"A couple who owns a small ranch in the south of Chile asked me shoot a horseback trip they lead every year," recounts Dawn McCarthy, who left Cliff Freeman & Partners last year to move to Chile. "The nine-day trip crossed the Andes, entirely on horseback, starting in the south of Argentina and crossing into the south of Chile. I've ridden horses here and there, though I'm certainly not any kind of an expert-but I just couldn't pass this opportunity up. I took 10 days of riding lessons and flew to Argentina. The nine other riders on the trip were extremely experienced; most of them owned horses and rode every day, so you can imagine that it wasn't easy for me to keep up. There was a lot of galloping and trotting, steep downward climbs and even scarier upward climbs. The minimal camping with no water except freezing stream and river water didn't help either. I'm not a person who gives up on things, but after the first full day of riding I really didn't think I was going to be able to go on. The problem was that I just didn't know how to gallop in a way that allowed my body not to get jerked around to the point where I felt my organs moving around inside me. Not a good feeling. But the other riders were all rooting for me, and a couple of them even tried to give me crash courses in horsemanship. I finally found a way to gallop by standing up in the stirrups, leaning over the horse's head and holding onto his mane for dear life. The changing landscape as we crossed from Argentina to Chile was breathtaking, but I had to put up with a horrible throat and gland infection I developed toward the end of the trip. My throat closed shut for three days, making it nearly impossible to even drink water. After a quick trip to the hospital, we went back to camp and I continued shooting. In the end, I considered myself lucky; another rider actually fell from a horse mid-gallop, breaking several ribs and ending up in the hospital for two weeks with internal bleeding. Anyhow, I lived through the experience, with the help of some very strong antibiotics, lots of anti-inflammatories and the promise of a hot shower. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, and that includes the seven-hour conference call we once had with a Holiday Inn client."
Dawn McCarthy, who took a sabbatical from advertising to live in Chile, has been an associate creative director at Cliff Freeman & Partners and an art director at Merkley & Partners and Fallon/Minneapolis. See www.dawnmccarthy.com for more of her work.