Everytime I hear “el dedo gordo“, I can’t help but translate it in my head as the fat finger/digit, rather than just the thumb. Today I spent a lot of time thinking about thumbs and where they should go and how firmly they should be applied, as I spent the better part of the day with José and his horses, who works at the bull-breeding estate when required. It was my first official, but informal session on a Spanish trained horse with these guys. The aim being to ultimately get me fit to work alongside them with fighting stock (hopefully!).
Charrán, the rascal in the above picture (who is not a stock horse), and I were put in a small roundpen and left to learn to walk properly after an initial lecture about fat finger placement. José then disappeared inside, only to periodically reappear and make comments about my riding ability or lack of it – he was particularly keen that Charrán and I generate a good swing of the mosquero in walk. The mosquero being the thing that goes on the forehead of the horse to keep flies away and look pretty – I’ve forgotten what we call it in English; fly fringe maybe?
Two hours later we were happily cantering around the field next to the pen, flirting with imaginary mares behind the fence. After hosing Charrán down, we moved on to José’s house to have lunch and look at photos of José riding when he was younger (he’s now in his seventies I think) – he looked much, much smarter than I do and I hope to scan some of the black and white photos of him and his horses to post later.
It may not feel like anthropological work while I’m in the saddle, but sifting through and typing up the copious notes generated by all the various encounters and interactions between thumbs, reins, stallions and charismatic informants certainly does.