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On a Hoof and a Prayer

Around Argentina at a Gallop, by Polly Evans; Random House. Softcover, 316pp. RRP $NZ27.99; £7.99. ISBN: 978-0-553-81679-2.

December 6, 2007

Learning to ride at the age of 34 with the Argentine gauchos?

Why not?

In this travel book with a difference British writer Polly Evans combines a trip to South America with a childhood dream of learning to ride a horse.

It might have been altogether safer and somewhat easier to learn the basics of equitation down at the local riding school but going to Argentina is a lot more adventurous.

I'm not sure how good a rider Polly Evans has actually turned out to be after this book, but I learned a quite a bit about Argentina and its history from it.

The book is no Tschiffely's Ride; and there is more touristy stuff than horse stuff, but Evans's expeditions to equine experiences give lots of interesting information about the people and the places along the way.

Interestingly, Evans pays a visit to the museum where the horses Aime Tschiffely used for his trek from Buenos Aires to Washington DC are on display.

But when she arrived, the Transport Museum where Gato and Mancha are preserved was closed - necessitating a plea to the local policeman to let her in. Luckily, he did. After this visit a trip to the local library was in order for information about the horses. Evans was allowed to see much of correspondence surrounding Tschiffely's ride, and the documentation about the taxidermy of the horses.

Incidentally, Gato and Mancha reached the ripe old ages of 36 and 44 respectively when they moved on to greener pastures - proving the long ride didn't do them much harm.



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