Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of Solitaire. It is a grand passion.” As a competitive equestrian who draws upon her lineage of the heroes of Greek poetry, I live that quote every time I sit in the saddle. Although this may sound fantastical, horses are in my blood. My family is Greek, and I remember from early readings of Homer’s The Iliad, that each of the major characters is described at some point “a skilled breaker of horses.” My greatest passion in life is horseback riding. It is this experience, one which is not shared by anyone else in my family, that opens the windows onto my Greek history, and it is the legacy which I believe makes me a unique.
Ever since I was a child I have been riding horses, both competitively and for recreation. Although I was the first in my family to get involved in the sport I have always felt as if there was a passion for the animals in my blood and in my own personal history. One of the most important character traits which I take from my horse riding is precisely this encounter with the history of my family, my country and with its literature. It is crucial that any thrill which one experiences when riding is tempered with an appropriate respect, both for one’s horse, one’s surroundings and for oneself. For me there is no better description for how I want to move through the world as a successful and responsible adult than this.
Part of learning about riding from a young age is being introduced very early to ideas of perseverance and hard work. Riding is not at all easy to begin with and demands a large amount of practice in order to do well. This is perhaps particularly difficult as it often seems as if the glamour associated with the activity allows one to think of it as something which should be instantly accessible. Indeed, although my childhood is full of happy memories of riding, the first of these involve a large amount of fear with regard to the animals I was learning with, a few nasty falls and a constant need to keep a ready ear out to the teachers who would instruct me. I believe that this necessary combination of humility and courage has stood me in very good stead for meeting and overcoming challenges which I face in my adolescence and which I will face in later life.
Once I had learned the basics and my passion for riding was inescapable then I was able to develop and indulge my competitive nature by taking part in races and several other competitions. Throughout my life so far I have won many medals, trophies and special mentions at various competitions. Each time this success was achieved through a careful combination of drive, planning and respect. For as long as I can remember I have been driven to be the best at whatever I have taken part in, and my several successes in competitive riding have only galvanised this desire and encouraged me to extend these successes to all areas of my life.
The experience of structured training combined with the necessity of caring each day for my horse has allowed me to develop large amounts of self discipline. Often my passion for riding has had to take priority over other aspects of social life, and it is because of this that I have learnt one of the most important lessons of my life so far. This is that if one wishes to achieve a goal then it is often necessary to sacrifice other aspects of one’s life. I believe that the experience of how rewarding this process ultimately is makes me a driven, disciplined and sensitive individual.
Through my experience of riding I have also been fortunate to discover its therapeutic benefits, both for people who suffer from physical ailments and for those with mental health problems. It is wonderful for me to see a person’s traumas relieved through the relaxation, concentration and liberation inherent in the experience of riding. Over the past two or three years I have devoted a large amount of my time volunteering on projects which encourage and promote the therapeutic benefits of riding. This experience has once again enabled to me to feel an intense satisfaction, this time through my capacity to improve the lives of others around me, while at the same being able to communicate precisely what it is that I love about riding. I am also able to understand my own riding experiences even better as I see them through the eyes and experiences of other individuals.
Riding is such an integral part of my life that it would be impossible to conceive of living without it. I could live without riding about as well as I could live without breathing. I believe that it allows me to show all of my best qualities while it brings honor and pays respect to my Greek heritage. Through the equestrian sport I am able to demonstrate a love for my country’s culture and history, self discipline and commitment, a competitive spirit, and a desire to combine personal achievement with improving the lives of others around me. I believe that these qualities make me a skilled and unique individual as well as an excellent, qualified applicant.