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What El Tope Means to A Seasoned Horseman

By Pinar Istek

Photos by Pinar Istek

Still on his horse, Aguila, ordering beer at the bar that was set up for the second round of Nosara Fair, 67-year- old horseman Bolivar Avila said “it went very well,” when I asked him about el tope he just finished in Saturday afternoon, April 13.

Being one of the 45 participants of the ride, he has been participating in el tope since the beginning of it in Nosara 25 years ago. When I asked him why he waited until his 40s to start as opposed to the majority of people in the area who start during their childhood, he said that he  organized the first tope 25 years ago with the help of a friend from Belen, Alvaro Vargas.  Avila said, “ he helped me organize it once for me to learn it and after that people liked it and we continued.“

A typical day of el tope starts with the care of the horse. Avila said, “starting in the morning, I take care of the horse (who is 8 years old), bathe him, brush him and get him ready for the ride. Then we wait for time to leave.

That day, he left his home around 11:30 a.m. By 1 p.m. he was registering for the upcoming ride.  He was upset with the pop music he heard when he walked in. After requesting to change it several times, he said, “the horsemen likes the ranchera music, which is a lot happier.

He can’t put his finger on his favorite memory from all these years but the overall highlight of el tope for Avila is the friendship aspect of it. He is part of a horsemen group called Caminos. 

With its 12 members, that include Costa Ricans and foreigners, the group started about 4 years ago. While they invite different groups to Nosara, they also get invited to visit fairs around the area. Avila said, “ for el tope, we will go wherever in Costa Rica. “
Right before the start of the ride, as he was mounting his horse, it was hard not to notice his belt that read his name on it. He proudly mentioned that it was gifted to him couple years ago in La Esperanza when he was invited as a special guest for el tope.

An Hojancha native, Avila has been living Nosara for 43 years and works in the tourism transportation business. He has seven children, 18 grandchildren and one great grandchild. In a large family like his, there is not much interest in el tope. He said only one of his cousins participate in el tore, as well.

As his love for the sports sounds endless, he doesn’t know how long he will continue to ride el tope. “It is a sport.  But it is an expensive sport,” he said.

Despite his age, he added, “That has no end to it. Maybe more. Maybe less or for the rest of my life.” And he added, “ if for some reason one day I can’t ride a horse, it will still be on my mind.”



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What El Tope Means to A Seasoned Horseman

Still on his horse, Aguila, ordering beer at the bar that was set up for the second round of Nosara Fair, 67-year- old horseman Bolivar Avila said “it went very well,” when I asked him about el tope he just finished in Saturday afternoon, April 13.

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