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Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed spending my afternoons or weekends on a horse ranch learning how to ride and take care of the animals. I’ve been horse riding for the last eight years and it has influenced my life a lot, allowing me to learn new things about myself and handle these big animals with confidence. Especially in the last year, it has become a very much needed outlet.
There is something charming about horses that I can’t quite explain. Despite their big size, they are gentle and very sensitive. They can be fast, wild, and unpredictable but they are also playful, friendly, and curious. Being with animals, in general, is calming and refreshing, but spending time with horses feels like being on another planet. Time flies by differently and without even trying I always forget about my worries and to-do lists.
When I step into the stables, I first smell the smell of hay and the animals. For some people, it may be an unpleasant one but for the farmers and the riders, it certainly isn’t and can be even comforting in a way. I greet a horse I usually ride by petting him and giving him a treat. Studies show that horses are able not only to recognize faces but some of them are also able to read facial expressions. This has become a little bit insignificant now because of the face masks we are wearing inside. And so it seems that escaping the real world is not possible anymore but when I finally sit in the saddle and breathe fresh air things start to seem normal again.
Sitting on a horse and moving with it is a unique and fun activity but every rider must be aware that riding is teamwork. Just as the horse obeys our commands the person riding must be ready to listen to the horse’s requests. Sometimes they are obvious, expressed with stubbornness, and sometimes very subtle, for example, shown in the movement of the ears. Pain, limping, tiredness, hunger, and fear are communicated to us in their language and it takes some expertise to understand it all. I’m learning this every day I spend with these animals and I aspire to someday be able to pick up on every ever so fine signal my horse sends me.
The horses and the riding instructors I had the chance to work with in the past taught me things that stay with me to this day and influence different aspects of my everyday life. They have shown me the importance of patience, authority, safety, reliance, and inspire me to be more perceptive to the world around me. This inspires me to search for balance in life.
I feel lucky enough to be able to seek comfort and refreshment in nature and animals. Especially in the times of stress and worry we are living in, it is more important than ever to try and stay connected to the environment and exercise outside if this is safe and possible. Although social distancing has become important it doesn’t apply when it comes to animals and I think everyone should experience hugging a horse or feeling its soft velvety muzzle.
Maša Nenezić, Gimnazija Vič