Riding Solo!

I’m off to Mongolia  where I am going riding. I had my second horse riding lesson because I haven’t ridden before.

I was expecting a lesson similar to the last one – constant guidance and reassurance.

Beethoven and the brand new puppy (still nameless) sharing Beethoven's food before he was saddled up.

Beethoven and the brand new puppy (still nameless) sharing Beethoven’s food before he was saddled up.

My lovely teacher Katrina was busy so she saddled Beethoven up and said “You’re pretty good now. Have a go by yourself.”.

Gulp – alone – just me and a skyscraper of a horse with his own will and lots of muscles and the ability to gallop (which means WAY faster than the trotting and walking I did last week!!). I can feel my anxiety rising as Katrina walks away.

This is much more scary than a blind date. You can walk away from a blind date but even getting off Beethoven is a challenge for me and I can’t just walk away from him – he has been entrusted to me by his devoted owner. His welfare is in my hands – or is it the other way around? My mind is already getting confused.

“OK Fi. Toughen up. Time to come to an agreement with this moving mountain of muscle.”

“Walk on Beethoven”.

Oh – he walked on – no problem. But walking get boring quickly so “Trot on Beethoven”.

I sense Beethoven knows he has an upper hand (or hoof) with me. He knows I’m a beginner and I am not sure of myself.

I urge him on again and get a canter. “No, no. Too fast. I don’t know what to do with a canter.”.

I try pulling the reins but not too much as Katrina taught me last week and say “Trot on”.

Phew – that worked. I’m now…. Wow, I’m now actually rising and falling in rhythm with Beethoven. I feel like a rider. Hope for me being a Mongolian Warrior Princess after all. Opps….. lost it. Slap back into reality with a hard, ungracious bounce  into the saddle which is not an unusual feeling for me!!

We do many rounds. I try to gain confidence. Beethoven tries tacts to unsettle me – such as riding close to the fence. He know my legs are wider than his body. I steer him away and tell him he’s doing a great job (but is my body energy telling him this? I wonder?).

Katrina’s son comes over to give me a phone which will work out in the paddocks. My phone loses reception at the “Please call again” sign at the edge of most towns.

He tells me Beethoven doesn’t like to trot. I had forgotten Katrina telling me this last week. I feel a little better as it has been hard work getting him to trot – walking is fine for us both, cantering is fine for him (I need to learn this skill) and trotting suits me (but not Beethoven). I feel we are coming to some closer agreement of how we will interact.

Armed with a phone and more confidence, Beethoven and I head out to the paddocks for a ride.

"Evidence" that I was actually on Beethoven in the paddock!

“Evidence” that I was actually on Beethoven in the paddock!

I feel SO excited and SO nervous. Here I am for the first time in my life alone on a horse and I’m heading out of the enclosed arena in control of Beethoven and I want to return safely.

I laugh. Life certainly doesn’t stop at 50!! I celebrated turning 50 on top of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and now, a couple of years later, I’m learning to ride a horse. I’m not sure which is more challenging!

I can learn new things if I want to. The worst thing that can happen to me right now is falling off and hurting myself but it probably won’t hurt half as much as getting divorced. Or I could die but that’s inevitable anyway so I’ve nothing to lose.

Off we go – Beethoven and I. I’m not quite sure who is more in control but I feel confident enough to ride out alone – well, without a teacher other than Beethoven.

Most of the way we walk – a little trotting which shifts quickly into a canter – which shifts my heart rate into uncomfortable  – so I ease Beethoven into walking again. It’s my first time alone. I don’t need to be the Mongolian warrior princess yet – I will be in 2 weeks time whether I like it or not (I know I will like it).

Beethoven’s ears flicker every time I take a photo. The shutter noise is obviously new to him.

I take the same route as last week until we are stopped by a closed gate. We head off cross country – up a couple of slopes where Beethoven quickens but as I am feeling slightly more confident, I don’t pull on the reins. I arrive at the top of the slope (it seemed like a vertical incline but that would be an exaggeration) still on top of Beethoven! I have a quiet sense of achievement (the definition of achievement becomes very relevant to the person and circumstances!!). My body is adjusting to Beethoven’s movements.

As we head for home Beethoven quickens his pace. Animals and people are so alike – we all love heading for home.

I take off the saddle and fumble changing over the reins to a halter. I’ve only seen Katrina do it once last week so am uncertain. Which way is up? Where does the buckle go? And Beethoven’s ears? Which holes do they go in?

The worst thing that could happen is Beethoven walks away without being washed off. I decide we can all live with this outcome so press on with my unskilled fumbling.

Beethoven gets washed (and a lot of me too) and I put things back in the shed. Then one of the best parts – a cup of tea with lovely Katrina!

Me and my riding buddy Beethoven - feeling a little more comfortable being this close!!!

Me and my riding buddy Beethoven – feeling a little more comfortable being this close!!!


Wow – now I feel a real sense of learning. I’ve ridden a horse by myself. Stepping into the unknown is always so scary but I feel even after the first step the journey instantly seems to get easier as you’ve moved forward into the unknown and survived the first step.

I remember the biggest step into this whole tree change adventure for me was making myself unemployed whilst I still had kids at school and a huge mortgage. I was so fearful I would not manage and would end up in a worse situation.

Three and a half years later I am so glad I got on the back of the horse of change and urged us forward into the unknown. Similarly to when I am on Beethoven, I wasn’t always sure about what was happening, where I was going, whether I would stay on. I simply held on and believed that everything would be good.

Three and a half years later I am off to Mongolia for 6 weeks instead of being tied to a 9 to 5 office job where I was not fulfilled. Riding the change is always unsettling but the adventure along the way is worth those anxious moments of uncertainty.

Өдрийг сайхан өнгөрүүлээрэй  (“Have a nice day” in Mongolian script)

Odriig saihan ongoruuleerei.  (“Have a nice day” in romanised script – I’m struggling a little to know how to promounce these letter combinations).

And a final Mongolian word – this is a saying I found online. I’m not quite sure what it means – very curious! What do you think?

Миний агаарын даралтыг ашиглан хөвөгч усан онгоцийг дүүрэн могой загас юм which apparently means “My hovercraft is full of eels”.


How exciting all this unchartered change is. Another culture and language to interact with. Thinking about all this I’m more likely to fall off my attempts at Mongolian than I am Beethoven. Beethoven is a good reminder to me of my need to rise and fall with the change in life’s pace, rhythms and opportunities.

Ride on life – I’m holding on!!!

From my soon to be hostess' blog "Mongolian Mumbles" post "Przewalski Horse or Takhi horse - meaning spirit.... as it is called in Mongolia".

From my soon to be hostess’ blog “Mongolian Mumbles” post “Przewalski Horse or Takhi horse – meaning spirit…. as it is called in Mongolia”.


4 responses to “Riding Solo!

  1. Good to see you are conquering two things, horse riding and affects of aging (meaning lack of youthful daring and confidence and a body that works smoothly and efficiently).
    As I was reading…your were heading out away from the homestead, I was hoping someone had told you the trip home on horse back is usually quicker!
    I think the Mongolian ponies will present a different rhythm for you, small horses tend to giggle. I am thinking your bottom will be hitting the saddle 3x as frequently as the skyscraper horse style. Let me know if my assumption is correct when you get back….

    Remember you are the superior species (my husband tells our homestay students when confronted with the large cockroaches previous sighted in OS home country).
    Happy and safe riding. Love Hx

    • Hey Helen. I’m not really used to any horse rhythm yet so a giggly one will almost be the same as Beethoven!! I’m getting really excited about it now. The scenery is SO spectacular. It will be such an experience to be off the beaten track on a horse. Sometimes I wonder about the superior species bit!! I have come up against some animals which I am sure were superior to me at least for a moment – a baboon in the Maasai Mara, Kenya pops into my head for example. His teeth and aggression and musclyness definitely made me feel inferior!

      But I will remember your words and approach my pony with confidence!! Fi xx

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