Episode IV: A New Hope

4 04 2012

I’ve been musing on and off for some years now about wanting to get back into horse riding, and wanting to take advantage of being a student in getting to do so cheaply for a while. I intended to get back into this when I arrived at university in 2010, but was initially put off by the preppiness of the riding society’s then-exec and subsequently became so unwell I never wanted to leave my room unless I had to. That, and at £10 per 30-minute lesson three times a week without a guarantee of getting a place in a group lesson each time, it wasn’t really that much cheaper than just attending regular weekly adult lessons at any old stable.

I came to my Japanese host university in Tokyo knowing that it had its own stables. Very early on, I saw the horse riding club’s poster on the wall in the student cafeteria, and I contacted them shortly after I started attending classes there back in October. I never heard back from them, and so tried a couple more times before giving up on the idea. So I drew the conclusion that I was being wilfully ignored for whatever reason, gave up trying and never spoke of it again.

At the beginning of the spring holiday I noticed a surprising number of adverts for different riding schools around Tokyo on trains, and started thinking about making an enquiry to see how much it would cost to go for a one-off session. I was thinking that perhaps it might be a nice thing to try and organise for my birthday, even if it was likely to be very expensive. I came across this helpful website, and decided to drop the author an email. In my email, I briefly mentioned having had no luck in trying to join up with the riding club at my school. The response I got was completely unexpected; it turned out she was a friend of the riding club’s coach, and she agreed to put me in touch with him directly.

So I poured over grammar books and online Japanese-English dictionaries trying to write out a perfect email to the coach… only for him to write me straight back in fluent-sounding English, signing off at the bottom with his nickname, ‘Teddy’. He explained that the riding club had had problems with abusive mail of some description and had therefore had to change all their contact details, and gave me the email address and phone number of the then team captain. I contacted her right away, and she got straight back to me saying I would be welcome to join the club at the start of the spring semester (so, now) with the freshers, and agreed to email me the details of the club’s welcome events.

I never heard back from her, but almost two months had elapsed by the time Monday came around, so I figured she’d naturally forgotten and sent her another message. She passed me the email address of the new team captain, who I then emailed, and found out that the first welcome event would be today – a ‘Riding Experience’ day. She very kindly also arranged for one of the club’s members to meet me at the nearest train station and show me the way to the stables, as I’ve never been to that campus and didn’t know that neighbourhood at all.

The stables at my host university are over 130 years old. When I first arrived there I was nearly 30 minutes early, so they left me in the stables to pet all the horses, which was lovely. Needless to say, I was excited to the point that it was really hard maintaining a front of calmness for the benefit of the horses! Nevertheless they were all very chilled, and either regarded me with mild curiosity or frisked me for treats (which one of the male club-members later came and gave a load of to me to distribute to them as I saw fit. Heh). In addition to about ten or so horses, there was a lone, white pony (who was making a lot of noise), who I was told is their ‘friend’, and is not there to be ridden.

The actual ‘riding experience’ was much shorter than I would have liked, but it was only a first go to get people interested in joining. Being so out of practice, I found it a bit difficult to get up into the saddle, but once I was in I remembered some of what I was supposed to do, not that it mattered as I wasn’t given free rein, I was effectively just lead around the riding ground a few times and then asked to dismount. It was still a ride though, at the end of the day, and a taster of what’s yet to come, and for what little of it there was I thoroughly enjoyed it. My enjoyment was significantly enhanced by the sakura trees planted around the grounds’ being in full bloom with their branches extended out over my head, so I had an internal King Arthur/Excalibur moment. I really hope the blossoms are still there when I get to canter for the first time!

Afterwards, I hung out with the other new members for a bit. We all exchanged phone numbers. The established club members were very friendly and welcoming towards me; they weren’t at all preppy or judgemental, and seemed genuinely pleased that an exchange student was interested in joining them. Needless to say, I signed up.

This Friday there will be a welcome barbecue on the riding ground. Horses AND grilled meat, mmmm. Training starts properly from Tuesday, and will take place daily from Tuesday to Sunday at 7am. I’ve got some bodyclock adjusting to do, but that’s handy as it won’t interfere with my academic commitments. I guess that’s how it’s intended.

I’m feeling really happy right now, not just at having achieved something I’d wanted to for a long time, but also because I’m semi-convinced that direct exposure to horses stimulates the release of unique happy brain chemicals you simply can’t get any other way. Heh.

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17 05 2012
Surprises « Musings of an 'Insufferable Horsey Girl'

[…] was meeting the chap who got me there in the first place – finally! If you’ve read my first entry, I’m referring to the email contact who very kindly put me in touch with the club after I […]

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