Since I was seven years old, I’ve been an equestrian—except for one long period from 2005 until 2019. For fourteen years, I hung up my riding gear and forgot about riding and horses.
If I passed a stable while driving or riding my bike, I’d look longingly at the horses. I had to stop and pet the police horses when visiting New York City. And I had a picture taken of myself with the Royal horse guards in London just last year.
Horses were in my blood, and I couldn’t get them out. Not totally.
This Year’s Goal: Ride
For the past two years, going horseback riding was on my list of goals. I felt the desire to reconnect with this passion and see if I still had it in me to ride. (I wasn’t sure if my body would allow me to ride without too many negative consequences.) But I didn’t do it.
Once, a friend invited me to ride. I cleaned my saddle, got out my gear, and then… canceled. It seemed like too much time and effort, especially when I had work to do. I remembered well that riding wasn’t a quick endeavor. It always takes several hours between grooming, tacking up, riding, cooking down, and chatting with other riders.
This year, however, I told myself it would be different. I felt burned out and lacking in passion for my work, my relationships, and so many other things. I decided the prescription I needed was to take up an old hobby. I wanted to do something I had previously felt passionate about—riding.
So I called Bear Creek Stables, where, 14 years ago, I had boarded a thoroughbred ex-racehorse. I’d also given lessons and trained and exercised horses at this stable.
Management of the stable had changed since my last visit to Bear Creek Stables, but Pam Ashford invited me to come to meet her. We had a long chat, I fed carrots to many horses, and Pam agreed to let me come out and ride.
Got Horses to Ride?
I began riding at the age of 7 when a friend of mine invited me to Spring Brook Stables in Chester, NY. I rode there for many years until, at age 13, I convinced my mother to buy me a horse. I got more serious about riding as the years went on and began competing on a higher level. I rode hunters and jumpers and focused primarily on equitation. I even attempted to qualify to ride in the Medal/ASPCA Maclay finals in the old Madison Square Garden in Manhattan.
Then I went off to college, where I rode for the Syracuse University Equestrian Team for a few years. And once I graduated from college, I found a stable at which I could ride in Westchester County, NY, where I had landed a job. A few years later, I found myself working in Oklahoma, where I, again, found a stable at which to ride.
Given my experience, the stable owners or instructors were happy to let me ride. They had horses that needed light training and exercise, and I could be trusted with their horses. It was a win-win for both of us.
When I arrived in California in 2002, however, it took me a little while to find somewhere to ride. Then my neighbor decided to purchase a rescue horse, and I agreed to train him for them. This landed me at Eddie Ranch (now Boulder Creek Stable), where I not only trained my neighbor’s horse but worked with a few other horses boarded there as well.
When my neighbors moved their horses to Bear Creek Stables, I came along. There I took on more riding lessons and exercised of horses. When one of the trainers got involved with saving ex-racehorses from slaughter, I decided to do the same. However, my efforts in this area did not work out well, and the horse I saved had to be put down.
I rode for a month longer, mostly mounting friends’ horses. However, after I fell off and sprained my knee and, not long after, had a horse pull back and break an expensive bridle I had to replace, I cut my losses. I got out of riding as a business and a hobby.
First Day Back at Bear Creek Stables
In just a few weeks, I’ll turn 59. It’s been 52 years since I began riding and more than a decade since I rode last.
As I got ready to leave for Bear Creek Stable—saddle, helmet, half-chaps, and carrots in the car—my husband asked, “Are you nervous?”
“I am,” I replied.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if all those workouts at the gym would serve me well once in the saddle again. Would my legs swing all over the place? Would I remember what to do? Would I fall off…and regret having gotten on at all? Would I totally embarrass myself? Would my sensitive back tell me the next day this had been a mistake?
I didn’t have the answers, but I knew one thing. It was time to get back in the saddle.
And I did.
Pam suggested I ride a trusty lesson horse named Cooper. I got good and warmed up just by grooming him. (I don’t remember that task being quite so tiring!) I tacked him up, marveling t how it all felt familiar…and yet unfamiliar.
And then I walked him to the mounting block and mounted. Again…it felt so familiar…yet awkward and like my body needed to reset to accommodate the saddle and stirrups.
Pam opened the gate for me, and into the ring, we went.
Low and behold, I could still ride! Yes, the legs got tired quickly, but, like riding a bicycle, horseback riding came back to me immediately. And it felt great to be on a horse’s back and navigating around the ring after so many years.
I wasn’t scared. Cooper and I were a good fit, and he made me feel safe. Everything else—all my life and work concerns—melted away. I remembered this well….
After 20 minutes of trotting, I attempted a canter. Three short bursts, and then I was unable to get Cooper to canter more than a few strides. So, I gave up, satisfied that we’d trotted successfully many times around the busy and puddle-filled arena with no mishaps.
I was pleased and surprised to receive a few compliments on my riding. A former equitation riders’ worst fear is not having praise-worthy riding skills—even after so many years. And between the pleasant comments and my own sense of achievement, my confidence increased by about 75% compared to when I first plunked my butt in the saddle.
Once is Never Enough
I find horseback riding a bit like eating potato chips—you can’t ride just once. So, I was thrilled when Pam told me to come back whenever I’d like and ride again.
I explained that I’d be away for the next two weekends and would come after that. Pam encouraged me to come during the week if I wanted.
I immediately thought I can’t do that. I work during the week. But by the time I got in the car, I found myself thinking about my schedule and wondering if there was any way I could go ride again before I returned from my travels. I’m not sure I can make it happen, but I am certain that I will continue riding.
Some things never change…like a passion for horses and horseback riding. And I’m grateful to be able to stoke that passion again. I feel better after just one ride—although I may not be able to say that about my body tomorrow!
If you are looking for a place to ride—for the first time or, like me, after years away from riding—take a trip out to Bear Creek Stables. You’ll find the people and place welcoming, the horses varied and friendly, and your time there relaxing. There are plenty of school horses and instructors, and you can pursue your passion for horses and riding. Maybe I’ll see you there…
About the Author
Nina Amiris is known as the Inspiration to Creation Coach. As one of 700 elite Certified High-Performance Coaches working around the world, she helps her clients Achieve More Inspired Results. She works with creators of all sorts to help them get from the light-bulb moment to the realization of their dreams without letting anything get in the way of that goal.
Additionally, Nina is an Author Coach who supports writers on the journey to successful authorship. She also is the author of three traditionally published books, How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and Creative Visualization for Writers, as well as a host of self-published ebooks, including the Write Nonfiction NOW! series of guides.
For more information, visit www.ninaamir.com.