Country #10 – Morocco: Wayward Musketeer or a Horse is Still a Horse in Casablanca

Casablanca – finally my childhood dream to ride on a beach came true, but not without a twist.

I visited Morocco on a business trip, but in one of the evenings colleagues took me to “Ferme Equestre Ould Jmel”, a small horse riding school not far away from the office.

Well, despite it being a dream come true, it was probably the most embarrassing horse riding experience in my collection. I was even thinking of skipping the most embarrassing parts of it while telling the story, but hey… I’m only human and I can, and will, mess up sometimes. :-)

First of all, as you probably already know, I speak neither French nor Arabic, so I absolutely had to be accompanied by native speakers or there would have been no chance of me negotiating the riding conditions.

Luckily, all was organized in advance and I got a very nice looking flaxen chestnut Aramis, which, as I learned just few minutes later, was absolutely not in the mood to visit a beach at 7 PM. Yes, horses cannot talk, but they don’t have to… They communicate explicitly with their actions.

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In Morocco they mount from the right side of the horse, so I already felt a bit unconfident from the moment I placed myself in the saddle. Then Aramis went to drink without my permission, and encouraged by my lack of kicking and pulling (my Bahrain instructor’s perseverance to make all my moves more gentle finally worked) Aramis made a short but exciting trip back to his stable.

And he actually stepped inside with me sitting on him, unsuccessfully trying get him out of there by using gentle reins and lower leg squeezes which work perfectly with my own horse. All in front of my colleagues, whom I’d told that I had a horse and have been riding for over 2 years now.

To end my pathetic attempts to move Aramis out, a groom took the reins and pulled the reluctant horse out of his stable. My colleague translated the groom’s instructions to me: I should have literally kicked Aramis hard to get some cooperation from his side. Horses at the school are not used to gentle squeezes of the lower leg. And, as I saw later, having horses on a bit is not considered a necessary part of horse riding here. (Just look at traditional Moroccan riders.)

And now at annual Tbourida (Fantasia) show www.ma-roc.com

… and now at annual Tbourida (Fantasia) show. Picture taken from http://www.ma-roc.com

Anyways, finally, after a few trot and canter rounds in the school arena, we managed to find some kind of compromise. I felt extremely embarrassed, but in the habit of searching for something good even in bad situations, after that ride I came up with some important equine traveller rules:

1) Never tell anybody that you are a good/experienced rider. Even if some horses can easily do flying changes and jump 1.20m, for you there will always be the naughty one which you cannot get out of the box.

2) Never assume that you learned how to ride the most effective way. What works well with a polo-pony is a terrible mistake in dressage. What is fine on well-schooled Andalusian stallions will be seen as an inability to manage the horse by Moroccan riders. So pretend you know nothing about riding and learn from local riders and local horses.

3) It is perfectly normal to have getting-used-to-each-other time with horses – the same way you need some time to get accustomed to a new car – you have to spend some time with every new horse to tune in.

4) And last but not least: Checking the settings on your camera before every trip is a MUST :-) – otherwise you risk having your best stories supported by 20 by 15 pixels photos.

I drew up a few more rules later on, and (confession) I broke them too many times, especially the last one…

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But no matter what, galloping on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean at sunset made up for all the miseries of the day. It was worth all the embarrassment and bitter lessons.

Despite the fact that me and my guide didn’t have a common language to speak, I found it surprisingly easy to communicate about horses.

The ride was exciting: we saw a sea turtle and were chased by stray dogs; raced along the ocean, dousing each other with seawater and cantered up and down the bush covered hills.

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Maybe all riders speak some kind of international horse-related language in addition to their mother tongues? :-)

Useful links:

Official site of Ferme Equestre Ould Jmelhttp://apolline-lr-equitation.blogspot.com/?view=mosaic

And Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ferme-Equestre-Ould-Jmel/302806386402786?fref=ts

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