Riding Horses with Raul
– JD Dorfman
I don’t ride horses, well not usually… but that is the beauty of an unscripted adventure, you really do not know what you will find yourself into next.
I had only planned on being in Paraty a short while but due to unforeseen circumstances (my experience at a Paraty Hospital, coming soon) I found myself with more time to explore the area than I had originally set aside. Riding horses is not something I would normally gravitate to but it was hard to ignore the overwhelming amount of positive things people where talking about Raul and his horses on Trip Advisor, so I sent an email.
I was on the fence on going through with the adventure until Raul responded to my emails with this:
We agreed on his price of R$190 (cash) and he told me he would pick me up at 9 am the next day for our ride through Cunha, a small town on the São Paulo side of the border that separates the state from Rio De Janeiro.
Right on time, Raul arrived at my Pousada, cowboy boots and a pickup full of large stocks of grass. We headed to pick up the rest of the crew who would be riding that day, 3 backpackers from France who spoke decent English and no Portuguese, and continued up the same mountains that I had been up during my Jungle Adventure. 45 minutes farther up through the rainforest than I had been before we emerged at beautiful rolling hills that sprawled across the mountain-tops and into the town of Cunha.
Raul’s family has lived in Cunha for generations and he told us about Portugal’s colonization, the gold mining and end of mining’s effect on the area. Raul’s stories, his English good enough for myself and my fellow riders to understand, made the time pass quickly before pulling up to the gate that signified the beginning of his property.
Raul did not keep his horses locked up in a stable, they roamed over the acres of his property as, happy, free animals. As we slowly drove up the driveway Raul whistled out the window explaining that this was way of letting the horses know it was time to go out and ride.
After spending sometime introducing us to his horses, we brushed, saddled and ultimately jumped on our new companions for the afternoon. Raul gave us a quick course in how to control the giant animal that you are holding onto and before I had a chance to realize that I had no clue what I was doing, we were on our way. The primary lesson was to read and understand your horse; when the horse was scared he would react one-way as opposed to when he was feeling competitive, another. It was up to each rider to understand what the horse was trying to tell us and to adjust accordingly. It look a little bit but I started to get what he was talking about and I started to be able to react with my horse and not to him.
We trotted, galloped and raced for 2 hours enjoying the countryside that was dotted with small farms, animals, old buildings and beautiful floral all around us.
Raul took time to try and help each of us become better riders and he took the long way home so we could try out some more advanced riding techniques. For me that was the technique of getting my horse to go where I wanted him to go.
After the 2+ hours of riding I was tired, hungry and I can only assume my horse, Chemango, was tired too. I raced my horse back up the last hill, feeling more like a cowboy than ever and began the post-ride responsibilities. We removed the saddle, brushed the sweaty fur and cleaned the hooves of our new friends. After a quick goodbye they headed to cool down in the wood chip area that Raul had made for them.
We jumped back in Raul’s truck and we headed off for lunch at beautiful country cabin in the middle of a huge green ranch, Casa da Serra Restaurante do Gentil. The food was delicious and very fairly priced and I sure wasn’t expecting the best moqueca I had in Paraty. Everything about the place I enjoyed.
A quick stop at a waterfall that was right off the side of the road for a few pictures and that rapped up our day.
I was left feeling awesome from a great day. It is a unique experience from bonding with your horse and the challenge of working together while exploring an area completely different than the jungle or beach below. I am thankful for Raul and Chemango for such an incredible day.