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This is how the wish for my first tope started. Your Costa Rican guide books and online resources probably define a “tope” like a horse parade. Using a very liberal interpretation after my first experience with one, that’s as accurate a description as I can give.
Every town of any size in the Central Valley and even towns in the coastal areas hold this annual event. Before February 8th, I’d never been to one. I had only seen photos and a TV clip of the big one in San Jose.
First, I need to make my way back to my pre-teen and early teen years. But I promise to tie it all together before I’m done. Probably, just like every American boy (and likely many girls) in the ’50s and early ’60s, I wanted to be a cowboy. I carried it to an extreme, however, and became obsessed with horses.
I owned books on horses, went to the library to check out books about horses, watched movies about horses, attended a rodeo or two, and even sat on fences just to stare at horses out to pasture.
12 Year Old
At the same time, this twelve-year-old was a bit of a spendthrift. My allowance always disappeared on candy and cheap toys. Marry this love of anything “horsey” with my inability to save. My parents came up with the great idea to offer to buy me a horse if I could save $100 in one summer. In 1960, $100 was a fairly sizable sum. But the offer and my “horse love” motivated me to start a lawn-mowing enterprise. I was able to save the entire sum and then some in just two months. I gave my parents the money and asked, “Where’s my horse?”
Unfortunately, they were not prepared to make good on their promise and I ultimately wound up using the money to buy a Schwinn Continental 10-speed bike. As a consolation, however, my brother and I received about six months of western saddle horseback riding lessons, which only heightened my desire to own a horse. Horse ownership never happened for me, but my enduring fondness for anything equestrian remained.
Back to Costa Rica: my wife and I are committed when moving to Costa Rica, to making a sincere effort to integrate and become good and active residents in our new community. In addition, we love to entertain. With our home improvement efforts mostly behind us, we invited our Costa Rican neighbors. We share a “living fence” of Caña India along our property lines with them. We planned a get-acquainted American-Tico dinner along with Spanish-speaking American friends with similar professional backgrounds to our neighbors. That way, we could enliven the conversation and do a little interpretation on our behalf.
Like many residential addresses in Costa Rica, our neighbors’ little enclave houses three generations of their family.
However, unlike many residential addresses, it also comprises 24 hectares (about 58 acres) mostly of coffee but also houses three generations of black stallions and one Andalusian stallion that my neighbor imported from Spain—five steeds in all.
Love of Horses
We had dinner on our recently completed terrace, which I am delighted to add, turned out to be the perfect place to entertain. The conversation soon turned to horses. My love of horses and my horse history was recounted. I’m not certain whether it was too much wine or a sincere effort at friendship, but my neighbor insisted that I ride with him on my first tope.
He was inviting me to ride in his five-horse team in the community’s tope coming in less than two months. I thought, “is he joking,” but I hoped this was a real invitation and not just idle dinner conversation because for me it was like hearing I’d just won the lottery.
He said I should start practicing for my first tope in his small arena behind his corral after Christmas. We even got into some detail when he told me there was a team uniform. This uniform included a black cowboy hat, white dress shirt, black jeans, western belt and buckle, and a pair of black boots. However, no further details about my participation were mentioned. The dinner conversation switched gears to other topics. And a bit later in the evening, we said goodnight to all of our guests.
Two days later I’m working in my yard. My neighbor’s brother parts the leaves of our living fence and says, “my brother would like for you to come and start practicing for the tope. Let’s do this on the first Tuesday after Christmas.” Joy and fear encompassed me simultaneously. The joy at the prospect of actually riding a horse again. And the fear in the realization that I hadn’t ridden a horse in over fifty years. Honestly, the most positive thought I could muster was the hope that horses are like bicycles—you never forget how to ride one.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.
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