I've always found that time in nature heals every stress, every ailment. It's my perfect antidote to overstimulation.
Buenos Aires hasn't overstimulated me, per se, but I've now been in the bustle of a city for two solid months. It was about time for some country air (and maybe some exercise because woof).
Our friend Katy organized a day at an estancia for six of us, a day of horseback riding on a ranch with gauchos (Argentinian cowboys). Uh, yes, sign me up, I don't even care what it costs.
I've been on a horse a few times. Once my cousin let me sit on her prized English thoroughbred and walked us in a circle. I'm pretty sure I rode a donkey at a petting zoo as a kid (or was it a camel? Does a camel count?). And I've taken exactly one riding lesson in my life, at a farm near my childhood home.
I love horses and couldn't wait to ride one properly. Even if the bulk of my experience has been feeding them apples and patting their noses.
Our day at the estancia was a blissful Saturday. I spent time in nature alongside wonderful friends and my favorite person in the world, doing something I didn't know I loved.
Because I do, I love horseback riding. It feels like such a primal and natural thing to do. It's a moment with a gorgeous creature, an occasion to appreciate nature, an athletic endeavor, a peaceful state. Somehow exhilarating and calming, all at once.
I was paired with a gentle horse our gaucho called Pintura. I called her "Freckle Head." She didn't seem to mind. She is a thoroughbred Criollo horse, a breed unique to this area of South America. Apparently Spanish Andalusian horses mixed with the mulish native horses to create the sweet and docile Criollos.
Our horsey man (the technical term) for the day was David, a South African who has worked with horses for decades. He even coached the Greek olympic equestrian team in 2004.
To my great surprise, David told me that I was an amazing rider for a beginner. He said I had natural talent, talent that he hadn't seen in a long time. Holy hell did that feel good.
Let me give you a little background of my athletic pursuits, because I don't want to give you a wow I'm so great look at me impression.
I love being physically active, but I've nearly always been subpar. Getting to passable requires tons of stubborn determination. For what I lack in talent, I make up for in stubbornness.
Examples. In 13 years of competitive swimming, I achieved only one first-place ribbon... for a relay, when I was filling in for another swimmer. I was the last ballerina to get pointe shoes, and only got them because I begged. I was awarded "best hustle" at the end of a summer tennis camp (the participation award, lets be real). I couldn't hit a backhand, but dammit if I wasn't going to run after the ball.
That's my athletic history in a nutshell - I try harder than anyone and still suck the most.
I'm not competitive by nature, so I can enjoy sports while being acutely aware of my lack of ability (natural or otherwise).
However noncompetitive you are, however happy to just be outside and moving, a lifetime of being the worst person on the team gets to you.
So when David told me that I had "incredible potential," that I really should ride because I'm great at it, and that he wished I was staying in Argentina so that he could train me himself, it was particularly meaningful. It felt like a finally moment, a moment of satisfied relief.
I didn't have to stubbornly work at it. I got the up down, up down rhythm immediately. The stance was natural. The horse listened to my every move. We trotted, cantered, even galloped.
I galloped with Freckle Head! And it was amazing!
That's why I'm writing about it - not to brag, not to extoll my own virtues, but to recognize a moment that I've never felt before. I'm good at something athletic, something I really love, and not because of my stubborn determination. Just because I'm good at it. What? Me?
I now understand the grins on the faces of the fast swimmers, the tennis tournament winners, the ballet soloists. That was never me - I was the supportive friend in the background, just happy to don the tutu. But I get it. And it is a blissful feeling.
That feeling mixed with the exhilaration I get from time in nature is frankly unbeatable.
But oh hell, Taylor, you couldn't fall in love with a cheaper hobby?
Hang with gauchos and my beloved Freckle Head with David's Horse Adventures. No, this isn't sponsored, I paid for it and 100% endorse the experience.