From Endurance to Dressage
I've actually ridden horses in several countries: the Canary Islands (Spain), Ireland, Scotland, and now Belize! Even when I don't get to ride, I am always searching for horses wherever we travel. Hubby knows how much I enjoy the ponies so he's usually on the lookout as well.
One of the things that I found most interesting about Belize's style of equine care was how most horses were grazed. Everywhere we went, we saw horses with ropes tied around their necks staked out alongside the road. Belize is quite green, and grass grows lushly everywhere. Most Belizeans are relatively poor so they take advantage of what mother nature provides.
Our guide explained that most of the horses were used for working on farms; they carry produce into town and help plow fields. Many are used just for fun. In either case, the method of feeding is the same. Someone has the task of moving the horse from place to place so it can graze during the day. Water is either brought to the horse periodically, or he is led to the river where he can drink.
For the most part, the horses looked round and fat. There were some though that were painfully thin. Our guide said that the thin ones were either old or had lazy owners. The gray pictured above is tethered exactly like all the others we saw: no halter, just a loop around the neck.
We saw many types of animals along the road grazing: chickens, goats, pigs, and horses. Everyone in the village knows to whom each animal belongs so there is no theft.
You probably know the Amish don't like to be photographed so these photos were taken on the sly.
As much as I love horse-keeping in far away places, I did a terrible job of taking photos! We stayed six nights at duPlooy's Jungle Lodge and I never took a single photo of their barn or the horses at pasture. We were just too busy! Here are the photos that I did take:
Our trail ride, several hours, took us to explore Xunantunich, one of Belize's most popular Mayan ruins. Knowing we were taking this ride, I brought my helmet from home and wore it even though the guide gave me a "whatever" shrug.
We rode with a nice couple from Michigan, Kirk and Suzanne. Neither of them have really ridden, a time or two maybe. Suzanne was pretty nervous about riding, as many novices can be. When she saw me wearing a helmet, she quickly asked the guide if he had one for her, too. I was really happy to hear her ask and told her what a thoughtful choice she had made!
The trail meandered through a wide variety of footing and scenery. Some of the trail was wide and open, but other parts were rocky and somewhat steep. A few sections were quite muddy, as you would expect in the jungle, but the horses were very sure-footed.
The horses were actually quite nice. They were very steady, but were quick to take advantage if left to navigate on their own. My own little mare quickly realized that I wanted to get somewhere and happily passed the many grazing spots that called her name. Suzanne's horse was more of a problem. Once he realized that she had no concept of kick and pull, he wondered off the trail whenever and wherever he wanted to. Eventually, the guide got tired of waiting for her to catch up and simply ponied her horse along.
Hubby, who is not a rider and hasn't been on a horse in at least ten years, did a great job of keeping his horse on the trail and moving forward. His comment was something to the effect of, see, I listen! Meaning that when I think his eyes have glazed over as I discuss picking up the canter or doing 20-meter circles, he might actually be listening!
After turning off the gravel road, we ambled along for a while until we got to a newly fallen tree. Our guide was a bit surprised to find our way blocked. He tied his own horse to a tree and started snapping branches and shoving debris out of the way. He rode his own horse through the branches, but it wasn't pretty. He quickly decided it was safer to have all of us on the ground as he led each horse through.
The little building to the left is actually a butcher "shop." Cattle are raised in the adjoining pastures and then butchered right here. Although it's pretty hard to see in the photo, Xunantunich can be seen in the very center of the horizon (click photo to enlarge). We eventually stood on top of that temple and could see this clearing.
Once we got to the main road, we were picked up in a van and driven the last two or three miles. The horses were tied to trees while the guide took a break. Later, he led all of the horses back to the lodge while we went on to visit the ruins.
And here we are visiting Xunantunich, pronounced shoo-nan-too-nitch. And yes, we climbed this pyramid! That's how we got the great view of the butcher shop. El Castillo, at 120 feet tall, is Belize's second tallest structure.
Lunch was at Benny's Kitchen, an open air restaurant famous for Mayan and Creole dishes. Hubby had the Mayan dish, pibil, which is pork cooked in an underground oven. I went with our guide's choice and had the fried chicken. Instead of riding the horses back, we opted to take the van as it was air-conditioned and much faster!
It's always great fun to ride someone else's horses, but I am always happy to be back home with my own two boys.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: