A sweet topic, and light commentary following my intentionally harsh critique titled ‘International success for Turkish sports and athletes’ from last week…
Just as we own the values of our ancestors and take inspiration from their maxims, we equally cherish our ancestral sport of horse riding. After all, as the saying goes, it’s all about one’s horse, woman, and gun. For the Turks, namely the largest group of immigrants from Central Asia, horses were an indispensable component of life. They were the first equestrians.
Times have changed; vehicles have changed, horses have been swapped with mechanical vehicles but the place horses occupy in our hearts still remain. They have settled in our minds as the noblest of animals, and as the greatest of ‘partners’ in sports.
As I mentioned at the beginning, my aim here is to keep it light by sharing my thoughts on my beloved sport, equestrianism, and perhaps motivate parents who would like to introduce their children to this sport as well as those who are thinking of starting on themselves.
Once you have finished reading, if a love of equestrianism (or sports) is kindled, and our community gains a new talent, what more could I ask for?
It turns out that I come from a family of riders. As a child, this was a fact I was told repeatedly. My grandmother used to ride horses. My father used to ride horses. The whole family used to ride at the farm in Moda. The grandchild should ride as well, right? To be honest, I never felt the pressure. I thought “I swim, why not ride as well?” and I was already surrounded by people who knew the drill… And the rest is history.
I still remember the tricks I tried to pull to make my father buy me my first horse. Later on, a very good friend of mine Hulki sold me his horse at twice the going rate, saying “That’s my ideal customer”. If you are going to buy a horse, my advice to you is, don’t seem too eager, especially to your father.
At first, I used to ride my grandmother’s horses. More precisely, I tried to sit upright on her horses. She would pick me up from our house at 9:30 in the morning. This drill continued for about a month. One noon as she was dropping me off, she said, from now on you can go at 8:00. At first, I couldn’t understand what she meant. For over a year, I mucked out the horses’ bedding together with the stableman Master Mahmut. We groomed them, arranged the watering and feeding of the horses, cleaned and cared for their tack.
If I had the chance, I would do all of that again. Except one thing, nagging my grandmother.
It all started like this, and continued everyday with 3-4 (sometimes 12) horses, for 30 years. Now my daughters ride horses, and I watch them with pleasure.
Belonging to a community is wonderful. More importantly so for children, having a hobby or a sport that they can participate in is much better than idling around, especially in terms of its positive impact on one’s mental and physical wellbeing.
I’m sure it’s the same with other sports communities, too, but there is one important difference when it comes to riding. You are in the company of animals. Of cats, dogs, horses and even mice. Those mice that wait for the horses to leave, and run to the other side of the manège, jumping through the broken boards, even they put a smile on one’s face…
You are in the company of people. Kind people; people who participate in sports. They have been through the same roads as you. Participating in, what I believe to be the noblest sport in the world. The only sport where you wear a tie and a blazer.
You learn from those who are older than you, and you share it with your peers. You learn not to look down on people, and only look up to them within reason. You learn to struggle and to compete in good time.
And there is that feeling of victory, of winning that trophy and taking it home. There aren’t enough words to describe that feeling.
Of course, one shouldn’t overlook the underlying motivation. Reaping the rewards of hard and demanding work tiring work. How could someone brought up this way, harm anyone?
What about those friendships founded through sports? How could one give up a friend like Efe? We shared the same room for years when we were both in the national team. Such a friendship never gets old. Such friendships are for life. The people you do sports with are there with you in other aspects of life as well. They are here to stay, and you will be the ones who know one another the best.
I guess I digressed from my initial topic of equestrianism, and moved onto sports in general, and the feeling and experience of being an athlete.
In short, I can safely say that, equestrianism is a perfect occupation for those who are good with animals, especially those who love horses; a sport that introduces one to a calm, serene and stress-free world, where tightknit friendships are established, and a sport that is sustainable from the age of 8 to 88.
And for those who enjoy the feeling of competition and victory, the opportunity to compete as an incredibly harmonious duo—that of an animal and a human being—is one that is very rare to come by in the world of sports.
I can’t think of a better sport for those who want to encourage their children to take up sports.
Those who love animals, love humans, too.