Some days I feel like the luckiest person alive. It really is a blessing to have Canoa beach on our doorstep. It is the longest beach in Ecuador, with 17 kilometres of beautiful golden sand, how lucky is that! Every time you go for a horse ride on the beach, it is different. I have never lived by the beach before and so this is the first time that I have really got to know the beauty and understand the charm.
My favourite days to take a group on a horse riding tour are the overcast and grey days. I love the moody skies and watching the big waves come crashing in. The horses seem to appreciate the shade more and are much more eager to enjoy galloping down the beach and in the shallow water.
When there has been a lot of rain the sea is not the usual bright blue or turquoise colour, a lot of the orange and red soils are washed down from the hills and the sea looks much more opaque and dark, again adding to the moody feel of the beach.
With the rain brought down from the hills, there is more treasure to be found on the beach. It is much easier to find beach plunder from horseback; you can cover a lot more ground more quickly! It is possible to find pottery artifacts, pieces of bowls, plates and statues from the ancient civilizations that made their homes in the hills surrounding Canoa and Bahia. Sometimes it is possible to find an entire statue that any museum would envy. We have not been quite that lucky yet.
The horses enjoy the freedom that the beach brings; there is nowhere else that they can let their spirits run free quite as well as the beach, it is possible to gallop for as long as they and their riders want to, with the wind rushing past and the water splashing up onto your legs. There is nothing I know that is quite as exhilarating. Drift wood that has washed up on shore brings opportunities to jump for those that enjoy a little excitement.
Wildlife spotting always seems to be better on the more overcast days. I am always amazed to see the pelicans flying past, it seems so improbable that they could fly so elegantly, yet they manage, scooping up the water into their beaks as they dip down. There is always plenty of birdlife to see, especially at the southern end of the beach where there is an inland pool of water and the sea birds gather there to eat the small fish in the shallows. On my favourite horse tour to date, we even spotted a whale in the distance, what an amazing experience from horseback. We are almost at that time of year once again, so fingers crossed for more lucky sightings and findings on the beach, which is of course, best from horseback!
As with humans, a healthy horse begins with a healthy mouth. Why do we need an equine dentist?
Soon after birth, a horse's teeth start and unlike our teeth they continue to grow all through the life of the horse as they are worn down, which means that there can be dental problems at any age. Horses are of course vegetarians and as they eat vegetation, the surface of the teeth is worn away with the grinding of their food. Problems arise when the edges of the teeth become sharp from not being worn off if the teeth do not meet perfectly or if a tooth is damaged or lost, the opposite tooth continues to grow and has no other tooth to wear it down. The aim of equine dentistry is to allow free movement of both jaws to create a grinding action.
Indications that a horse is having dental problems include head tossing, turning the head sideways when chewing, feed being dropped while chewing leading to weight loss, resisting the bit or fighting bit placement, reluctance to work or move in one direction, mouthing the bit excessively, excessive salivation, bad breath, nasal discharge, grain undigested in manure and in extreme cases, colic.
This was why when our new horse came to join the Cabalgatas Canoa team, we knew straight away that we needed to make a call to the horse dentist. Poor Zingal was having a lot of trouble with his mouth and dropped a great deal of food. He also had bad breath and was losing weight. The vet found that Zingal had a fractured molar which had to be removed and very uneven biting surfaces on his teeth as you can see on the photo. This was preventing him from grinding his teeth together unless he twisted his jaw somewhat. Following a mild sedative and an hours worth of filing and tooth extraction, he was a much healthier boy. He needs to put on the weight that he lost due to his dental problems and then he will be joining us on our beach rides.
In case you have not guessed, Cabalgatas Canoa is based in a small coastal fishing village called Canoa. The absolute best thing about Canoa is that it lies at the northern end of the longest beach in Ecuador. It is a stunning stretch of coastline with breath-taking natural surroundings. There are 17 kilometers of beautiful golden sand, ending in dramatic cliff tops which make a stunning back drop for sunsets. The sea is warm and welcoming all year around just like the climate which is refreshed with the sea breeze. There is always somewhere peaceful on the beach for you to lie back, watch the pelicans and red crabs busy themselves.
Everyone enjoys the laid back pace of life here; we definitely have a peaceful atmosphere here in Canoa. Fishing is the traditional industry of Canoa, and our shore line is still lined with small wooden fishing boats. First thing in the morning, the fishermen head out into the Pacific to see what catch the day will bring them.
Obviously we think that the best thing to do in Canoa is to ride a horse and gallop down the longest beach in Ecuador, but surfing and other adventure sports are also very popular. There are lots of surf board rentals in town and instructors. The waves are ideal for beginner surfers as they are not too large and there is no reef under the waves. January to April is the most popular time for surfing.
Besides the surfing (and of course the horse riding!) you can enjoy parapenting, swimming, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, hammock swinging, sunset cocktail drinking and immersing yourself in the beauty of nature. Come and visit Canoa and see for yourself, you will not be disappointed!
Today was hoof trimming day. Each of our ten horses has hoof attention every month. This is in addition to their regular daily hoof pick out.
Our Cabalgatas Canoa horses are all barefoot. We truly believe that this is the best way for our horses to be. Barefoot means that the horses do not wear metal shoes. Horse shoes have been used in some form or other on horses’ hooves since Roman times. In recent times people have begun considering the advantages of leaving our horses feet as nature intended. The idea of metal horse shoes is to protect the hooves from excessive wear. However, wild horses such as the Mustangs in the USA and Brumbies in Australia travel long distances every day, up to 40 km, looking for food and water. Their hooves are tough and resilient and do not suffer from the lack of metal shoes. In fact, our horses would need to be travelling similar distances to need shoes, or doing a lot of walking and trotting on concrete or tarmac roads, which we avoid as much as we can!
Without shoes, our horses’ hooves have the ability to flex and absorb shock and also the correct part of the horses feet are in contact with the ground. With shoes, the entire weight of the horse is being carried on the wall of the hoof, when nature designed the hoof to carry weight on the sole and the fleshy back part of the hoof which is called the frog.
So what happens every month? Our horses’ hooves wear down naturally and then every four weeks, we trim any growth, make sure that the hoof is level and then smooth everything off with a file. Our bare foot trim also ensures the horses have a good “mustang roll” which makes the front of the hoof nicely bevelled in the style of the wild mustang horses. With practice, each trim takes around 20 minutes to complete for each horse. Good hoof care means that we can enjoy galloping down the beach on our happy and healthy horses.
In Ecuador, it is difficult to have such a thing a a bad day for a horse ride. This is what makes living here so great. Even when it is raining, it won't be for long, and it only rains for perhaps four of months every year. When the weather is scorching hot, like today, it just means an early rise or a trail ride later in the day. This is always a great option as you can watch the sunset from horseback and the birds will be more active at dusk.
We had a lovely cabalgata (the Spanish word for horse ride) today.Through the jungle and into the hills. Waving at the villagers and watching the life in the countryside. Meeting men riding past on donkeys, seeing parrots in the trees and then a wonderful treat today, a gorgeous toucan in the palm trees. We were lucky enough to get a good look at him, but no photo worth keeping! None of our two horse rides are ever the same, who knows what we will see next year? A great way to bring to a close 2016, the toucans are a rare but welcome sighting!
It's already that time of year again. Time to relax, see friends and family, eat far too much and drink even more! However Christmas in Ecuador is very different to a traditional British Christmas. Not just the turkey will be roasting, we will too, it's the hottest time of the year, well into the 30's. Then there is the huge bonus of being right by beautiful Canoa beach.
My favourite thing about the festivities here is that Canoa is such a quiet little place, it is like Christmas is not really happening. In Ecuador Christmas is not such a big deal. All the shops are open on Christmas day and the whole event is about spending time with family and giving each other small but meaningful gifts. The day afterwards everything is back to normal.
The best way to celebrate is by spening some time with the horses on the most stunning beach in the world. There is nothing quite as enjoyable as going for an early morning ride along the beach whilst it is still quiet and watching the waves crash. No beach Christmas day is complete without a bbq, enjoying a few drinks at sunset, then getting back to give the horses their special Christmas dinner of mangos, bananas and carrots.
Are you guys all ready for Christmas? Are you planning a tropical day or snuggled up hiding from Winter? From the Cabalgatas Canoa team we wish you a Merry Christmas from us and the horses. Enjoy the festivities!