So, for example, once the 16 stalls were all completed, including automatic water dispensers, we needed to add hay racks for placing cut grasses from the farm, and feed boxes for purchased feed. Jose, our carpenter made a prototype hay rack, and then, with Lauren's leadership and suggestions from Efrain, Roger, Miguel and Estaban we modified the design. And, what an incredible design ... that minimizes the amount of wood needed. Likewise for the feed boxes. So, with the new design, Jose used freshly cut wood from a large Choncho Blanco tree that had been hit by lightening. Jose did the sawing of the tree onsite in the field, and we carried the pieces of wood to the horse stables.
Besides the "finish", the entire operation and maintenance of the horses has changed since they moved into stalls. Placing sawdust on the ground in the horse stalls and cleaning ("mucking") the horse manure is also generating big piles of compost that we will be using in the gardens when it is ready. In addition, we are cutting improved pasture grasses from our macadamia farm, about 2 km up the mountain, and bringing it down to the stablo with our new car-drawn wagon. We are fixing up a wagon for our work oxen that might also be an option for the future.
There is a lot of work to operate and maintain the new Equestrian Center at Finca Rio Perla, but the results to date are literally AMAZING. The horses look better than ever, and getting horses ready for riding and then for taking off the saddles and other riding equipment (including riding helmets) and placing back in the nearby storage sheds is so much easier. Plus, the wash racks are right next to the stable and this makes grooming horses before and after rides much easier. This is a great way for visitors to have a hands-on experience with the horses that they are riding.
Also, one of the most thrilling sights to see is the end of the day round-up of the horses to come back to the stable as they run as a herd with Volcan Turrialba smoking in the background. This is real Pura Vida.
Lauren has been studying the herd's social dynamics, and this too is an amazing aspect of having a "horse community". Like people, there is a social hierarchy and interesting inter-horse dynamics. We are really lucky to have a friendly and social herd of horses, and of course this helps make riding in groups such a pleasure. Our younger horses too, are more and more approachable in the stalls, and this increases the bonds between our horses and us.
With all of these improvements with the horses, the horseback riding experience is even better and better. We have 2 major rides designed for visitors (and of course ourselves), and also several specially designed options for experienced riders. For inexperienced riders, they quickly become more experienced after some instruction and practice in our horse arena.
Ride #1 is up the mountain as far as the trail goes, which is above the macadamia farm. The views are incredible and the air gets cooler and cooler as you ride from 450 meters at the horse stable to about 650 - 750 meters at the macadamia farm, and close to 900 meters at the top. Then, coming back down the mountian we dismount and hike through the macadamia farm to 2 different waterfalls and go swimmig in the pools. Ride #2 is a ride through local villages to a neighboring farm that makes organic ice cream and yoghurts. Yum yum. The ride through the countryside is really colorful and peaceful. Both of these rides take about 2 - 3 hours (or more).
Anyway, that seems to be enough for the moment, lots more to talk about. Pura Vida, Dr. Paulo