Don’t forget to bring your horse to town Saturday

Expats still have time to sign up for the Tope Nacional, which takes over the streets of San José Saturday.

This is the annual parade of horses and riders, and the entry fee is a mere 10,000 colons in advance.

For expats who have misplaced their horse, there are rentals available. But horse experts have some advice.

No one wants to be bucked off in front of thousands of people, and no one wants to careen into a nearby $70,000 show horse.

The Web site suggests that the renter opt for a 7- or 8-year-old female horse with a docile disposition. And they should get a little expert help with the leather parts and bit so the animal does not suffer from extra tightness and the rider does not take a tumble.

Many Costa Ricans are not far from their agricultural roots, and in election years it is not unusual to see candidates among the thousands of riders. Some rent or borrow their mount, too. There is something mystical in the Spanish culture about the jinete or horseman.

The word tope means a meeting or reunion, and credits horse riders for the

Mounted officers display their horses, but they also keep order.

Mounted officers display their horses, but they also keep order.

United Fruit Co. for starting the tradition as they herded cattle in the early part of the last century.

Now there are many entertainment events, not to mention the beer company dancers.

The horse parade is 80 years old, said the Web site, which features dates and times of the many topes during the year. In the capital the event is part of the Fiestas de San José, which starts Christmas Day and runs until Jan. 3 this year.

The bulk of the fiestas takes place at the Zapote fair grounds. That includes a massive carnival, food and beer booths and the Costa Rican bull fighting in the rondel.

The bull fighting is more like bull baiting as a confused bull is released into some 100 to 150 individuals who torment the animal and try to stay out of the way of the hooves and horns. Lately these informal toredores are each required to take out a million-colon medical policy. The bull ring has a well-equipped clinic built in. For some, a million colons is not enough.

The bull events are mainstays of holiday television, and individual spectator admissions are available for prices up to 15,000 colons depending on the day and time. Expats have been known to participate in the bull event.

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