1. Horse riding in Spain

Here is story 1 of 3 short stories written by Eef, happy reading!

An unexpected turn of events

Part 1. Horse riding in Spain.

1975, Spain

Holiday. Camping with my family – wife and two little children – in an old bungalow tent that we
borrowed from a friend.

We had socialized with various camping neighbors, elderly people for the most part, who must
have been almost fifty. Nothing socializes as fast as a good barbecue with plenty of wine on a sultry

Our adjacent lady neighbor – Irene – had made it abundantly clear that she loved horse riding and
that in fact, she could present herself as an experienced equestrienne. She told us that nearby
someone was going to open a riding school next month.

The group acknowledged this information with a polite nod, as nobody intended to stay that long
or was planning such a ride anyway.

She continued however, that the school operator could be persuaded into a tour along the coast,
provided that several people – at least four – would participate.
Irene apparently was quite persuasive, as she succeeded to recruit three candidates, me being one
of them. She would arrange the trip for the next morning.

The riding school boss turned out to be Uwe, a German guy, quite a personality but pleasant
enough nonetheless.

“Do you have any experience with horses,” was Uwe’s logical question and my honest answer was
“None. I haven’t been in the proximity of horses ever.”
“That’s ok,” he said. “I will give you a calm horse, a mare. She won’t surprise you with funny
actions on her side.
He gave me several further instructions, all of which I have forgotten over time, but that particular
day I followed them to the letter.

It turned out to be a fantastic trip. It took me a while to figure out how to cope with the rhythm of
the steps but after that, I could have fallen asleep.
Being at the last position of the procession I had no trouble following. I had the reins in my hands,
but my horse stoically ignored all my steering commands, she just followed the horses before us.
For more than two hours the horses walked along the coast, sometimes near the water, and then
steep uphill on narrow paths on which they had to carefully place their hooves to avoid slipping.
On top of the hills, we had dazzling views of landscape, coastline, and sea. Breathtaking indeed!

In the last ten minutes of the tour, Uwe made the horses trot in light gallop and I had to find my
balance all over again. And again I managed on my not too jumpy horse.

“Are you all up for another trip tomorrow?” Uwe asked. “That is the last opportunity, after that, I
will be busy with preparations for the opening of Uwe’s Manege.”
Of course, we were. Next morning, same time. One of the men mentioned that he would like to
bring his 11-year-old son Erik along. “He will love this as much as I do.”

No problem with the boss, but I thought differently. I am fond of children and I like to have them
around but this Erik was the exception. An annoying, over-spoiled, whiny kid he was.
The next morning we were back. I expected to mount my dear docile horse again, but Uwe’s helper
had another animal ready for me. I tried to make him understand that this wasn’t my horse, but
the man answered in Spanish, for me an incomprehensible gibberish. Uwe interrupted and told me
that my mare died overnight.

That made a deep impression on me. I did not have noticed any peculiar struggle from my horse
yesterday but apparently, I had been riding a dying horse and today they prevented me from the
proverbial ‘pulling on a dead horse’.

“Your new mount is called Mercedes, and he is quite someone, a real leader, but I have no other
horse left,” Uwe told me. “Still, don’t be afraid, I will ride Fury, an even bigger stallion, one that
Mercedes dutifully will acknowledge as the leader. And I need to take Fury out today since I am
halfway through training him, and he needs another lesson in obedience. Which I will give him
today. Fury should be ready next month at the opening time of my riding school.”

So off we went, and indeed Mercedes followed. Second to Fury since he did not agree to a lower

Mercedes was anything but docile. He behaved nervously with an irregular step pattern all the
time. Uwe told me later that a horse knows perfectly well when the rider isn’t really in control.
Anyway, I could cope with the situation not in the least because Uwe held the step rhythm slow.
Fury led, Mercedes and the rest followed.

As I expected, Erik whined and complained endlessly until finally stopped by Uwe. “Quiet boy,” he
said. “You’re upsetting the horses and that makes them want to bite you with their big teeth.” That
worked: no more whining.

We were about halfway when we came to a crosswalk of a stream. Fury was supposed to step into
the water, and the other horses would follow. But the horse refused this, obviously afraid of
running water. Uwe dismounted and tried to pull the stallion towards the stream. Fury resisted.
Then he kicked the horse and kicked twice really hard. Fury resisted.

“This is gonna get ugly,” Uwe said to us. “I have to overpower him now, or else he does not accept
me as the one in control. But I don’t want you people to witness this, so you’ll have to ride back
without me.” And then he approached me and said: “Since Mercedes is the only leader horse,
you’re the one in charge now.”

“But I don’t even know my way around here,” I cried desperately. “You don’t need to,” Uwe
answered. “Mercedes knows, and he will go straight back to the School. The rest will follow.
Besides, when I am quickly done with Fury, I will come after you.”

I hoped for a second that Irene with all her riding experience would come forward to claim that
she was in charge, but she remained silent.

So here I was: on my second day on horseback. Now supposed to be acting as leader of the group.
A totally inexperienced leader, even the word ‘rookie’ was overly optimistic in this scene.
Uwe gave Mercedes a little slap on the buttock, and off we went. Through the stream towards the
path on the other side. The horse immediately went into a gallop, and of course, so did the other

Erik started to shout louder and louder that he was going to fall, and I managed by cautiously
pulling the reins to make Mercedes go over in a trot. I tried to get him into a walk but no such luck.
Trot it was, with an inclination towards gallop.
At some point, Mercedes couldn’t be held back any further, and he was off again in a gallop. This
caused a loud screaming from Erik, a roaring even, the sound of which stayed behind.
Stayed behind? That could only mean that he now actually had fallen from his horse. Pulling the
reins very tight seemed to me the only way to stop Mercedes on the spot. And that is exactly what
the stallion did by rearing up.

I don’t know how I managed to stay in the saddle, but I did. I kept the reins tight and to my
surprise, the horse kept at his position. He was clearly impressed by my determination to stay on
his back despite the prancing. That gave me at least some control.

Meanwhile, Erik could climb back on his little horse, and I released the reins somewhat. Now at a
walking pace, we took care of the remaining distance, and with an air of triumph, we entered the
riding school area.

“Where is Uwe and his horse?” were the obvious surprised questions. “Well, he couldn’t keep up
the pace, so we left him behind,” was our answer.

A year later, we returned to the same camping in Spain. I walked to the location of the riding
school and arrived at a vacant lot. No Manege, no Uwe, no horses.
Can’t say I was surprised, given the way he treated his animals.


Eef, 2023-05