Dahana Ranch · Waimea, Island of Hawaii, HI 96743
Someone once said to me, if you want to learn what kind of person you are, get on the back of a horse.
At the beginning of 2013, my boyfriend had a particularly rough start to his year. A friend recommended that he build his confidence, take charge of his life and go ride a horse. Neither he, nor I, had ever ridden a horse before, but we had always wanted to… one day.
Flash forward to nine months later at Dahana Ranch in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii.
As I was climbing on top of a pretty grey horse called Heffalump, I looked around at the serene countryside all around me, and that conversation from earlier in the year suddenly came back to my memory. I hadn’t planned to be horseback riding in Hawaii. It just sort of happened. Funny how things work out, isn’t it?
Horses are incredibly smart animals and can sense what kind of person you are, and thus, what kind of rider you will be. Are you reactive or proactive? Once you get on their back, they test you and try to literally, “take the reigns” from you. They want to see if you will harness the control or let them walk all over you. If you are a pushover, they will do whatever they want. If you are an asshole, they can sense that too, and will probably throw you off. You can’t be fake to a horse – they will see right through you.
We were told by our guide to make sure to let the horse know that we, their rider, was in control. Stop, go, turn, gallop – it’s up to us, not them. Also, she said “don’t let them eat the grass.”
Oh, uhh… excuse me, Mr. Horse… Can you stop eating please?”
I must have gotten the foodie horse because he liked to snack on the grass a lot while we were out on the range.
It was my fault though, I felt bad telling him no. It’s okay Heffalump, I said, “I too like to eat.”
Out on the open range, this 1.5-hour ride on the green foot hills of Mauna Kea was probably the most relaxed, meditative experience of my entire 12 day Hawaii excursion. I had gone to the island for the food, but there was something so calming and magical about being out in the open pasture. Totally present, without a care in the world – I could have hung out with that horse all day. We were roaming free.
Look up to a beautiful clear sky… Mountains, greenery, no technology around to distract you. Just grass, clouds, horses, cattle…
I had never been on a horse prior to this day. And here I was, riding a freakin’ horse! Yeehaw!
It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I was comfortable with him, and he sensed that.
We went up and down hills, through gates and past cattle. We leisurely rode and talked story with our guide along the way. If I was more advanced at riding, we might have gotten to drive the cattle herd or done some more hard core stuff. They can tailor your ride based on riding experience.
This is a family owned and operated ranch that has been around since 1951 – they really know what they are doing and it’s a real “Paniolo” experience.
Dahana Ranch set the bar pretty high for any horseback riding experiences I may ever have in the future. It will be truly hard to top.
So, what did my boyfriend and I learn about ourselves that day?
Well, he realized that he has to start taking charge more, and I learned that I need to stop eating so much… and probably lay off the grass.
For more information on Dahana Ranch and their awesome riding experiences. Visit their website.
[I was a guest of the Hawai’i Visitors and Convention Bureau and their partners. Mahalo for having me as your guest! All horse talk and opinions expressed are my own.]