My brief pause in blogging here has been due to two-week holiday in Costa Rica. (Note to self: I really should crack the art of setting up blogs and tweets for release while I’m away). I had a fabulous time in the rainforest – huge sloths (with long green hair) hanging from the trees, howler monkeys leaping on the roof every night (cute – but believe me the novelty wears off when you’re tired), brightly coloured frogs (poisonous, can be deadly, but hallucinogenic, I’m told – if you get the dose right though you’d need to be pretty foolhardy to try). Above all there were exotic birds. We even glimpsed the famed and rare Quetzal bird.
Whenever I go to another country, I’m always interested in the horses and how they are treated. I’ll never forget the shock of seeing underfed and badly treated horses and donkeys in Greece when I went there many years ago on a school trip. Happily the treatment of horses in most European countries has improved enormously (if only because their owners realised bad treatment upset the tourists and might jeopardise the income from them).
Developing countries are another matter though. Poverty and sheer ignorance sometimes lead to overwork and poor nutrition for horses, donkeys and mules, whether they pull farm equipment, carry loads or pull fancy pony traps for round-the-town tourist rides. I was very impressed with Costa Rica overall. They’ve been democratic for ages, abolished their army in 1948 and have an admirable programme of green and sustainable tourism and rainforest management. They do not seem to have many horses (probably just as well since they do have venomous snakes. I experienced one magical moment on an expedition in the depths of the rainforest though – suddenly, as I looked uphill, to my amazement I saw two beautiful white horses jumping over a fence. They’d stopped by the time we got the camera focused – but here they are.
Interestingly, the museum in the capital San Jose showed that there were horses back in the days of mammoths. I hadn’t realised there had been horses on the American continent before the Spanish conquistadors arrived but apparently there were (until they were hunted to extinction). Here too is a picture of some Costa Rican riding trail horses. You’ll see they don’t look neglected.