For centuries, Aruba was used as a breeding ground for horses, and there are now many ranches on the island that offer riding holidays.
Aruba – Fact Check

The story behind Aruba's "Horse Bay"

Photo by Jochem Wijnands

Aruba – Fact Check The story behind Aruba's "Horse Bay"

During colonial times, the Dutch West India Company declared that immigrants and adventurers alike were prohibited from settling on the island, and only a few families were allowed to live on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. But what the island lacked in people, it more than made up for in horses.

Jochem Wijnands
Jochem Wijnands Founder / photographer

These were shipped here by the dozens from Europe or simply seized from the Spanish. Since there was no port, the horses were thrown overboard and forced to make their own way to shore.

It comes as no surprise then that this place, near present-day Oranjestad, was later named Paardenbaai, or Horse Bay. The horses were bred on a massive scale – something that greatly influenced Aruba’s appearance. The original inhabitants of this island, the Arawak Indians, were seized by the Spanish and forced to work the plantations of Hispaniola. The West Indian Company would kidnap Indians from Venezuela and Columbia and force them to work on the stud farms. This might explain why many Arubans still have certain Indian characteristics.

While the stud farms still exist, they are now called ranchos and have names like ‘Notorious’ and ‘Daimari’. The importance of horse breeding has declined since its heyday, and money is now generated by organized horseback tours and quad trips instead. You can trot past stables hidden between ancient palms and date trees on a small but noble steed that only responds to Spanish commands.

Accompanied by a Colombian stable hand of Indian descent, it’s easy to forget the realities of modern-day Aruba and fantasize instead about the glory days of Peter Stuyvesant.

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