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Date: 01 Sep 2017 03:49:00
Title: A hard landing

Our 'Workaway' hosts, Anja and Santiago both seemed very lovely people. Anja is from Germany and fell in love with Peru some years ago. Santiago's family is from the area but he has spent thirty-five years of his life in Italy. Together they are managing a hostel and some kind of horse riding venture, though they don't quite seem to know what, and neither do they agree with each other.

Anja showed us around and we met Debora. She is Brazilian but living in Ireland, and here, like us, as a volunteer. She taught us the routine with the horses and introduced us to Louisa who is employed to look after the horses. 

The volunteers’ lounge

The volunteers’ kitchen

Our room is in the old family home which has seen better times. Everything is held together with bits of wire or string. Screws seem to be unknown in this corner of Peru and rusty nails appear to be the most advanced technology. We can't make up our minds whether Anja and Santiago's business is in the early development stage, or going to the dogs. 

The pretty yard which once upon a time must have been rather grand

The stairs up to our room

There are five horses based here at the house; Valiente the stallion, Venus the moody mare that will give you a good kick and a bite if given half the chance, Luba her sweet foal, Venere the gentle, who doesn't like being left behind and Capuccina who hates all the other horses but is as good as gold with humans.

The horses eating breakfast at the house

Anja explained her philosophy: horses the world over have suffered too much at the hand of man, so here it will be different, here the horses decide what they want to do. There are no bits, no saddles and no stirrups.

"Hmmm..." I thought.

Our street with Santiago’s old Ford

For the first two days, we took the horses to graze in a field up the lane and then back to the house for the night. It is early spring and there has been no rain for several months so the land is parched, desiccated by the high altitude sun and the drying wind that sweeps across the altiplano. The grass was running out, it was time to move them to a different pasture. 

Franco, Anja, Louisa and I erected an electric fence in Chojo-Chojo, just down from the village, near the road and the next day we rode the horses down. Instead of a saddle, we used a thick purpose made 'blanket', the reins controlled two straps that slide under the chin of the horse instead of a lump of metal in the mouth, a clever system but mounting was awkward without stirrups. Franco rode Valiente and all went well until they reached the entrance to the field and Valiente, excited at the sight of the new pasture, picked up speed and bumped Franco off into the wet ditch - no harm done. 

Debora and I dismounted and started to lead our horses towards the stream for them to drink. Suddenly, there was Valiente running past us without Franco. I turned to look and he was lying very still on the ground. I let go of Venus and ran to him, he was unconscious but breathing. I put him in the recovery position and he started to come to. His first words were:

"I'm fine," giving me a look that meant "stop fussing".

Franco had decided to get back onto Valiente. Without stirrups, this involved leaping onto the poor stallion who decided enough was enough and bucked. Somehow in his fall, Franco must have banged his head on the ground.

Valiente 2 - Franco 0

The hours passed by and luckily Franco didn't develop any concussion symptoms.

Santiago was planning to go to Pacollo where he and his brother own land and keep horses and cattle. He was going to build a structure to shelter the horses and thought we might be able to help. Early afternoon we set off in his old Ford pick-up truck, it is too old and decrepit to pass an MOT so we had to go the back road to avoid the police.

The Inca on the road out of Chicuito



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