Horseback riding in Costa Rica Monteverde sunset

Our Experience Horseback Riding in Costa Rica

When I imagined horseback riding in Costa Rica at sunset, I imagined an idealistic movie shot of me running off into the sunset. Our ride was through the company Extremo Park and it was definitely an extreme adventure! The idea for this excursion was to have a relaxing sunset horseback ride through different landscapes from the countryside to primary forest, up to a lookout where we could see the Gulf of Nicoya. Technically we did all of that, but it was anything but relaxing. 

When we first got to the stables, our energy was high and we were unbelievably excited. Quick background about us, we have VERY limited experience with horses. I grew up visiting a horse farm maybe once a year and riding around on a very tame horse until I was about 12, but that was it. Ryan had no experience with horses at all. 

The workers paired us with horses and helped us get on to them, and that was it. No instructions on what to do other than sit. Pretty much immediately after the worker walked away from my horse and me, she started wandering around. I had absolutely no idea what to do, so I just sat on her back and looked terrified. I assumed that once everyone was settled onto their horses we would go over a bit of instruction on how to guide them on the trail and general safety guidelines, but I was wrong. Once everyone in our large group was situated, the tour just began. 

One of the workers realized I was wandering around aimlessly and gave me a very brief overview of how to control her: pull back to stop and turn the reigns on either side to turn her. Seemed easy enough, so I relaxed a bit as we started heading down the trail. The horses were well trained on the trail so I barely needed to guide her at all but, she didn’t really like the idea of a two-hour tour and instead was determined to go down the trail as fast as possible.

As soon as we got onto the trail, she started running down the hill. No matter what I did I could not get her to stop. When I pulled back she would buck her head back at me and almost hit me with her nose. All sense of safety I had after my brief lesson from the worker, immediately disappeared. The beginning of the trail was a steep decline down into a ravine. For the first 20 minutes, I was white-knuckling the reigns and shoving my feet into the saddle, forcing my body to stay on the horse even though every step down the hill had me almost falling face-first over her. 

Finally, after trying my hardest to get her to stop passing the other horses in our group at full speed, she stopped at the front of the group, content to sit behind the leader. I was able to *slightly* relax after that, taking one hand off of the reigns at a time to wipe off my stress-induced sweaty hands. The next 20 minutes were more enjoyable. A beautiful walk through a primary forest at the bottom of the ravine and then back up another hill to wander through cattle fields.

At this time I was able to talk with other people in my group and realized they too were struggling as much as I was. Ryan’s horse attempted to kick any other horse that came up behind it, another horse in our group ran up and tried to bite other horses in the face, and a newborn pony named “dirty” (due to the fact it was perpetually covered in mud) ran full speed at the other horses and spooked them. One of the people in our group fell off of his horse after it walked him straight into the only tree in a wide-open field – he explained it as being “rough kissed by a tree”. Thankfully he was okay but it made me realize absolutely no one was under control. 

After about an hour we made it to the lookout spot at the end of the trail and I was blown away by the amazing views. The mountaintop opened up to a clear view of the sunset over a ravine with the Gulf of Nicoya in the distance as the sunset behind the mountains on the distant islands. It was raining in the distance as well so we were able to watch the rainstorm next to the sunset. The tour guides gave us slices of chocolate cake and fresh juice, making me forget about my terrifying experience with my horse for a few moments while I took in the views. 

The ride back to the stables was super short, but as soon as they were in sight my horse, yet again, set into a full gallop to get there as soon as possible. I happily plopped off my horse and onto the ground as soon as I could. Although I was terrified the entire time, I would happily relive that experience again over and over. Since everyone made it out safely, the ride back to the hotel was full of laughing and sharing our horrifying experiences with our horses.