large dog here. (I later learned that large dogs eat too much, so are not very popular.)
It took several hours of rapid, almost herky-jerky, driving in kind of 4-wheel drive minivan that I've never seen before! There was LOTS of other traffic, motorcycles and semis and all sorts of cars all screaming down narrow one and a half lane winding roads. If a car slowed down, the driver suffered the wrath of angry honking. I could see that if you didn't drive offensively, you might not survive. Rich would fit right in here!.
Pedestrians do not have the right of way like they do here. And lots of people walk along side all this speeding traffic is if it was not a big deal at all. As we drove, I noticed my eyes seemed to be bugging out farther and farther. Whenever Lidy would occasionally pick up her cell phone, I wondered what the local hospitals were like and how far away the nearest one was located. Gulp.
We went over several bridges, over water, as we climbed the mountain to volcano land and most the bridges were not as safe as the one we have in our pasture over our pond.
I happen to have a bridge-phobia and most of the local bridges are one lane and the driver at each end would NOT politely wait for the other to cross, as we are accustomed to, but it seemed standard to drive faster to see who got control of the bridge first, then the other driver stopped or backed off. It was like a game of "bridge chicken." We only lost once to a faster driver in a large box truck that was already on it looking to take us out! Lidy, popped the van into reverse and scowled at the truck driver as we backed up. I got the feeling that Lidy, as sweet as she appeared, is a taxi driver that you should not piss off.
After getting only a few hours sleep the night before we flew out and then no sleep last night on the plane, I could NOT stay awake, even with some much to see. I finally turned into Bobble-head Pat for about 30 minutes of the ride. Deb stayed awake for the entire thing. She told me later she got a little car-sick. I can’t imagine.
We stopped at a supermarket in Monterey, I believe, or La Fortuna? It was about the size of a corner convenience store. They didn't have anything on the shelves that I'm familiar with, but they did have Fresca, my favorite soft drink, so I have several bottles in our little refrigerator.
The pavement ran out for the last leg of our ride. The roads became steeper and more winding, over a dried up river bed type of terrain. That's what the horses here have to negotiate every day, either on hoof, or loaded in the back of trucks and trailers.
These are some of the heartiest horses I have ever seen. They survive this life, or they don't. There are few pasture ornaments, and I doubt I will see Cushings or IR horses any where.
We are in the Toucan cabin! Four beds! There are brightly colored murals (done by Steve). And a large fan going like crazy over my head.
There are pretty decorative tree branches
in the bathroom for the TP and towel
holders. Tree branches are over head in the shower, with the shower head that sprays water over you from the center. It was so refreshing to take a shower this afternoon. Then I crashed for several hours.
Then we were picked up for dinner. We don't have a car and we will walk to the onsite restaurant and barns. It's a long walk on rough driveways. So far though, we've been getting shuttled around in Toyota Landcruiser just like ours!
There are MANY older Toyotas (FJ40’slike the one I used to have) all over the place.
I’ve never seen so many in one trip!
We must have seen 15 of them on our way up
here and even our taxi driver owned one.
They are the new work horses of the country.
There were a few older Range Rovers, etc.,
sitting on the sides of the roads broken down.
We only saw one or two Jeeps which I thought
was interesting, but some cars are just too
expensive to have shipped here.
The food here at the retreat is prepared by wonderful chefs and every meal is taken at the restaurant!
I've already killed 10 bugs on my computer screen as I type this. No snakes yet! They don't have bears here, just gators - caiman actually. I wonder if they help keep the dog population in check. Just kidding…maybe.
As soon as we got here, I started trimming horses and going over the ones we'll use in the clinic. The young trainer, Juan Jose, who has been trimming the horses here speaks almost no English, I speak almost no Spanish, but Debbie speaks English and pretty good Spanish, so she was our interpreter.
It was fun! They have a racing prospect whose hooves aren't good and we trimmed her and put hoof boots on her. She went from ouchie to very fast.
I had brought Juan Jose a new pair of gloves because I knew from our email pictures before that he was always rasping the hooves without gloves. I couldn't get him to wear the gloves today. I asked Debbie, "How can I get him to wear the gloves I brought him?" She said, "He probably will want to save them for riding." That put a few things into perspective for me.
I will leave 2 pairs of gloves for him - one for trimming and one for riding.
We get to go riding in the mountains to a waterfall tomorrow! More eating and napping maybe? I feel like we are in the middle of nowhere, but that crazy long ride brought us to paradise!