Today was my second excursion to the campo (countryside). The owners of our language school (Margo and Roberto) own an estancia with many horses in the country. Their gaucho, Ricardo, lives there with his family, and manages the estancia.  A bunch of us from the school went to the farm to go riding, and get a glimpse of country living. It was wonderful.Uruguay is a semi-arid grassland of rolling hills and temperate climate. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year. It can get pretty hot here for about 4-6 weeks in the summer, but it never snows or gets below freezing. No hurricanes, tornados, nor’easters, typhoons … no volcanoes.  A temperate place of temperate people.

We each had a horse suited to our ability and skill level. But honestly, all of the animals are lovely and well trained. We took a two hour leisurely ride, herding dogs along for the whole time, and understanding what was going on way more than we did. We passed a Eucalyptus forest that had been clear-cut harvested for pulp (to make paper). The interesting thing is that the tree will sprout again from the base, to be cut again another day – without the need to replant.
After the ride, Margo had prepared refreshments for us – water, mate, pastries and wine spritzers. It all tasted so wonderful. We were really hot and thirsty.

What we did not expect was to be witness to the mating of Rebecca’s mare and stallion. The mare had never foaled, and these two horses were a great match (in terms of lineage, age, etc.). We witnessed the mating ritual, which was surprisingly tender and gentle. I felt like a voyeur in the bedroom of a newly-wed couple, but when the estancia family members started snapping pictures, well we all did too.
 The process began with the two horses being tied to poles at opposite ends of the barnyard. Rebecca was with the mare (black horse) and Ricardo handled the stallion (brown horse). They were allowed a few minutes to “eye each other up.”  Next, Roberto walked the stallion to the mare for a closer inspection. The mare stood very still, but alert. The stallion layed his neck across hers, and paused there for a minute. He nuzzled her and gently nipped her on her neck and flanks. Then, the stallion went to inspect the business end of the deal, and was very happy with what he found – he literally threw his head back and laughed gleefully. The mare still stood quietly. I wondered what was going through her head – excited anticipation? Can we please just get this over…
Roberto and Rebecca assisted during the mounting and mating to make sure the mare wasn’t hurt, but everything went off easily – so to speak. When the mating was completed, Ricardo walked the stallion back to his station – he was he was very quiet – obviously “done in.”

We were joking in Spanish that the stallion was ready for a brandy and cigarette …
Make that two for the mare:)
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