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My Love for Horseback Riding

I was only 5 years old when my dad put me on a horse for the first time. And it wasn’t one of those little ponies either. It was a majestic thoroughbred, sleek and powerful. I remember feeling both exhilarated and terrified as I sat on the saddle atop this giant, my tiny hands clutching the reins tightly.

My dad often took me to the horseraces where he once rode as a young jockey. He led the horse around a paddock surrounded by people who came to see the race. The excitement was obvious, and even at such a young age, I could feel the thrill of the ongoing race rushing through my veins.

But then, something unexpected happened. The horse got spooked, perhaps by a sudden noise or movement, and it reared up on its hind legs, trying to buck me off. I held on for dear life, my heart pounding in my chest and my dad’s voice telling me to hold the mane. I miraculously managed to stay on. I could hear the gasps of the onlookers, followed by the sound of applause. I felt like a hero, a fearless jockey in the making.

From that moment on, I was hooked. I begged my dad to let me ride again and again, and each time, he would oblige, his pride in me evident in his eyes. Over the next few years, as I started school, I rarely rode horses with my dad during vacations or special weekends. I loved the bond formed between horses, the riders, and the freedom that comes with riding. That feeling of wind on your face as you ride, and the rhythmic motion of the horse can be incredibly liberating.

A tragedy struck when I was just 12 years old. My dad was asked to join a steeplechase race for veteran jockeys and was involved in a terrible accident during that race. His horse stumbled before one of the jumps and fell, throwing him to the ground with such force that he suffered fatal injuries. After 11 days in a coma, he passed away.

My dad and I used to love hiking in the woods together. He had a subtle way of connecting every life lesson he ever gave me to the wisdom of the mountains. He taught me how to carefully choose which mushrooms to pick, or what herbs blend well to make tea. In this photo, we are on a hunt for blueberries, which used to be a tradition in our family.

In the days and weeks that followed, I struggled to come to terms with the fact that my dad was gone. I missed him more than words could express, and the pain of his loss threatened to consume me. At his funeral, I stood by my mother’s side, clutching her hand tightly, trying to make sense of the new reality that I would never see my dad again.

My mother didn’t allow me anywhere near the racetrack after that terrible day on March 18, 1998. I became a difficult teenager after that as the loss of my father manifested as a complete loss of faith. I blamed God for taking him away, and I blamed myself for not being there on the day of the race. Years went by without riding, but my love for horses was so deeply etched into my heart, compelling me to return to the saddle.

Take a seat on a new saddle

One day, as I stood by the racetrack, watching the horses thunder by, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. I believe that my dad would want me to pursue my passion for riding with the same courage and determination he had. And so, I did. I signed up for lessons every chance I had and my heart soared with a mix of emotions. I know that my dad is always watching over me, proud of the girl who had once sat atop a horse and refused to be bucked off.

This is not a story of sadness and loss. Instead, it is a tribute to my father, a celebration of the love and passion he instilled in me for horseback riding. Through sharing these memories, I keep his spirit alive, and he continues to inspire me every day. Time has passed, and while the pain of his loss will always be with me, I find solace in the memories we shared. My father was my hero, and though his time with me was short, he taught me more than words can express.

To find out what you can expect on your first horseback ride read my post on Riding a Horse for the First Time?