Göreme, Turkey: Adventure Time!

We had a full day in Göreme before our ride to the airport in the evening, and it was also the first time we had blue skies. We were going over possible activities, and decided that horseback riding was the cheap, and enjoyable by everyone in the group. Fred was feeling sick, so he stayed behind, but me, Jeff and Bev all got ready to go. We were doing a one hour trail ride, at a farm nearby that our hotel had a brochure for. I love horseback riding, I used to help train horse when I was 13 to 18 at a rescue farm for neglected and abused horses. I was a good rider, and I miss riding, so even a walking guided trail ride is special to me.
We show up at the farm and it looks poor (financially), but the stalls are clean and the horses look fed, so I don’t think it was some sort of exploitive-border-line-animal-cruelty-tourist trap. The guide asks our riding experience and he puts us on horses, though I’m not convinced our riding experience had much to do with which horses we were going to ride. I was on a black horse named Yildiz, which in Turkish means Stars.
Yildiz
Our trail ride went pretty well. We were taken on a hiking trail that wove through the valley surrounding us with rock walls that with the sun we could finally see were rich with colors. There were reds, blues, and yellows, all painted on the textured face of the walls that was highlighted from the shadows. I was in the back of the group, and while I was told that Yildiz could be sensitive, but she was a sweetheart.
When we started heading back to the farm, the horses got noticeably a little more rowdy, which is normal. Horses like working about as much as humans do, and would much prefer grazing in the field than going on a trail ride. It was on the last stretch of the trail, when the farm was in sight but in the distance, that things got a little funny. Next to the farm was a large open field, and in the 45 minutes since we had left, there were two hot air balloons filling up with air in the field, along the trail that we had to ride on to get back to the farm. I figured that the horses must be used to them, so I just tried to enjoy the last bit of our riding, and to try and take pictures with my big nikon camera, which is around my neck.
As we get closer to the hot air balloons, I notice that Yildiz is a bit more on alert than she had been before. When the hot air balloons turn on the big flame that fills the balloon with hot air, it makes a loud whiiirrrrrr sound. It actually sounds kind of like a fire extinguisher going off, but a little louder. Like I said, I assumed the horses would be used to the noise, as well as seeing the meter long jet of flames that come from the engine-thing. Yildiz is still walking, alert but not overreacting, but Bev’s horse isn’t containing its fear so well. I see Bev struggle to keep her horse calm, and so does our guide. He starts yelling at the hot air balloon people, I’m assuming to tell them to knock it off, which I think freaks Bev’s horse out more. Bev is trying to keep her horse calm, pulling back on the reins, which makes her horse walk backwards, and then the horse starts to do a tight circle. I saw Bev leaning to the side of her saddle, like she was going to get off the horse, so I move up off the road to get out of the way (remember, I’m in the back behind everyone).
I’m now parallel with Jeff and we have this conversation:
Jeff: Hey, you okay?
Me: Yea, but your mom fell off.
Jeff: Bev fell off?
Me: Yea
Jeff: She okay?
Me: I think so…
This talk takes about 10 seconds and then we see Bev’s horse bolting down the road towards the farm. Now I’d like to say this is where my 5 years of riding came back to me, and that I expertly controlled my horse and sat in the saddle, hands on the reins, while we finished our trip to the barn. But I didn’t.
I saw Bev’s horse take off and I thought to myself, “oh, I know where this is going,” and I reached down and grab the saddle with both hands. I didn’t let go of the reins, but I did try to control them much either. Our horses (Jeff and I) took off at a full gallop in a race to get away from the fire-breathing-weird-noise-creature, galloping after Bev’s horse, sprinting the last 400m to the barn. I held on the saddle, hearing the loud BANG BANG BANG that was the sound of my camera hitting it with every hoof-fall, thinking, “I hope the body of the camera doesn’t break… just the lens would be cheaper.” I see the turn coming up, the turn that leads into the farm, and I know that if I can hold on through the turn, that I’ll be able to control the reins after that. I hold on tighter, brace myself, and just stare at the saddle and my hands, willing them to keep there connection. I’m past Bev’s horse, by the way, if there was going to be mayhem, Yildiz was set on winning it.
The whole crew, pre-danger. Bev’s horse was named Asya, which means Asia.
I held on through the turn, and let go of the saddle to pull back on the reins to get the horse to stop. I was beat to the punch though because we were more or less at the farm. The horse slowed down mostly on her own, and people were already there on the road ready to help me stop the horse. I dismounted the horse and looked behind me to find Jeff. I figured that Jeff would of fallen down long ago, because I knew that his horse would of galloped after Bev’s and mine. I look behind me and see Jeff casually trotting up the road behind us, on his horse mind you, like it was no big deal. Apparently once the other two others got to the farm, his horse slowed down, because, you know, there was nothing to win anymore. His feet even slipped out of the stirrups and he managed to stay on the horse! Jeff actually did better than me, because he was actively trying to slow his horse the whole time. I am still very proud.
Jeff and his horse, Mavi. This means blue in Turkish.
Bev was fine, some bruising, but overall, no big deal. The ranch owners didn’t really know what to do. Everyone was okay, but they knew that the odds of that outcome had been low. One said to me that the horse Bev was on was only 3 years old. Three years old is extremely young for a horse, no one in their right mind would put a beginner rider or any rider they don’t know personally, on a 3 year old horse. Trail horses for tourism are the old cranky horses that would rather be eaten than to break into a trot. While the ranch definitely crossed into the realm of dangerous, everything ended up okay. I don’t think I had ever been on a galloping horse before, so I guess I can cross that off the bucket list.

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