His name was Ace and I wasn’t sure how much he liked me. We had just met, but already his attention was waning and it was a challenge to keep him from arguing with his friends. Once I got a feel for the reins on my first horseback ride though, everything seemed to flow at the Stables at the Four Seasons Lodge – Koele on Lanai.
Scott had been riding once before, when he was a kid and the best way to tactfully explain the experience would be “unfortunate.” This “unfortunate” experience, involving an unpleasant steed and wandering alone in the wild, had the equally unfortunate consequence of making Scott extremely hesitant about taking the 2-hour trek on his new best friend, Reed. But we had been invited by the hotel to participate, and I was looking forward to it.
Joining us was a motley crew of guests. A Bosnian couple who obviously failed to read the riding attire suggestion sheet and looked more appropriate for a yacht trip than a dusty horseback ride into the Lanai highlands. There was another gentleman who was so completely obsessed with his camera that I seriously doubt he realized he was even on a horse. Rounding out this new group of Hawaiian Paniolo was our fearless leader, one of the two Koele Stables wranglers – Gabe.
Gabe, like many American expats in Lanai, had a circuitous route to the island. After living all over the United States, from the American West to New York City, he settled on Lanai and he his daughter have been stalwart Lanaiian wranglers for several years.
It was obvious that Gabe dealt with non-riding morons on a daily basis, a category of which I was a confirmed member. He was incredibly patient though and his laid back style made what was at first an intimidating experience immediately comfortable.
After some brief instruction, I suddenly found my horse moving, which came as a complete shock to me. As Gabe started out of the paddock, the other horses followed in line, taking their hesitant riders with them. Luckily the horses have walked this trail so many times that it was like being on autopilot for them, allowing us the opportunity to admire the breathtaking scenery along the way.
I knew Scott was having issues with his horse, Reed, almost immediately. Reed was the last horse in line and a few cautious glances behind me showed that Reed was most definitely on island time. While the gulf between the pack and Scott/Reed became more pronounced, I remembered that this was what happened to him when he was a kid and what led to him being lost with his errant horse. I was sure this fact was not lost on him and just prayed that Reed would drink a Red Bull and take it up a notch.
That was not to be.
I, on the other hand, was having a great time. Even though I knew my butt and thighs would be sore as hell the next day, it was great sitting high on Ace, urging him on and enjoying the afternoon adventure. Gabe paused a few times, mostly to allow the now severely delayed Scott/Reed to catch up, but also to admire the stunning vistas. The mountains, trees and strange natural contrasts on the island are so shockingly beautiful, that I knew immediately my camera would never really capture it all. It is one of those places that one really has to see in order to believe.
About halfway through our ride, Gabe informed us that we would be going through an area with a lot of pines, apparently a favorite treat for the horses. Who knew? Gabe though wanted us to try to keep our horses from munching away on the branches and keep us all on track.
The horses had other plans.
The guy in front of me, who had stopped holding the reins in order to take pictures, lost control of his horse almost immediately. Every few feet the horse would pause to munch on the needles, the rider would try desperately to stop him, eventually succeed, rode on a few more feet and the entire process would repeat. I looked behind me and Reed looked like he had just walked into a Vegas buffet and had no intention of leaving. If Reed was slow before, his new interest in stopping to eat multiplied the problem exponentially.
Poor Scott. He really didn’t want to go in the first place and acquiesced only because I really wanted to ride and the only thing he really wanted – the one thing – was to have a horse that didn’t lag. Reed however seemed to be on vacation too.
By the end of the ride, we had enjoyed views of Lanai, Maui and Molokai and were dustier than I could ever have thought imaginable. Also by the end of the ride, poor Reed had become the butt of jokes, even by the Bosnians, and Scott was exhausted not just from riding, but from yanking Reed’s head away from the apparently delectable pine needles.
I loved the entire experience though and wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to repeat the riding adventure at Koele. The stables there allow the traveler a fairly unique opportunity not only as a novice to go riding for a few hours, but to see areas of Lanai that are inaccessible by almost any other method.
Just avoid Reed if you can.