As always, the only thing linking the two items mentioned in this post in my mind is that they both start with the same letter of the alphabet.
On horseback (from early on) — and befriending strangers in an Austrian meadow
(Photos by my mom and a friend’s father)
Notwithstanding my enthusiastic start into horesewomanship courtesy of a (coin-powered) mechanical horse at a nearby supermarket, horses somewhat intimidated me when I was little — while at the same time, like everything moderately scary, they also fascinated me enormously. By the time I was in elementary school, there was a riding stable just a few houses from ours in our street, with one of the pastures coming up all the way to the walkway. It was at that stable that I had my first “proper” riding lessons after, as a dare, I had climbed the fence one day with a couple of friends and mounted the two horses grazing there. (As luck would have it, they were two extremely friendly and patient fjordhests (Norwegian fjord horses), who bore our antics with all the goodwill that horses of their breed are capable of, which is surprisingly much: Nevertheless, my mom decided that I had better get some proper instruction in the thing since I was obviously set on horses one way or the other.) An early accident — a fall during my first excursion of several hours, some weeks into my instruction — left me with a sprained collarbone and a (temporary) hoof print-shaped mark on my shoulder, after I’d spent a few agonizing moments seeing my horse’s hooves flying over me (all the while he was trying his level best not to step on me), but it didn’t discourage me from my most recent favorite occupation; and I stuck with it throughout all of my school years, until assignment and study pressure in university got too much for me to still be able to invest the considerable amount of time that riding requires. I immensely hated having to give it up, however; alas, by now my backbone is a mess of herniated discs, so my riding days are unfortunately over once and for all. I still can’t pass by a meadow with horses in it without trying to make friends with them, though; and I still enjoy attending tournaments, one of the most important international / European ones — the Concours Hippique International Officiel, or CHIO — is, fortunately, held annually in Aachen, just over an hour from my home.
Horses, to me, exemplify the epitome of power and elegance in the animal world; they even surpass big cats in that regard (and for a cat lover, that’s saying something). While I was still riding, I would of course have loved to have a horse of my own, and I still regret the fact that that was never meant to be. I have a particular fondness for the “children of the wind” from North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula — purebred Arabians and Berber horses, particularly if raven black — as well as Mustangs and the two breeds most prominent in the riding stables where I started out, Norwegian fjord horses and Haflingers.
CHIO Aachen (2013)
At a private horse show.
(Except for the top 3 images, all photos in this section of the post mine.)
Another item on my set-in-stone childhood “don’t ever even come near me with that stuff” list of dislikes was seafood — fish and shellfish of any and all descriptions. I’ve since learned to eat most kinds of fish (albeit, except for salmon, without any enthusiasm and only if either social niceties require it or literally nothing else is on the menu), but I still draw the line at shellfish (again with very few exceptions: calamari, provided they are liberally breaded, deep-fried, and sprinkled with lemon juice, as well as crab cakes and clam chowder, both of which I learned to like during a one-month stay in Boston) … and I most definitely still draw the line at herrings. Like with most other food that I don’t like, it’s chiefly a sensory thing: the mere ida of swallowing something this clammy and slithery makes me want to gag; particularly if I know it’s pickled to boot, such as “Rollmops” (Northern German rolled-up and stuffed pickled herring fillets, see left image below) — and it certainly doesn’t help, either, that (pickled) herring is typically served cold. Clammy, slithery, sour, and cold? Thank you, but no. There’s plenty of other food out there, and frankly, even if there weren’t, I’d still have an extremely hard time getting this stuff down my throat.