Hey there! If you are ready for another round of “Travels with Biondi”, here goes.
This winter has brought me to Dominican Republic, the island that shares the same landmass as Haiti, in case you were wondering. I knew I wanted to go somewhere warm this winter and luckily I got out, (almost in the nick of time), enduring only one snow storm on Cape Cod before I left, on February 1st.
I had searched the website www.HelpX.net in order to find a place here where I could do a work exchange with horses in the tropics. I settled on Dominican Republic, I suppose because the native tongue is Spanish and after spending time in the Galapagos last year, I realized that I was actually learning a bit and wanted to continue. There are many opportunities here to practice my Spanish, as not many Dominicans speak English. Luckily most of the Haitians who live here do, albeit with their Creole accent, so it is still a challenge to communicate…but that’s part of the fun, or so I figure!
I found a ranch to work on called “Wise Mountain Ranch”….kind of a misnomer, as there is not much “wisdom” at this place 😦
The herd of 18 horses is in rough shape, scrawny, skin and bones versions of horses. Granted, the local Dominican mixed breed is small to begin with, but the owner of the ranch, a Canadian midwife, (who ought to know better about nutrition), has neglected to care for the animals since she bought the place three yrs ago. She relies on her Dominican help to care for them and do what needs to be done and then acted shocked when she saw what poor shape they were in this weekend. Huh? She sees the daily on the ranch. She has not maintained a regular food supplementation program and I have heard the grass here is inadequate in nutritional values to keep a horse in good shape. No wonder they are in such poor health. Not only are they skinny but they are tick infested because they are weak and now anemic as a result! I have never seen such a sad case of parasite-infested horses. If I were in the USA and saw the shape these animals are in I would be reporting the owner to the SPCA. Unfortunately, there is not much happening here in the animal-neglect/prevention department. The owner claims to “rescue” horses but they need to be rescued from HER, in my opinion! She only has them as money making objects, offering trail rides. I rode the first day but have not since, as I felt sorry for the horse. I have been vocal in getting the owner to get them fed and medicated and looks like she is stepping up to the financial decision to put the money where the mouths are….18 hungry horse mouths. You should see the kicking and fighting that goes on at the feeding trough! We keep a healthy distance!
I came here to train some of the ranch horses, including a 10 month old foal, pictured here below. His name is Aladar and he is obviously not weaned yet!
I had trained my own foal years ago using Natural Horsemanship techniques so I bought the basic equipment and headed down here to see what I could do. I was shocked and felt pretty depressed about the situation for my first week, last week. Now I have somehow adjusted to the scene and decided that I am here to help these poor creatures while I am here for two months. Mostly I just groom them and do tick control and do basic ground work training with them. There is a horse hobbling around with a dislocated hip who looks like he is in pain every time he steps. I’m not sure why she has decided to keep him alive. He wandered onto her property in that condition 9 months ago and “rescued” him. Hmmm…no food or regular water supply. Not sure how that is called “rescuing”. Putting him down would be the humane thing to do.
My day consists of sleeping until 7, as best I can, working my required 4 hours in exchange for a room and all meals…and then I head off to the town of Cabarete, 25 minutes west of here, on the north shore, where I enjoy the ocean, beach and endure the chaos of a gazillion “motoconchos” (motorbikes that serve as taxis), ‘guaguas” (vans that serve as people herding devices….a 15 seater I rode in once had 27 of us crammed in!!…reminded me of the old “how many people can you squish into a VW” trick?)
I normally take the guagua into town and hire the motoconcho for the short trip to the ranch off the main road. The entire one hour round trip costs about $2.80 USD. I am always the only Gringa on board, but that’s kind of fun. I like to be the minority, surrounded by local color. The Dominicans are happy, outgoing people, usually laughing a lot amongst themselves, nearly sitting on each other. They are friendly enough to me, but reserved. Since I don’t speak much Spanish and not many of them speak English…it’s a quiet ride to town and back for me. I communicate simple things, “beautiful baby, beautiful day, thank you”, etc.
The local men are flirtatious beyond belief. Age does not matter. You see all mixed here. Old with young, mixed race….mostly older white guys with young Dominican/Haitian women. My experience today was the opposite and I felt funny at the beach wondering if everyone thought I was being a cougar….
I have a new friend, a motoconcho driver, Alajandro, 21 years old, who said he wanted to go to the beach with me next time….and that he would drive me, no charge. Hmmm….He looks innocent enough. So we went today and had a great time diving in the warm turquoise waves, watching and dodging the many kite surfers and windsurfers and then teaching each other words in our respective languages, using the sand as a drawing board and a popsicle stick to write with. Fun. A gal at the ranch who is his friend said he told her this morning he “wanted to be with me”. Does he realize I could virtually be his GRANDMOTHER?! I showed him a photo of “mi hija”, (my daughter) and told him she is 21 also, thinking this would deter him!!! He asked how old I was shortly afterwards and I asked what he thought? He wrote 26 in the sand. Wishful thinking?!!! Hmmm…that would make me 6 years old when I gave birth to my daughter. Do the math dude! And check out these wrinkles!!! :-))) No, amigos only please!!
Till next time….