All my life I’ve been fascinated by horses. To me they symbolize freedom. I have always wanted to see them in the wild and thanks to a devoted, hardworking woman named Mimi, my wish came true.

(This is taken from her newsletter) Since 1992 on Great Abaco, Bahamas, Mimi has waged a passionate battle to save a breed of horses known as the Abaco Spanish Barb. These horses are direct descendants of horses who found themselves shipwrecked or abandoned near the island at the time of Christopher Columbus and have lived in the wild for nearly 500 years. The horses have been designated a sub-breed of the critically endangered Spanish Barb, the “Horse of the Conquest.” Until the 1960’s the herd was 200 strong, but were then unthinkably decimated by humans who chased or gunned them down for sport or retaliation. Only 3 survived! The numbers gradually built up but dropped again as foals were killed by wild dogs. Thanks to Mimi and her dedication there are now 4 mares and 4 stallions.

Mimi works tirelessly for these horses. She lives an extremely minimalist lifestyle, living on her very modest sailboat, driving out to check on the horses on a motorbike when her truck isn’t working, and working out of a sweltering office that had a former life as a metal container. She runs a program called “Buck a Book” where she sits in another hot, metal container and accepts donation of used books and sells them for a buck. She also gives guided tours of the horses and that’s what we did.

We rented a van as it is a about an hour drive to see the horses. Mimi rode with us and another family followed in their rental van. Along the way Mimi filled us in on her history with the horses and it was fascinating. She’s finally starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel as the government has given her some land for the preserve and she is hopeful that at least two of the mares may be pregnant.

On the way to the preserve she filled us in on the Haitian problem in the Bahamas. A lot of Haitians come to the Bahamas to work. If you hire them, you are supposed to make sure they have papers saying they are here legally and you are to provide housing for them. This isn’t done all the time, so the Haitians have begun building make shift houses for themselves wherever they want, on anyone’s land. The government tries to shut them down when they see them or at least stop them in mid construction but they are overwhelmed.

In Marsh Harbour there is a place called The Peas and Mud and that is one of the largest Haitian slums in the Bahamas. It just sprung out of nowhere and now consists of several hundred houses. We passed another Haitian neighborhood on the way to the preserve. The houses are really shacks, no running water, no indoor plumbing, but on the roof of several houses are television satellite dishes. They also have numbers spray painted on the sides where the police have come out to keep track of the amount of houses going up. It’s a sad situation.

We made it to the preserve and said hello to the dogs Mimi has rescued. She must have at least nine and one kitten. She checked in with her two workmen to find out where the horses were and we headed into the brush. The land is full of scrub and tall bushes and the horses blend easily in and out of the foliage. They were hard to see at first. This group was one stallion and four mares. The other three stallions are kept separate. They are beautiful and seem in excellent health. The horses were a bit wary at first and we kept our distance.

Mimi approached Bella a brown and white spotted mare. She encouraged the kids to come up slowly and pet her. Mimi told them to only touch her side and not to approach any of the horses from the back. That didn’t last long. Dan started giving Bella a massage on her neck and from that moment on she started following him around wherever he went. She even followed Tessa around looking for some attention. All of the horses warmed up to us after a bit and we were able to get closer to them and even pet them. I was sitting on the ground and one of the mares was grazing close to me. I stayed still and eventually she put her head close to me and let me touch her on the nose. It was great.

We had some excitement too. The preserve is all fenced, and within the preserve are other fences that form temporary pastures. This keeps the horses from overgrazing a certain area. The fence is rope strung lines, three high. Dan was following one of the mares. As he watched she got low on the ground, put her head under the bottom rope, flipped it over her head and she was out of the fence. Dan hurried back to Mimi to tell her what happened. This horse had gotten out of the fence several times but this is the first time anyone had seen how she had done it. Now we needed to get her back into the fence. So started the horse roundup.

The workmen were called to open up the fence, the other family was to herd the remaining horses away from the workmen, and Dan, Mimi and I were chasing the mare toward the new opening in the fence. It was complicated. This horse was smart as she led us on a wild goose chase through the bushes. After about 15 minutes eventually all the horses wound up together at the watering hole. We still aren’t sure how they all got there but our job was done. Now we were all hot and thirsty and ready for lunch. We said good bye to the horses and headed to the blue hole.

The Bahamas are full of blue holes. Most of the blue holes we have seen are in the ocean. This was a freshwater blue hole and it was spectacular. We drove down a tree lined road which dead ended into a clearing. I am not sure what I was expecting but I was just in awe. In a near perfect circle carved from limestone rock was clear, blue green water. It reminded me of something magical, something from a fairy tale. This blue hole was 270 feet deep total. The freshwater went down 40 feet and rested on the saltwater. The entire island actually rests on a freshwater lens on top of saltwater. Over the years, the island has “breathed”, literally moving up and down, creating petrified sand dunes. It’s fascinating.

I put my hand into the water. It felt soft. I’ve never felt water like that before. Dan was the bravest and dove in first. The rest of us soon followed. The limestone edges offered perfect diving platforms and natural steps for getting in and out. It couldn’t have been landscaped any better. Not only was the water soft, it was cool. It was a kind of cool that lasted on your skin hours after we had left. It was fun to swim, but because it was so deep you couldn’t help but think of some big sea creature lurking in its depths. We stayed for long while just enjoying the beauty of the pool. I can only imagine how amazing it must be to see it lit under a full moon.

After dropping Mimi back at her place we decided to take a drive in our van. We headed down to Cherokee Sound and Little Harbour. Cherokee Sound is an isolated settlement near the end of the island. It’s hard to get there by water so it is not visited too much by sailors. The water is very shallow here and there are a lot of reefs. We did a quick tour of the town, very small, and then headed to Pete’s Pub. Pete’s Pub is owned by Peter Johnston, a bronze sculptor. He, like his dad before him, has a gallery here with fantastic marine sculptures. He also owns an eclectic bar where he holds court at the end of the day, a silver chalice of white wine in his hands. We relaxed and talked about what a great day it was until after sundown when we made the drive back to Marsh Harbour.