Travel Articles

Costa Rica Cabalgata

By: Darley Newman

Cabalgatas happen every weekend during the summer all over Costa Rica. People gather in a fair like setting for food, refreshments, entertainment and to horseback ride with hundreds or thousands of local people through neighboring farmland. It's a wild local festival. All of the money raised from the Cabalgata goes to help the local community. Our Cabalgata was in the small town of Los Lirios and consisted of a couple hundred people on horseback. There was music, great food and it was quite the wild ride.

The nice thing about a Cabalgata, as Monica my guide explained to me, is that everyone rides together, regardless of social status or class. Whole families, young and old, ride. Monica has ridden in countless Cabalgatas.

The start of the Cabalgata reminded me of a county fair or amusement park in the United States. There were rides for kids, cotton candy, grilled meats, churros and more. People were singing karaoke and prizes were raffled off. Of course, there were horses everywhere.

We got on our horses and began the ride down the road. I was on Perla, a beautiful bay horse that is very smooth. Some people get a little crazy during the Cabalgata. Perhaps that is because many of them drink heavily while riding. Motorcycles and mixed with cars and horses, something that I wouldn't normally think would be good for the horses, but they are totally used to it. Nothing seemed to phase my horse Perla at all. Motorcycles raced by me on Perla and she didn't even flinch. The horses that we are all riding are really well trained and tough, but also very responsive and ready to ride.

As kids riding two to a horse whizzed by me, Monica, Sebastian and I got to the first rest area, where there are soft drinks and beer for the riders. I had some ginger ale and we took a rest, waiting for the other riders to get started again. This was the ideal place to people watch and check out the other horses. I don't think that there were any other tourists at this Cabalgata besides us, which was actually cool, as what I was experiencing wasn't put on for tourists. It is a real event that every town does once or three times a year to help raise money to better schools, churches and other community needs.

My favorite lady was this older woman, who was dressed up in black pants and sandals and carrying her purse with her as she rode. You see all kinds at the Cabalgata, including the drunken man who fell off his horse and the children, dressed to the nines in their western gear. I saw dancing horses, who were trained to trot when music was played. Since music was a major part of the day as well, these horses were trotting around everywhere.

Monica has been to lots of Cabalgatas, so many that she has lost count. She brings her whole family and they ride together, making the day very special.  The Cabalgata is a unique adventure. Sure, it doesn't exactly follow the safety rules of riding, but it brings communities together for a good, fun cause.

Darley Newman is the host and producer of the Emmy award winning TV show, Equitrekking®, which takes viewers on horseback riding vacations around the world. Visit equitrekking.com and purchase Equitrekking DVDs, the Equitrekking Travel Adventures on Horseback book and more at ShopDarley.com