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Countryside Adventures in the Caribbean

yellow horsesign

Photography courtesy of Countryside Adventures

I ascended Joe’s Hill in my car and the temperature must’ve dropped ten degrees—a welcome relief on a sweaty, sticky, summer afternoon on Tortola.

When I pulled into Countryside Adventures at Diamond Estate Farm, across from the Montessori School, there was actually a breeze—a mystical occurrence during the scorching dry spell we’d been having.

I walked up the path to the farm, confronted by a sky that seemed cartoon blue, and I wondered if I had stumbled through a door to a magical kingdom—a kingdom of ponies, cats, tortoises, parrots, donkeys, macaws, rabbits, ducks, and occasionally visiting owls. I was tempted to talk to them to see if they’d reply.

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Instead of being greeted by talking animals, I was welcomed by Alison Knights Bramble, the head of Countryside Adventures—farm and country centre. I have known Alison since I first arrived on island seven years ago, but my interactions with her in the past had been on the water through her former role as a sailing instructor and principal of the BVI Watersports Centre. As she told me about her new hillside venture, she compared her interactions with students on the land and sea.

ricky's view

One of the biggest differences is her lack of a safety boat, she said, because in her RIB, she could whiz after students to help them with any problems on the water. But at the farm, if she has experienced adult riders out on one of the many trails overlooking the seaside, “it’s easier to be on foot to control that situation.”

lady joey eating

Alison added, “It’s just a sailing school, out of water,” but with one big difference—horses have brains, sometimes stubborn ones. Each boat may have its own quirks and traits, but horses are living creatures with personalities and intelligence. In addition, “The satisfaction angle is slightly different,” Alison said. “I’m equally as pleased with the ponies and the horses as I am with the adults and the kids. I went through a time last month wondering if it was the kids getting better or the horses getting better, and I think it’s both.”

She mentioned that there is a greater level of trust involved when working with living animals instead of boats. “I know what a boat will do in a certain wind direction—that’s mechanics—but you can never exactly predict what a horse is going to do.”

lady joey back

I learned this soon enough as some young riders arrived for their afternoon lessons. After watching the kids saddle up the horses, which was not dissimilar from watching them rig their Oppis and Picos at the Watersports Centre, the students mounted their ponies and tried their best to direct the steeds around the ring, according to Alison’s instructions.

“Walk on,” one student said to his horse that seemed quite happy to be stationary. From across the ring, Alison hollered, “Keep your legs on her,” above the noise of the rustling breeze, the fussing ducks, the chattering students, the screeching macaw, and the clomping hooves. “She has to want to go with you,” she said to one student whose pony, Chippie, short for Chocolate Chip because of her black spots, kept returning to the gate.

joey ruins

By the end of the session, one rider had successfully trotted his pony around the ring and another had directed his horse across the ring from point to point.

After the first lesson, new riders approached for their turn, and some members of the first group headed over to visit the mini petting zoo where the tortoises, rabbits, and ducks were sequestered. I followed them down the path and headed back to my car, but not before hearing the macaw shout, “Walk on!” to the new set of students. So, the animals do talk at Countryside Adventures.

Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

Traci O'Dea is a poet, journalist, editor, educator, and essayist. She lives in the British Virgin Islands where she teaches at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College. Her work has appeared in Poetry, 32 Poems, Poetry Daily, Bird's Eye View, Virgin Islands Property & Yacht, Limin' Times, and elsewhere. She also serves as an editor for the poetry journal Smartish Pace.
Traci O'Dea, English Lecturer - HLSCC

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