TicoNuevo dodging obstacles at the horse parade
A little-known fact for novice “topegoers”: you can actually rent a horse and join the riders in most Costa Rican topes. We had this offering at our parade and some of the renters, to be delicate, “detracted somewhat” from the aura surrounding my vision of participating in a horse parade.
Some topes have also gotten a bit of a bad reputation for public drunkenness among both “topegoers” and riding participants—a few of them were from the horse rental crowd, I’m sure—thankfully there was very little blatant insobriety.
However, I had been warned to watch out for obstacles: other horses that were not as well-mannered as Bronco, potholes and obstructions that your mount might stumble into or onto. I was to also keep my distance from one of the other horses on our team, Junior (Bronco’s grandson) as the two did not get along. (I guess family squabbles are even present in the horse community.)
There was a bit of a challenge in keeping my distance from Junior as this was the first time I’d ridden with this team: the first time in 50 years that I’d ridden with other horses; and the first time ever on a public street crowded with people.
Early in our ride in the parade, we went from a team of five riders to four. The Andalusian stallion, Imprudente, had been suffering from a hoof infection for about a month and had not been ridden for more than about ten minutes in all of that time. Add to that the fact that his rider, one of the brothers, hadn’t really ridden Imprudente for more than those ten minutes. It was a bad combination, a great deal horse with a lot of pent up energy and an unfamiliar rider. At one point, I thought horse and rider were going to go backwards together over a parked car. Discretion being the better part of valor, not wanting to risk serious injury or embarrassment, the brother dismounted and walked the stallion the three kilometers back to the stable.
You can actually rent a horse and join the riders in most Costa Rican topes
We filled ranks and at the first major corner, my team went into its synchronized routine and since I hadn’t practiced with them, I did my best to “fake it” or just stay out of the way and appear as if that was what I was supposed to be doing. However, I did have a few friends planted in the crowd of “topegoers” and rode over to shake hands when they called out my name. I have to admit, it was great fun and just a bit heady.
As we arrived at the grandstand for our second pass, this time actually in the tope and from the correct direction, two of the team turned to oppose each other. With their horses face-to-face, they sidestepped their way across the reviewing area and again I did my best to “fake it” and stay out of their way while trying to appear that that was my role. As we finished, the announcer held a microphone up to each of us and asked for our names. When it came to my turn, I was asked and responded with my very un-Tico name and was asked again. I repeated it and blurted out after, “gringo”. This pretty much explained it all and also elicited quite a bit of laughter as the announcer repeated it again and I, then, rode happily into the sunset.
A Costa Rican-style hometown rodeo
Footnote 1: Either my neighbor is desperate for team members or I must have done alright in my tope debut as I have been asked to join them in one of the last topes of the summer in San Ramon. This Saturday I am to return to the arena where my neighbor wants teach me how to get Bronco to do his tricks, which he says will entertain the crowd in San Ramon’s tope. Finally, I get a lesson.
Footnote 2: Combined with their annual topes, most communities celebrate with a Costa Rican-style hometown rodeo (that may include throwing pretty girls into the ring with lots of guys to do a mock bullfight with a real, but juvenile bull), a carnival, food vendors, other events and fireworks on the last night. The community festivities often last for week to ten days, and, perhaps, add other events. In my town this year, there was advertised an antique auto parade (with marching bands) that was attached to the celebration.
There were two traditional local high-school bands
Footnote 3: I was excited to go to view the “antique auto parade” (with marching bands) as I’ve seen very, very few vintage autos since arriving here. The Saturday following the tope we attended the parade with friends. True to form, the poster said it was to start at 5:00PM, and it started very promptly—at 6:00PM. The total antique auto contingent, which leads off the parade, consisted of one vintage Mercedes Benz coupe nicely converted to a pickup truck, one Volkswagen of about 1962 vintage, a restored WWII troupe carrier, and a motorcycle gang, but there were plenty of marching bands. In front, there were two traditional local high-school bands similar to those that march in parades in the States followed by Latin marching bands.
The favored instruments in virtually every Latin band that night were: stainless steel “stein-like” instruments rubbed with a stick; glockenspiels; trumpets; and drums—lots and lots of drums. Their beat and their steps were very Latin and very catchy, but after the first fifteen Latin bands and about 1,000 drums, we called it a night and headed home.
The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and 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.