This time I was actually very lucky. I didn’t have to search for a place to ride because my colleague in Tehran is also interested in horse riding – especially in show jumping – so he invited me to visit his riding club, Aria Horse Club.
Well, I have to say that this was one of the best maintained and equipped riding clubs I’ve ever visited. It’s kept by Iranian show jumpers, some of whom have been Iran national champions.
The majority of the horses there are pureblood KPNW, which is simply the best breed for high level show jumping and dressage.
I was really lucky to ride Nadia – a 11-year-old KPNW bay mare, and, by the way, the most expensive horse I’ve happened to ride so far. I was told that she was bought about a year ago for 30 000 euro. She’s certainly worth every cent of it! Initially, a bit uncomfortable because of a bumpy trot, she later won my heart by being extremely sensitive and honest. Later I learned that Dutch Warmbloods are deliberately bred to be very emotionally balanced and cooperative. Strict selection procedures ensure that bad-tempered horses do not go on to produce unmanageable horses. I wonder how they assess their psychological and emotional state? Are there horse psychiatrists?
I actually expected to trot a bit and canter a bit and call it a day, but then my colleague’s coach, Rashid, decided to give me a lesson. Despite my Farsi being limited to half of a dozen words, and his English being just a bit better, we still managed to communicate mostly by gestures and heavily overusing the word “OK” :-)
So I was riding over some poles back and forward when Rashid asked me if I wanted to jump. Not that easy a question to answer, as I calculated later, my last jumping experience was about 18 months ago and it was quite damaging for my self-esteem. I had wanted to take part in a low level showjumping contest and spent 2 hours making my horse look pretty with all these neat braids on his neck. We went to the warm-up arena, where Dream just went crazy for whatever reason and started to either refuse to jump (which had almost never happened before) or gallop to the hurdle at the full speed of a former racehorse, without any reaction to my aids. That time I had to withdraw from the competition, and I had never jumped again… Until today… So how did I reply? “Of course I want!”
I jumped a 50cm cross-bar a few times and it went well (despite almost forgetting how to jump – Nadia was never refusing or trying to deviate from center line). Then step by step, the barrier went higher and higher, and we finished at about 80cm. It was actually extremely inspiring to jump again, even though I was tired and the heat was almost unbearable. Yes, I know. I’m supposed to be used to the heat because of my 4 years spent in the Middle East, but riding in a t-shirt, and occasionally in a shirt and jacket for competitions, is completely different from riding while wearing a knee-length coat over a blouse and jeans, plus a kerchief wrapped around your head and neck topped by a not-very-well-fitting, borrowed helmet.
After we finished, Rashid mounted Nadia and have shown me what she was actually capable of. She was flying over 140cm hurdles with impressive ease and grace. Well, one more horse to fall in love with!
Also, I thought that despite the majority of people thinking that mares are often moody and difficult to ride my own experience gives me completely different statistics. I usually happen to ride very nice mares! I hope this will continue in the same way. :-)