I looked into his glowing, beautiful eyes and instantly felt transported into another world. They were magical, they were captivating. His perfect, muscular body glistened in the early morning sun and I felt a sense of awe and wonder. I wanted to be near him, I wanted to understand him, trust him and I wanted him to trust me too, but I felt shy, hesitant.
His mop of dark, unruly hair looked just a tad bit wild, but it suited him. Hesitantly, I walked closer to him, wondering: could I possibly ride him? Black Moon, they called him. This gorgeous horse stood in front of me and I cautiously gave him my hand to smell. He took a couple of sniffs and looked at me intently, as though trying to figure me out.
My first horse-riding lesson was so much more than just that. It was the realisation that getting out of one’s comfort zone is almost always rewarding and that denim skinnies don’t exactly fall into the ‘comfortable pants’ group. So I should tell you that I am mortally afraid of animals.
I think it all started with seeing my cousin being chased (and bitten) by a stray, rabid dog when I was 7 years old. She was terrified and how the dog howled, and sprinted after her, like a being possessed. From that time on, anything larger than an ant makes me highly uncomfortable, be it cats, dogs, bugs, goats or as we will talk about today, horses.
Another thing I should tell you is that I have poor balance. As a baby I am told that I took very long to get walking, I can’t rollerblade or ice-skate to save my life and the yoga poses that require balance and coordination? I usually find myself in a heap on the floor if I try those positions.
Horse riding, as you know, is a skill which requires plenty of balance and fitness, both of which I lack. But I went and signed up for the classes anyway, because though I may be terrified of horses, I am also incredibly attracted to them. I wanted to try something different, a new experience that would make me appreciate nature and take me away from the boring monotony of life.
Looking at Black Moon
So here I was, flushed and nervous and looking at Black Moon with wonderment and a longing to be able to ride him. The next 45 minutes were the most delightful minutes anyone ever spent on a saddle, an unreal experience on a beautiful, foggy Dubai morning.
It wasn’t just about learning to ride a horse, it was a negation of about a 100 stereotypes — I am fine with animals (I stroked and patted my horse and lived to tell the tale) and my balance isn’t quite as bad as I thought it was and no, I don’t need to be at my ideal weight in order to ride a horse and it’s OK to learn new things even if you’re not a school-going kid. I also realised that getting on and off the horse is more challenging than I thought and a kind, understanding and qualified instructor is such a blessing.
Black Moon may have looked wild, but he was gentle and trusting and at a mere click of my tongue he would start walking again, or stop if I pulled the reins. Another thing I realised is that horse riding isn’t just about mounting a horse and letting it do all the work, it is a skill that requires the rider to actively use their muscles, in fact it is quite a workout. The average person can burn about 250-400 calories per hour horseback riding at a slow speed.
The joy we receive from being closer to nature, and in particular in interacting with animals, is in it’s own league and I feel like I’ve waited too long to get over my fears and get on the horse. What’s holding you back? What’s the one thing that makes you uncomfortable but you secretly wish you could do it? Perhaps now is the time to take the bull by the horns.
— Mehmudah Rehman is a Dubai-based freelance writer