Posters appeared around town ... La Horqueta (pitchfork in Spanish), a local group of horse(wo)men were organising a rodeo: La Fiesta Entre Dos Cerros. For once, we were in the right place!
We cycled the five kilometres out to the Piriapolis castillo (castle) and as we approached we could hear the loudspeakers.
The rodeo involved young men riding semi wild horses. The first heat was on a simplified saddle, the second was bareback and the third, on a strange set up with large round wooden stirrups. We guessed it could be a type of saddle used a couple of centuries ago. All against a sound backdrop of advertisements for the sponsors read out over the loudhailer and a guy with a guitar howling nostalgic romances about Uruguayans arriving by sailing boat.
The events were delayed a while until the ambulance arrived.
The horses were led in and tethered to the post, they were blindfolded to calm them down while they were saddled. The rider would then be given a leg up onto the horse, the blindfold removed and ... rodeo!
At the end of each heat, La Horqueta's mascot rode round on her large horse. They learn to ride young here.
Between heats there was time to gossip with mates, check out the stalls selling riding gear of all descriptions, buy half a roasted cow or a churro stuffed with the compulsory 'dulce de leche' (toffee eaten for breakfast, and added to snacks, puddings, ice-cream, meringues, and everything sweet).
The second heat was ridden bareback. The riders didn't have to stay on very long ... only five seconds. It must have felt like an eternity.
Some of the horses were keen to get going before the riders were ready.
We didn't think this guy would stay on much longer, but somehow he managed to recover.
... Until his horse fell on top of him.
He was lucky to walk away unscathed. Another rider wasn't so lucky. When the assistants removed the horse's blindfold, the horse just rolled over backwards trapping the rider and his fag (he was still smoking!) underneath. The horse ran away but the rider lay writhing on the ground. The 'first-aiders' dashed up to him and removed his boots ... they wriggled his neck around, got the stretched out of the ambulance, plonked him on top, gave him some strong whisky to drink and fanned him with their hats. Eventually they drove him to hospital. Clearly Uruguayos belong to the Nietzschean "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" school of first aid.
When I said that they start riding young, I really meant it!
At the end of the five seconds, the rider is grabbed from the bucking bronco by horsemen riding in parallel. They lower him to the ground while still at full gallop. Anything is better than falling off.
The horsemanship was impressive. We did feel sorry for the horses, they didn't like being tied to the post and fought hard. Luckily none were injured and their ordeal lasted five seconds, after which they returned to the herd.
Did I mention that they start riding young here?
A fun day out, finished in style with a refreshing Ice Coffee back in town, a world away.
Franco in heaven