Halfway through summer of 2017, I began to notice and become aware of my easily drifting mind. I spent my days in bed- watching movies, television shows and YouTube videos - the usual teenage summer. My idea of an ideal summer was far from this; and definitely did not revolve around my couch. I started to become really moody, irritable and grumpy. I knew it was high time I got out of my little shell and do something productive with my time and energy.
So, what could I have possibly done for a month before I headed back to college?
I have always believed that it is important to choose a sport and practice it everyday for the best workout and recreation activity. I religiously stick to a sport for a month, and eventually quit it because of hundred other commitments. This time, I didn't want it to ensue in the same fashion. I am always looking to do something different, something refreshing.
I have been meaning to learn horse riding ever since I was a child. I remember watching cowboys gallop away majestically- in movies, sometimes when I went on vacation to the countryside, and mostly in my dreams! And I always wondered, what it feels like to be able to control an animal but at the same time, to be able to work as a team, you and your stallion. While the idea stuck in my mind, I was still figuring out the details and finances of this rather expensive sport.
I came across the beginner's program at the Amateur Rider's Club, that lasted until the end of summer and somehow the dates fit perfectly in my schedule. It is one of the oldest and largest private civilians riding clubs, situated in the heart of Mumbai. The club not only provides riding lessons but also organises show jumping, polo, dressage and plot tent pegging activities. They have a variety of options from a 10-day beginners riding camp for non-members to daily riding lessons for members of the club.
I spent an entire month training, learning and practicing horseback riding. It's amazing how hypnotic a horse's ears can be as they quiver slowly in front of you, stretching forwards and back rhythmically as your mount strides out. Horse riding is probably the closest thing a human can do on the ground that feels like flying. Sure, you can go faster in a car, but the sensation is never the same.
For me, it's a combination of adventure, exhilaration and, ironically, extreme relaxation. Your mind wanders as you explore bridle paths and horseshoe shapes. You go at your own pace - a steady and composed trot or a full gallop, should you fancy it. The overwhelming feeling is one of freedom. Once you're in the saddle, you're only a few meters off the ground but, crucially, this gives you a slightly different perspective of the world. You spot things you wouldn't normally spot and from the horse's back, you are totally immersed in the natural environment. You can't help but live in the moment, at one with your horse and nature, because there is nothing better than that.
Horse riding can be both incredible and scary at the same time. There's a sense of adrenaline while riding but you are one with the horse. It is almost impossible to feel ill on a full speed horse, as long as you follow the movement with your body. When I get the chance to ride, I always feel anxious at first but it's important to know that horses can sense your emotions and they know exactly how you are feeling. If you think of it has a stimulating experience, all your worries will disappear. You notice how powerful your horse really is, the strength it can develop, and I think that's beautiful.
Apart from travelling, it's this close proximity to the natural world that provides such a sense of escapism and relaxation. You begin to notice the distinctive habits of your mare (or stallion), become attuned to the seasons, and begin to unite with your steed. Each ride has it's own magical appeal and each ride will teach you some of the most beautiful things. While riding alone is a strangely philosophical experience, cantering along with a friend is as much fun! You can take a packed lunch and head off on longer treks in the countryside to explore new paths or routes, what an enriching experience indeed!