The beginning of horse riding in Germany and falling in Germany
I went to the closest stable I can find and said to the first gentleman I met, “I can’t speak German but I want to learn horse riding.” The elderly gentleman, with experience written all over his weather-beaten leathery face replied:
“REITEN, !@#$%^&*()_+, !@#%^&, STUDENT, !@#$%^&*()_+, ENGLISCH, !@#$%^&*()_+” DEUTSCH.” And I said OK.
He opened a heavy and soiled register, and I understood I was in. I got an appointment. “He can’t speak English and I can’t speak German, we made a good team,” I thought.
On my first day, before my lesson, I expected a groom to tack up and bring the horse to me. But I saw no grooms in sight, instead, I saw the riders tacking up their horses. I found out grooms like arranged marriages was an alien concept in this part of the world. I managed to bother a fellow rider and found out who Laska, my first horse, was and sheepishly asked him to help me tack up the horse. When I mentioned I have ridden for two and half years, he shot me a look as if I just mentioned I was suffering from dementia.
Treatment in India
I realized that the horse riding school back in India treated me like royalty . All I did for two and half years was, arrive just a few minutes before the lesson, mount the horse with the help of a groom and then start the drama. “I don’t want to canter today, there is a plastic cover in the corner; there is a gardener in the bush watering the plants; she (the horse) pointed her ears towards me, so on and so forth. If I were my instructor I would have secretly hoped that I would have a smallish accident, break a bone or two and never returned. Thank God, for I was not my instructor.
Back to horse riding and falling in Germany, I couldn’t believe that I had to groom the horse myself which included picking the hooves till they shone as bright as dirt.
As for the habit of complaining while riding, it took its toll because of the language barrier. It was initially suffocating that I couldn’t tell, Herr Kinns, my instructor what the horse was doing to me, but gradually life changed for good. Herr Kinns used six words in English: heels, down, reins, short, left, right. Rest, I just followed the other riders and did what everyone else was doing. If the rider before me stopped to scratch an itch, I stopped and almost did the same.
Laska, my new Royal Secret
Laska, I thought was my new Royal Secret, my favorite horse in India. She was tall, black, old and slow. Perfect for my need. She was also wise, good-natured and hassle-free. As soon as I lifted the bridle, she opened her mouth and slid the snaffle into her mouth. I rode her twice and requested Herr Kinns to let me ride her for the rest of my life. As my luck would have it, the very next lesson I found out that Laska injured her leg and she was off duty for an indefinite period. Sigh!
My next horse was Benji. Just a few inches taller than me, a gray horse, stained all over and mischievous. He had forelock and mane enough for three horses, sometimes I even wondered how he managed to see through the forelock. He was an engaging character. Just when I lifted the saddle to place it on his back, he went to drink water. I stood awkwardly, shifting the weight of the heavy saddle from one leg to another, trying not to drop it and waiting for him to return.
While I was grooming him, he flatulated right in my face on several occasions. And in the arena he had a starting problem, he ignored all the aids and went where he pleased. While trotting he stopped without a warning as if it suddenly dawned on him that he reached the edge of a cliff, while I’m just one stride away from falling. But when he decided to canter, it felt like a dream, so smooth and effortless. And just like that, all his tantrums were forgiven.
Paul – the horse of my life
After a few weeks of Benji’s tantrums, I got Paul, a chestnut colored horse and the tallest horse I ever rode in my life. As if that weren’t enough trouble, his saddle tree was 15 feet above the (Baltic) sea level. To bring the saddle down I spent nearly 10 min, climbing a chair, dragging the saddle out of the saddle tree, balancing it on my thigh, trying not to fall off and climbing down the chair, every single time. To saddle him, I always needed a tall person’s help. However, as a consolation, he had a placid nature which helped me in getting comfortable with horses on the ground and in improving my grooming skills.
He was equally good in the arena, his canter made me believe I could fly. All I did, like people usually think, was, I sat on him and everything else was a smooth affair. Once again I requested Herr Kinns to let me ride Paul forever, although there was a big queue for Paul, he agreed.
Just when I thought, Paul was the horse of my life, and there was no looking back, out of the blue he saw a monster in one corner of the arena, he spooked and bucked. Thus, my first fall in Germany took place. I dusted myself and stretched in every direction to make sure all the bones in my body were intact and got back on Paul. Besides, it is only horse to get scared of everything and spook without a reason. All was well as it ended well.
Of riding and falling
Before my next lesson, I had a little pep talk with Paul, gave him a carrot and assured him there was no monster in the corner. In the arena, we warmed up, walked and trotted well, so it meant everything was ok. I succeeded in convincing him that there was no monster or so I thought. When we began cantering the evil monster showed up suddenly and Paul bucked for his life. However, this time, I was cautious and managed to hang on. After the incident, we slowed down and avoided cantering around the corner where the monster was camping.
It was clear, as long as we don’t go around the monster’s corner we are safe. I felt very proud that I managed to hang on. With a sense of achievement, smiling and holding my head high I continued, and as we passed Herr Kinns, he sneezed! Paul spooked again and my belief “I could fly” came true and crashed suddenly as I landed on my left shoulder. Herr Kinns apologized for sneezing and I fracture my shoulder. For the next few weeks riders rode Paul under observation while everyone suppressed their urge to sneeze.
I reluctantly took three months break from riding. But when I got back after three months, guess who was back, it was Laska. She was still wise, old and recovering from an injury, just what I needed.
Happily ever after!