By Alexia Saleem
I love hanging out with my husband and children; it’s when I feel most comfortable to just be. It doesn’t really matter what we are doing. We could be at home having a chilled day or taking a walk in the mountains.
I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, for I’ve observed other families over the years and have noticed they too share a sense of ease with one another that they don’t seem to share with others.
I guess because it’s peaceful knowing you’re not being continually judged and that you’re loved simply for being you. In an ideal world we’d feel comfortable enough in ourselves to feel this sense of ease whoever we are with.
Like all families, we too have activities we enjoy doing together. One of our biggest passions is currently horse riding.
I’d actually never really thought of us having a ‘family hobby’ because up until recently there was nothing really we all enjoyed doing together, unlike other families I had seen cycling, scuba diving, sailing or skiing. And, the reason we all horse ride is more by chance than design.
It started because my husband and I wanted to take up riding again. I hadn’t ridden in 25 years but had always meant to get back into it. My husband also hadn’t ridden in 12 years. A friend of ours, who is an accomplished rider and owns several horses of his own, suggested a place in Deftera called In The Horse Club.
One afternoon, my husband, the kids and I decided to do a recce of the place. I ended up taking us to the wrong place and had to call the owner to find out exactly where he was located. For someone who used to speak to people on the phone daily as part of her job I suddenly felt shy. Perhaps it was his Greek accent which threw me or perhaps it was because in the past I have found that ‘horsey’ people, like any club, can be cliquey which can make me feel uncomfortable and take me back to my childhood when I was on the ‘wrong’ side of cool.
Whatever my issue was, it was mine alone as Nikos and his wife, Ivonna, are anything but pretentious.
The minute we were shown around the place I knew it was somewhere we’d not only enjoy riding but also simply hanging out. A lot of the horses were former racehorses which Nikos, who is a bit of a horse whisperer as well as a former equine endurance racing champion, had trained to use as riding horses.
Not only do Nikos and Ivonna put you at ease and give you the sense that you’re in good hands, but the horses were really well looked after, which was important to me. Another bonus was the fact there were pigs, goats, lots of dogs and an outdoor playground for the kids to play while my husband and I had our lesson. In short: outdoor kiddie heaven.
The kids didn’t seem keen on riding at first and Nikos and Ivonna told me not to push them. When they were ready, they’d ask to ride themselves, they said. I loved their attitude here too.
Turns out Katerina wanted to ride the week after our first lesson and Leonida two weeks after that.
Today, all four of us ride there one or two mornings a week. One day our dream is to own horses of our own. The fact that Nikos offers livery services is a bonus as we wouldn’t know the first thing about keeping a horse.
When you’re riding it’s like you become one with the horse. After a 25 year break I’m now back to being a beginner so I have to concentrate – a lot – but when I relax there’s no feeling like it. My children and husband feel the same way.
If I could, I would ride every day. I forget that thought one week to the next because life takes over. But when I’m there, and I look out across at the expanse of wide open fields at the majestic Kyrenia mountains, I’m instantly grounded and transported to a quiet place, deep within. I experience the same sort of feeling I get when I’m with my nuclear family. A feeling of just ‘being’.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be an accomplished horsewoman. I don’t know if my children will either. But for now, it’s something we love doing together. And it brings us all a sense of peace and unity.