Argentina, Buenos Aires : 7th June 2002

I guess the best way to start any correspondence is to introduce yourself and without any further delay I will tell you that my name is Andaluz 52 Olivia. My father is called Patron Chico TA TA TA and my mother Andaluza 21 Generalife. I was born on the 30th of September, 1995, which means that according to the zodiac and all it´s mysteries, I am a libra and if you look at the Chinese calender, I would be a pig! Pigs are considered to be snobbish and manners, breeding and good taste are of enormous importance to them. In fact, pigs are aesthetic. Pigs are born with an excellent nose for style in everything! How true!! For those interested to know, this is the Year of the Horse (how appropriate) but more about this later.

I have taken the liberty of writing the first diary entry on the TATA website and I will tell you more about my life and what´s been happening to me the past 2/3 weeks.

Us Criollo´s are wild descendants of horses imported from Spain 450 years ago and you will find a lot of our breed of horse on the Patagonian Pampas in Southern Argentina. I, however was born about 150 km from Buenos Aires on the farm of the Secretary of the Criollo Association in Argentina (yes we are big business over here with our own stories, legends and associations). I´ve been living here with lots and lots of other Criollo´s for the past seven years. I have heard wonderful tales from some of the other horses about life in the Patagonian Pampas but I was also told many a time how lucky I was that I didn´t have to endure the cold, winds and sometimes scarce food of that region. I would love to go and visit sometime however because for us Criollo´s it is important to know where we come from. Somebody once did mention though that I am from the same line of family as two famous horses called Mancha and Gato (they did a long journey with a man called Tschiffely during the 1920´s) but I am not sure how true this is.

My life up to now had been quite simple and most days we would roam the land, graze and have a bit of fun amongst ourselves. We got used to man a long time ago and these days we mostly don´t jump when one of these two-legged creatures approach us. I say mostly because sometimes you get a strange smell from someone (and not because they´ve neglected to wash properly!) and your instincts tell you to be cautious. This is when we pull our ears back and get that funny look in the eyes. Most of the time this awkwardness past the moment we realize there is nothing to be frightened about but my advice would be to always pay special care when you encounter a horse who shows the above characteristics.

Well, about three weeks ago about six of us were ushered together, brought into a dusty corral and tied up. We didn´t know what the reason for this was and just stood patiently with the mild winter sun baking our backs. It wasn´t long before some people we have never met before, came towards and looked at all of us with much interest. I had the privilege to be one of the first ones to get the bridle and reins on and a home-made saddle with thick sheepskin. A girl (who I will call Miss M) who had paid me a good deal of attention then came towards me, touching my face and neck. There was a bit of huffing and puffing when she tried to get on top of me because I think the stirrups were to short but she finally managed this. I was a bit lazy from just standing around and took a slow walk towards the end of the corral but she kept on spurring me on. It wasn´t long before we broke into a trot (not the strongest part of the Criollo because we have a very short gait) and it felt good to loosen up my legs again.

Well, Miss M didn´t ride me for long and after me she got the chance to try out the rest of the horses. One of our friends however looks very tame when he is just standing there but it usually a different story once you get on his back. He is very good at sensing nervousness as well and I think Miss M initially had a bit of fear for us so our friend took fall advantage of this. For the first few yards he didn´t do much but the moment they started galloping his antics commenced! The head went up and down accompanied with a lot of snorting, going sideways and literally jumping around the place like a jack in a box! We watched with amusement but didn´t want to laugh at how funny Miss M looked trying to keep posed and dignified on top of our friend. When they finally came to a stop though she had a big smile on her face and I could see that she felt like laughing if only it wasn´t for the serious faces of the people who were with her! I got saddled up for a second time and so did my other good friend who is tamer than our friend I just told you about and round and round we went again.

We only realized that we were the chosen ones for something we didn´t know anything about, when a week later a big horse-box arrived on the farm and we were ushered into this and taken to a lovely farm with lots of stables and other horses. The horses here look different from us (not prettier or better, only bigger) and we found out they are called polo ponies. We were each put into our own little corral with a roof to protect us from the rain, fed by the groomsman and left alone.

The next day Miss M arrived with a huge amount of luggage and we were wondering what on earth she was going to do with so much stuff. She came over to us and although I didn´t get a strange smell I pulled back my ears. My friend didn´t follow suit but I could see he was a bit edgy and kept on moving around. Miss M came over to me first and whilst talking softly she started to pat my back and side of my neck. It felt a bit ticklish at first but then I started to relax a bit more. She kept on saying the name Tusa and I gathered that this is what she will be calling me from now on. Not a bad name I thought and I was told it means "you" in the Irish language. My friend next door who was awarded the name Mise (meaning "me" in Irish), then got the same treatment as me but he had difficulty keeping still and I felt like saying to him that everything is okay and not to be frightened. I kept quiet though. We both got brushed down and Miss M then put some soft velvety head-collars on us. We were told that they are from a shop called HorseHeaven, very far away in a country called Ireland. Both Mise and I loved the purple and green colours and we were delighted that they were not made from some harsh materials that hurt the skin.

The next day I got saddled up by Miss M (I tried to nip her arm when she pulled up the girth but didn´t succeed!) but when she put her foot in the stirrup and her full weight on it, the whole saddle slid to my left. After a few attempts the girth was done up very tightly and she got on. Mise was tied up and Miss M had to push me on to get alongside him so that she could grab the leading rope. It wasn´t too difficult to do this and while we were standing around, it started to rain. Miss M produced a big waterproof cloak, which is called a poncho and she slowly put it over her head. Mise got slightly frightened and had a little shiver but I didn´t mind this big black thing that covered most of my body. For the next hour or so we were riding next to the big road and everything was fine. Mise and I were still a bit weary whenever we saw any strange objects on the ground but usually after a quick investigation we would continue. I discovered that Mise gets a bit frightened when he sees bright colours and I tried to distract him every time I saw an object that might be unfamiliar to him.

Later that evening we were told by the other horses that Mise and I were chosen to go with Miss M on a big adventure across the Americas. We first didn´t believe what we were told but the other horses spoke with such conviction that after a while we realized that this is indeed true. Apparently Miss M is also trying to raise some money to build an equestrian center for children with disability in Ireland. It all sounds very exciting.

I will write again in the next ten days or so to tell you all about the preparations for the journey and what we´ve been up to since I wrote this. I might even give Mise a chance to say a word or two.

Until then…

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