Horse riding- If you don’t at first succeed: try, try and try again

Horse riding – If you don’t at first succeed:  try, try, and try again…

I have always had this romantic notion of horse riding. The Hollywood actor riding into the sunset after a hard fought battle to win over a town with the girl by his side; or the dark brooding handsome gaucho, always depicted in novels as evil but the world and the damsel in distress eventually come to know of his sensitive caring nature! The reality of my experience was pure torture with such fear emanating from every fibre of my body.

And so it was I first went horse riding one Sunday morning as a teenager along the dunes of the South Wales beaches. I wasn’t happy from the start but at the end when the horses knew they were heading home they bolted along the golden sands and to my credit I managed to hang on but was a shivering wreck on dismounting and vowed never to go back. And so ended the dream.

Or so I thought.  I turned 30 and met my Prince and he decided a horse riding safari would be just wonderful. Had I ridden horses before? Absolutely “yes” I responded. It was a gentle horse ride through the bush but I remained fearful. However, on seeing the white rhino so close up, all fear lifted and I lost myself in the beauty of the day. I even began to dream this was a ‘turning point’ but alas at the end of the day all horses bolted back to their base. This gallop was enjoyed by the group but once again I was left traumatised by the event.

They say time heals… I arrived in Australia two years later and fate played its part. I had been invited to join a new group of friends who went for horse riding lessons every Saturday morning in Paddington, Sydney. I have subsequently learnt later in life that the health benefits of horse riding are manifold. This however was not my motivation at the time. I needed to overcome such fear. Had I really given myself a chance by jumping onto a horse on two separate occasions without the benefit of tuition? Probably not. I also give myself a goal of going on a horse-riding farm stay in Glen Innes – perfect. Did I stay the course – absolutely but it was a weekly cycle of pain. I would finish the class elated that I was still alive (and celebrate with copious glasses of wine and a great lunch!) and that feeling dissipated as the week wore on, and by Friday evening the feeling would crescendo into sheer panic ahead of the next lesson. This went on for about 4 months. Ironically, I was told by all that I sat and rode very well. I never went past the trotting stage even though it was explained to me tirelessly that cantering was by all accounts much easier, but the memories of the horse bolting would come flooding back.

The holiday arrived and with it the moment of truth. The aforementioned Prince and I were joined by my parents. Yes, we went horse-riding every day; marvelling at the scenery; experiencing beautiful sunsets; and hundreds of kangaroos bouncing and grazing in the late afternoon sun. On the last day I even joined my father with a canter across the fields. Success? In part. I had thoroughly enjoyed the experience of the wonderful holiday but I couldn’t honestly say I had fallen in love with horse riding.

Over the intervening years, I have chosen elephants and camels over horses. This perplexes me.  How can you not be afraid of elephant safaris both in Asia (trekking through Northern Thailand and enjoying the Indian countryside) and Africa on numerous occasions (getting up close with giraffes – the only way to see them) and then be scared of horses? There was only one exception when I did go horse riding once in New Zealand absent of elephants and camels!

I was now in my fifties and a chance to enjoy the football world cup in Brazil on a family holiday.  We decided to explore Brazil in addition to the football and whilst in the Pantanal, an opportunity came up to once again go horse riding.  Anything my husband (yep still with the Prince!) and teenage son wants to do, I will naturally follow.  It had been two decades since my last foray into horse-riding.  I was inwardly petrified!  Well it was so joyous.  I had finally unlocked the key.  I have put it down to the South American handling of the reins.  Only one hand on both reins which leaves the other one free to hold the front of the saddle firmly. Even when we found ourselves in the middle of herds of cattle on our trail I was relaxed.  I even instigated horse riding at our next stop in Boitia.  It was such a beautiful ride as we watched the sun setting over the Bolivian mountains.  Maybe it was the romance of it all and it had fulfilled my teenage notion.  But at last I loved horse riding.

As I contemplate retirement, I have come to appreciate the health benefits of horse riding. They are as if designed for me!  Forty years plus behind a desk, I have poor posture.  Horse riding strengthens the core and improves posture.  My next horse riding holiday awaits – where’s my Prince to let him know to get ready?…