I Was Told: “Horse Riding Isn’t A Sport For Girls”, But Here I Am, Grabbing Life By The Reins!

Horse riding is a lovely sport, and I have been lucky to get the opportunity to learn. I love it when I'm on horseback - here's my journey!

Horse riding is a lovely sport, and I have been lucky to get the opportunity to learn. I love it when I’m on horseback – here’s my journey!

I have been horseback riding since the last six to seven years. I started off in Pune as a small eleven-year-old, who couldn’t reach the horse’s shoulder without standing on her tip toes. I remember how terrified I was; I’d only ever seen horses from a safe distance or closely on my TV screen.

The first horse I sat on was a tall white stallion named Rubic, absolutely majestic. You know how in movies, they show a herd of white horses running in the wild? Rubic was that horse. I could never get him to move faster than a dainty walk, but when that horse ran, my god, my little heart would run with it. Long, slow strides with his white mane in the air; I wanted to be him more than I wanted to ride him.

But my fascination with horses never really translated into confidence in my training. Instead, I got even more intimidated by them.

One of the first things they tell you on the ground is that, as soon as you sit on the horse, they know if you are confident, scared, a newbie or an experienced rider. So, here I was, a little girl who couldn’t get her leg high enough to even step on the stirrups, terrified of how this horse was going to judge me. I just wanted them to like me so, I would take jaggery and pieces of carrots. I was basically bribing horses at a young age. Never worked; they loved me as long as I was off their back but as soon as I was back on, I lost all their respect.

Then I met a horse named Tulsi; what a firecracker. She was energetic and had a beautiful pace. She didn’t even have to know the rider on her; give her a command (like, ‘trot’ or ‘canter’), that’s it, she was off. She taught me so much.

Now, we did have actual instructors on the ground who taught us (mad respect to them) but I always feel that the horse teaches you much more. Tulsi taught me how to trot & canter, and I had my very first fall while riding her. She also taught me how to engage a horse, and how each horse is different from another.

And then I met My Horse, Fatehind. I say My Horse because I fell in love with him. A beautiful, tall liver chestnut. He was a retired polo horse, and I don’t think I knew the concept of ‘horse-rider connection’ till I met him. It was like being with a friend that I had known all my life, only this friend was four-legged and couldn’t understand English. But I always felt Fatehind could understand what I was saying to him, or he could sense when I was feeling scared. He took care of me and I did the same for him. I’ve fallen off of him, of course, multiple times even. But I still got back on because he was teaching me.

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Later on, our family moved to Chandigarh and I had to leave Fatehind behind. The Equestrian ground there had tons of horses. I don’t even remember how many of them I would’ve ridden. It was a massive place that had a kiddy ground (for training newbies), a senior’s ground, a jumping ground, dressage ground, cross country path, an in-line jump course and the stables at the end. It was HUGE.

And I loved it so much. More than anything, I loved a horse named Black Music. I can’t emphasize this enough, he was so beautiful. A large black horse with legs stretching from the ground to the heavens. I kid you not, when you sat on him, the world around you looked smaller. He reminded me of an old man who had been on this earth for a long time. He just had that look of patience, calm and determination you see on an old man. I remember crying when he was being shifted from our ground to another one somewhere further up North. I rode other horses and ponies, of course but I lost My Horse.

He was away for a good time till he came back one day when we began our training for a competition. I remember getting out of the car, all nervous with butterflies in my stomach and gulping water like it was air before I met him. And then I saw him, being led down the path by one of the stable boys, and I just ran straight towards him. We practiced a little on the dressage ground and then headed on to the jumping ground. We cleared the course set with such ease; Music had a telltale sign. Every time, before he leapt up to jump, he would fold his ears a little and his final stride was be a little more mellow. All I had to do was look out for that, and I would get off the saddle to let his hind legs lift with ease.

I went back the same evening and I saw the height of the jumps, now from normal human height. I didn’t believe it but I had jumped these same obstacles in the morning with Music. It was the highest I’d jumped and I didn’t even know. I’m scared of heights and that usually hinders my showjumping, but not on Music. Because he was that tall, I never realized the height of the jumps.

Later that year, I won a silver in showjumping astride Black Music.

After Chandigarh, we moved to Chennai. There I met three of them: Victor, Handsome and Tomahawk. Victor was a black horse who did jumping, dressage and a bit of cross country. He had the most beautiful strides when we would practice and never troubled me on the ground.

Handsome, a bay pony on the other hand, troubled me during practice to no end. He was my jumping horse and he’s one of the rowdiest horses I’ve met. Not a care in the world, ran around with no inhibitions, didn’t care if the rider fell, tried to make the rider fall and was just really fast. I loved that about him. Don’t get me wrong, he troubled me to no end but with all that, he was confident, fearless and very agile. He just knew how to trouble everyone during practice but during the competition, he’s a completely different horse. There, he is focused and knows where he’s going. He helped me win the bronze (open category) and the ‘Best Rider’ plaque. I messed up while directing him to a jump, and I tried to move him so that he doesn’t get hurt but he cleared it like it was nothing. And because of his speed, we always managed to make it before time.

Tomahawk was a tall (almost as tall as Black Music) blood bay who was super smart. He knew how to approach the jump and when to make a cut after walking through the course once. The only thing that was a little difficult to deal with was that he was spooked really easily. There would be a slight gust of wind, and this guy would’ve already made it halfway across the ground. During one of the competitions, there was a tyre jump (a jump with tyre in/around it) and we never had practiced with tyres so he got scared. Instead of jumping the obstacle, Tomahawk jumped over the fence (at least 4-5 inches taller than the jumps) and ran away with me on him. Needless to say, we got disqualified, but everyone praised him for his form and strength.

Now, in Bombay, I’m currently astride an 8-year-old blood bay named Leo who’s blind from one eye. Regardless, he’s a strong jumper.

Thousands of people stopped me from riding, saying it isn’t a sport for girls or that I could get hurt or that I would get too tanned. But here I am, six to seven years later, with 5 medals and a plaque to my name, training an 8-year-old. And that’s not a lot. There are female riders (Olympians and normal) who have achieved so much more. Horse riding has given me confidence like nothing or no one ever has. It’s when I’m my freest and most authentic self. I’m my cheerleader and my own critic because I can’t bear the thought of not doing well. It has taught me determination, discipline and hard work. Lessons that I couldn’t have learnt the same way from anywhere else.

People will tell you that you can’t do something over and over again till they break you. Your job is to hear their words, acknowledge their advice with a nod and look at them and say, “I’m still going to do it.”

Image source: pixabay

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About the Author

Apoorva Menon

A tall, curly haired and awkward girl who has a strong inside voice. Love dogs, food and absolutely anything that can keep me stimulated. A pretty chill person, usually. I'm better at written words read more...

17 Posts | 151,062 Views

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