You know those moments when your friends ask you to do something and you agree without really thinking about it? That’s exactly what happened the day I agreed to go horseback riding with my good friend.
On the 17th of February, 2018 — I wasn’t feeling too great, that whole month was quite cloudy with a few silver linings here and there —I met up with my friend and her colleague to go horseback riding at Chikara Stables. The reality of actually climbing on to a horse to do this activity hadn’t hit me at all. All I thought was really, ‘oh yay, I’m leaving the house’ because being home and work bound is such a reality as a single parent, you don’t really have time to do anything else, unless it’s added to the schedule weeks before, and barring any monumental changes regarding your child’s wellbeing — there is really no social life. This mini road trip was actually so much fun, until we arrived…
So we get to the venue and honest to God I thought we were lost. I wont say much about the scenery but should you wish to go there after reading this, here are a few notes: no you are not lost, yes there is a tricky dust road you have to drive on for about a kilometre but you will get there, yes you have to drive slow unless you want to have a puncher, and yes you have to wear the correct gear you’re advised to for your own good regardless of the weather.
While walking into the yard it hits me, “I’m actually here for horseback riding. I mean, I will actually have to climb on the back of a horse and be cool with that. What the F***?!” While I was quietly freaking out, we got introduced to the horses, signed some indemnity forms and geared up. We had to wear covered shoes, preferably boots — but I thought it was too hot for boots and wore pumps, only to find out the boots are meant to protect your feet and ankles — basically, I played myself. Then we had to wear hamlets for obvious reasons. We all had to be dressed in pants, not skirts or dresses — at least I had complied with this otherwise I would’ve been just a spectator that afternoon.
After gearing up, one of the horses was led to the mount for the lessons to begin. Now this part was difficult for me because my animal rights activist side come out a little. I started thinking of the morals surrounding this kind of treatment of horses — the gear they have to wear without really giving their consent; where they have to live, is that really enough space? And being ridden on cue, are they cool with that? I mean my daughter is forever asking to be carried but on my tired days I’m like “nah girl, God gave you legs too and we both know you know how to use them.” But these horses can’t do the same, they can’t look at me on some, “not today Cleo, I don’t feel like it.” Then I started wondering if the horses are happy at all? If they are, how could one tell? If they aren’t then what can be done? The one horse kept staring into my soul, but then I remembered Life of Pi when the father of it tells his son that the cheetah didn’t have a soul, it was merely Pi’s soul reflecting back. But who’s to say cheetahs, or in this case, horses don’t have souls? I mean, are we going to look back at this ten or twenty years from now and the animals we oppress will be having a beer next to us in a bar laughing about how much we were monsters to them but all is forgiven? But I digress. Just a lot of emotions happened during this part of the outing and it would’ve been inaccurate not to share that too.
My friend and her colleague had their lessons first while I took pictures. Then when it was time for me to have my lesson, I wanted to back out. Firstly because of the paragraph above, but mostly because of nerves and anxiety. The trainer was absolutely wonderful though, definitely made me feel WAY more confident about doing it and eventually I did. One thing that also pushed me was getting out of my comfort zone, I mean yes it’s very nice in here but ever so often, it’s great to get out. And so it was. I was horseback riding like it was in my blood. Well, at least the trainer hyped me up on my posture and composure (she had no idea how much I was freaking out inside or the moral conflicts happening simultaneously). It was a riveting experience and moral conflicts aside, I’m glad I did it. Would I do it again, probably not because I’d keep thinking if the horse is actually cool with it. Do I recommend folks to try it, yes, the experience is priceless. And if you drive, it’s exhilarating to ride a horse fully knowing it could just be like ‘nope’ and you’re on the floor hahaha. Well, maybe not when I phrase it that way, but just the adrenaline from knowing that this is also an animal with it’s own mind so should it decide not to listen to your commands it’s late — it is really something. What’s more fascinating is the relationship you definitely have to build and nurture to ensure the comfort and safety of both the horse and you, the rider. Sure my morals are still unsettled with the whole exercise in general, but I can’t delay that I definitely had fun and would probably consider doing it again.
Intrigued? Wanna give yourself a go at horseback riding? Then check out Chikara Stables for a lesson. But if you want to discuss the moral hazards around the topic instead, leave a comment below or send me a email — I would love to hear from you.