With a Mocha Latte and a bar of Galaxy Caramel in hand, I quickly surveyed the library to choose the quietest spot. Now that I’m settled here I’ve set down my things and my cup. The bitter taste of coffee with sweet hint of caramel is lingering in my mouth, and I’m thinking about horses. I’ve always loved horses. I’ve loved their beauty and their power. I’ve been fascinated by them and when I was around 15 years of age I decided that my first date ever would be spent horseback riding. Of course, back then I completely overlooked the fact that I don’t know how to ride a horse neither have I ever been near one.
But this March, I rode a horse, touched them, caressed them and fed them sugar cubes. I spent an entire evening at a Ranch with my friends and I fell even more in love with them. I find it so strange and so typical of our heart to love someone or something despite never having seen them or been in their company or spent time with them. Such was my love for horses – I’d never seen them, been with them or spent time taking care of them but I knew that I loved them and would consider it a blessing to have one of my own. I never had that opportunity but this year I was given the chance and I took it (thanks to my Baba, the person I’m writing this for).
If I could I would join horseback riding classes and I would buy a beautiful black horse of my own. I’d feed it, love it and take care of it. It would stay in my backyard, amongst the green bushes and green-brown hay (which I may or may not be allergic to) and I’d take it for rides and exercise in open green fields with the clouds gossiping in the sky. When it rains – because in such a perfect world it would rain almost everyday – I would take my horse out so we could ride into the horizon, feeling the water soak my clothes and trickle downward like a storm on it’s body, and when we’re muddy and dirty enough, I’d ride it back to our home and get cleaned up and feel the tranquility that follows an adventure. For dessert my beautiful horse would have peanut butter and I’ll have a peanut butter cheesecake. Happily ever after.
But on March 4th, the day that consisted of long drowsy bus rides, and shorter exhilarated bus rides along the mountains and desert lands, below the clear, scorching sky, I rode a horse, played with an exotic parrot, got petrified by a snake and swooned over two baby chimpanzees. All these things almost felt as good as having my own horse would feel like.
I woke up a little later than usual that day, had a quick breakfast, shower and then got ready for a day in the Ranch. My Editing and Publishing class felt like it would never end, and after that the hour of wait before we got into the buses felt longer than eternity. While we were waiting, I spent time with my friend Nimra and Shafna – and we’d spend the rest of the day together as well, with period of short absences of each other’s company. I doubt they’ll be reading this, but I gotta say it – I loved every minute of my day with them. Of course, I did miss my cat and my best friend in the whole world, but I’m pretty sure the future has a lot of amazing days in store for us. (I love you too.)
The way to the Ranch was long and hot and accompanied by a sleeping Shafna and a separated Nimra who was in another bus. I’m pretty sure everyone in that bus was eager to get off of it and run around in the sandy desert and climb the huge mountains that we passed by, and kiss the camels and sheep that we saw on the way – probably just me though – and because all we could do was sit in the bus and wait for our destination, the ride was long. The mountains were majestic, the sky was a milkshake of white and blue topped with scattered foams of clouds, and the roads were riddled with mirages. The cars that steamed past us or which trailed behind us, or accompanied us on our either sides were all driven by men, all 100% of them and I just find the fact curious enough to be mentioned.
When we reached the Ranch, the roads were slim and dotted with tiny stones and potholes, and the right side was a huge field of vegetation. The border of that field was lined by bare trees and desert bushes, and big stones and rocks with yellow flowers growing amongst them. The entire area was like a vein that travels and travels and then suddenly bursts and splatters everything around it with red blood. In this case, the vein burst and at the point of impact a ranch cropped up and around it was scattered greenery. The fertility of the land winked at the mountains at the distance, and sneered at all the pollution the 4 or 5 big buses were escorting along.
The entrance of the ranch had a long thin road with a thinner row of trees on either side that led us to the main area – the riding ground and the home of the owner at a little distance to it. In between the two was a huge area that they had set up with carpets in between and around 20-25 sofas arranged along the rectangular border for our seating and comfort – an Arabian seating called the ‘majlis’. As we walked in there was a table with a man who served us water and snacks. Next to the seating was a young man on a beautiful big horse – later we find out their names (both the man and the horse) and I’ve long since forgotten them – who was inviting us for rounds of horseback riding, and within minutes a huge group of girls had gathered and he led us to the riding ground. At the riding ground were around 5 other horses along with the trainers. We sipped our waters, it was really humid and hot, and waited for our turns. I was definitely anxious because the horses were big and I was afraid I would fall off. Nimra had a sour experience a long time back when a horse had kicked her thigh or something. That did scare me a little bit, but I knew I needed to get on that horse.
Interestingly, Shafna used to volunteer on Thursdays at a horseback riding camp/ranch where children with some disability would be taught to ride horses. She’s the one who told me that horses love sugar and she taught me how to feed one. I wonder if they still have that volunteer thing going on because I would love to go.
Sitting on a horse and then riding it was a beautiful experience. It made me nervous because I was up so high and it felt so strange to be sitting on all that tight yet comfortable muscle, but when the trainee began steering and guiding the horse around, it felt majestic in a way. I realized in that moment that people who rode horses were some of the luckiest people in the world. Being up there was like settling on a cloud – you have the world beneath you while being completely overpowered by the vast world above you.
After we were done taking turns on horses, and watching some girls struggle with and others take control of the reigns, we headed back to the seating area which was next to the huge stables. In the ground adjacent to the sitting, the Arabian Horse Beauty Show had begun. That was part of the program. We watched, clapped and hooted for big beautiful horses and small delicate but strong ponies, as they ran around with the trainer and put on a show for us. I took a few pictures but then decided against it because it was distracting me from completely getting into the moment.
Later on we went around and looked at the few other animals they’d kept out, while eating popcorn and cotton candy. There was a snake that we touched and some held around their neck and arms, a couple of adorable little bunnies in a big cage. I took the bunnies in my arms and their heartbeats were so fast it almost scared me. They were so soft and so cuddly, I gave them little kisses and played with them. Of course, I might have overlooked the fact that my kisses were torture or promises of torture in their perspective. Then there was a beautiful exotic parrot from Africa, if I’m not wrong. He perched on my arm and shoulder and his name was Bob. I was totally in love with him. Bob the parrot was the cutest thing ever and he stole some of my popcorn and while others found it weird that I let a parrot drop his beak into my popcorn cup, I felt like it was the sweetest thing ever. So, I kept going back to Bob and soon his trainee probably realized that I’m the crazy parrot lady.
There were also cute and adorable little chimpanzees in diapers and t-shirts and everyone who saw them were going crazy over them. Baby chimpanzees are so human-like, it’s fascinating.
The rest of the evening was spent playing games and blabbering. There were assortments of snacks, chocolates and biscuits on the table for us inside the owner’s home. We spent a huge amount of time in the stables, going from one horse to the next and feeding them sugar cubes and caressing them along the side of their face or between their ears. Their eyes were so big and their breath would be like a whisper through our own hair and we could feel it’s warmth on our faces and neck. They swung their tails around, swatting away flies and invisible fairies that were probably just trying to kiss their beauty. I got an allergic reaction, probably due to the hay, and it made me sneeze like crazy (no sneezing is NOT the best thing ever, B), turned my nose and eyes all watery and red, and gave me slight headache. We ate BBQ-ed chicken/beef and yummy rice for dinner, and we – me, Nimra and Shafna – blabbered about all sorts of things.
Before our bus ride back home, the evening exercise routine of the horses had begun and we watched in amazement and took pictures as they ran around the ground, their hooves pushing up stormy clouds of sand that rained down and settled whenever they paused for breath. It was extremely beautiful to watch them gallop around the ground in circles and play on the sand. We fed them hay from our hands – this is where my allergy, which had momentarily disappeared, acted up again – and we drank cool drinks in our little groups scattered around the fence. The night was beautiful and the stars were bright freckles of diamond, and the moon was a fierce rebel that shined the brightest in the midst of the darkness it had settled in.
On our bus ride back to uni we listened to music and talked about all kinds of randomness and made new friends. I spent a long time staring out of the window and day dreamed of all the beautiful possibilities that were out there in the world for me. When I settled in bed after I got back home and excitedly relayed quick details of my day to my parents, I realized no matter how amazing a day is, when it all ends, you end up loving someone who wasn’t even there even more than you did before, because you wish you had them next to you.
I love my parents because they make my every day more blessed than it already is. Daddy, thank you for gifting me this day at the ranch. Without you I would never have realized that horses are a lot like clouds for they make me stop and stare.