On our recent trip to Puerto Rico we used many forms of transportation; big planes, tiny planes, shuttle vans, taxis, rental cars, ferries, kayaks, swimming, feet, elevators, escalators and funiculars,. We did not at any point use a horse. (The last time we rode horses Blonde came home in a neck brace so for Blonde horses are on the equivalent of her personal “no fly” list.) But in a rare case of something we aren’t personally involved in interesting us, we were intrigued by the many wild horses roaming around on Vieques.
From a previous trip to Vieques ago Brunette thought the horses were the equine equivalent of a car or bicycle sharing service. So, not Zip Car but Zip Horsie. You need one, you see one, you jump on it, ride it and leave it to roam when you’re done with it. Blonde thought that was a very good concept but after further discussion it began to seem questionable.
How likely were you to get a thought bubble that you needed transportation simultaneously with a horse appearing? If you had to go roaming around the countryside on foot trying to find a horse wouldn’t it be easier to walk where you were going? What if you aren’t good at scanning anatomy and can only drive an automatic (girl horse) but by mistake got a stick (boy horse) and caused something bad to happen when you tried to shift? What if you thought a horse was free but it really belonged to a big mean guy who was just now storming out of his house after seeing his wife in bed with a man with a very long…………face… and then he saw you and the horse and confused the two? Many other likely scenarios brought the Zip Horsie concept into question.
We remembered from our previous trip that some of the horses on Vieques had a very distinctive gait both in look and sound. In some not yet rotted tiny corner of Brunette’s brain she even produced the name of the breed – Paso Fino. Because we were staying at the W Retreat and Spa (for free on Starwood points) and it was too expensive to have a second glass of wine, we were sober enough to take the unusual step of doing research for this post.
The first bit of this in-depth research was a Google search which described the Paso Fino’s funky footwork:
“It is the lateral four-beat gait that distinguishes the Paso Fino in the equestrian world. As it moves, the horse’s feet fall in a natural lateral pattern instead of the more common diagonal pattern. ..
…These are not trained movements, but are natural to the horse from the moment of its birth.”
Taking our investigative journalism a step further Blonde interviewed the owner of a new business on Vieques – Taxi Horses.
The owner of this business specifically requested that we not use his name (guess he’d already looked at this site and understandably didn’t want to be associated) so he will henceforth be referred to as Taxi Horse Man or THM.
THM explained that there are estimated to be about 2,000 wild roaming horses on Vieques. However, most are owned by someone who has claimed them, broken them in, branded them then lets them roam freely as the owner doesn’t have enough property for horse storage. It’s kind of like dating, marriage and then letting your spouse roam free because you don’t have enough room to house him or her.
Many horses that appear to be wild are in fact owned but, unlike freed spouses, they tend to stay close to home because they know who feeds them and takes care of them. THM bought two horses for his business from a friend. Shortly afterwards THM went to his business and those horses were no longer around. So he called the friend who told him to wait a couple days and he’d call him back. Two days later the friend called to say the horses had come back to his house – they thought he was their permanent baby daddy. After extensive family counseling they now understand that they’ve been adopted and hang around their new home.
THM also explained that the local wild(ish) horses are basically diluted Paso Finos, not the purebred show horses. THM then kindly forwarded this fascinating video of a top of line Paso Fino and its gait. You must watch this video – that’s a bossypants order – it’s great!
The roaming horses that are unbranded are legally fair game for someone to claim and break. THM said that in general it takes about 30 to 60 days to break a horse (much faster than a human man) but there are some super duper horse breakers who can do it in two weeks. (Think Jennifer Lopez.) Local horse owners/riders don’t use traditional western saddles. The young guys often ride bareback using ropes that they’ve tied together to form horsie-steering things. The next step up is a thin foam saddle. (THM uses thicker more comfy padding for his clients.)
THM further informed us that Paso Finos were developed in Puerto Rico after some invading Spaniards left horses behind when they went off to pillage elsewhere and introduce other things such as tapas instead of trotters.
If you watched the required video you may have been able to surmise that a Paso Fino couldn’t take you one on a very long ride because that super duper hoofing pattern isn’t highly efficient and the horse would be worn out very soon. THM uses horses with longer strides for the tours he offers.
We want to give THM a plug here because he was helpful and he’s a new local business on Vieques. So here’s our promo: The tours are two hours long and led by a bilingual guide. They cost $65 per person and include water and a snack (forgot to ask if that’s for the rider or the horse). They depart from (love this!) Gringo Beach which is adjacent to the W Hotel. Riders go along the beach then to the countryside and up a hill which affords beautiful views. If you go on a tour with Taxi Horses please let us know and even better send a picture!
This is enough horsing around for one post.