On October 4, 2014 I headed out with my friend Holly and her two ranch hands, Mario and Rodo, from her place in Banda—20 minutes by car outside of San Miguel proper—out in the wide-open space of the desert highlands of Guanajuato, where when you turn off the main road to the bumpy dirt one, you are able to exhale, look around, take it all in, and thank your lucky stars that you are living a life of abundance, adventure and freedom…a life outside the box.
We saddled up for The Blessing of The Horses Ride, an annual event here in San Miguel de Allende, where we rode the trails and sometimes no trails at all, meeting up with other groups of riders along the way to El Jardín, the town center.
About an hour or so into the ride, although I really can’t say for sure as it seems like time stands still when I am atop horseback, we made it to the train tracks on the outside of town. I was so mesmerized by the totality of the experience and enjoying my conversations with the other riders, that I didn’t notice the low-lying tree branch that took my cowgirl hat right off and brought it to the ground. Fortunately it missed the mud, and even better than that the spiky branch spared my face. Thank goodness for the protection of the hat and thank you Rodo for being a true cowboy and retrieving it for me!
Upon rounding the corner of the tracks, I was in awe at the site of hundreds and hundreds of riders that had all come together, some from pueblos far away, to meet at the base of town and make our way in groups of two’s and three’s up Canal Street and into the main plaza at the foot of The Parroquía.
Holly and I were two of a very small handful of female riders. The pride and joy I felt no doubt radiated from my face—I was ear-to-ear smiles and my cheeks actually hurt by the day’s end! My Grandpa Joe would have been so proud to see me out there in Central Mexico, atop an extraordinary, prancing, black Friesian horse, riding into a 16th-century colonial town with hundreds of cowboys!
My Grandfather on my Dad’s side was the Chief of the San Diego/Tijuana Border Patrol in the 1940’s and I used to love to listen to his stories of days down by the border, on our family’s ranch in Chula Vista, herding cattle and training horses. I fondly remember him spending hours with me at the barn where I rode and together we would enjoy that certain zen that comes from a day in the sun and dust, working with the horses. He was one of my biggest fans, and I his, and together we shared a mutual love of horses—of their strength, intelligence, finesse and beauty.
Right after the picture below was taken, we got a 20-minute downpour which just added another little element of adventure to the ride. Within moments of the first drops, all of the horses did a 180-degree turn so as to put their hindquarters to the rain and shelter their faces as much as possible. Quite a site amongst so many horses!
One of the more senior cowboys had the designated job of charging up and down the cobblestone street shouting, “Viva Jesus Cristo, Viva Santo San Martin!”. The parade officially commenced and in groups of two and three, we made our way up to the Jardín, passing by many waving, smiling spectators to the base of The Parroquía where a full Catholic mass took place to bless the horses and their riders…moving and unforgettable, to say the least.
El Centro was filled with flower-adorned arches and papel picado strung from building to building. Riding through this tunnel of color, celebration and tradition was an honor for this 45-year-old gringa!
We arrived at The Parroquía and a full mass was in progress to bless the horses and their riders.
There are times, moments and experiences in one’s life that have the power to change who you are—to impact you in such a profound way that you see the world around you differently, with more depth and varied perspectives. This was one of those times for me.
The looks, smiles and waves from the spectators, old and young, male and female alike was priceless. I would imagine it’s not a common occurrence to see the likes of somebody like me on top of a horse like Guerrero, riding through their historic, colonial town during their annual Blessing of The Horses.
Thank you Guerrero, The Gentle Giant, for being my grand, majestic, safe companion and guide for the day…Thank you Holly for the invitation…Thank you Mario and Rodo for your protection and navigation along the ride…an experience and a day I will never ever forget!
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