Scuba Tuesdays

2014 was my 40th birthday. To celebrate, I wanted to realise a lifelong dream. I wanted an African adventure, a horseback safari.

I rode horses from an early age, competing locally in my teens, before my interest dwindled as I approached my 20’s. Despite the last tearful goodbye when my last pony was sold, I didn’t spend any time around horses for almost two decades. I didn’t miss it – I had a career to build, relationships to find, cities to explore, clubs to get lost in. I was busy.

Fast forward to 2012 and following a turn of events which can really only be described as fate, I found myself back in the saddle, with more passion, more commitment, and more drive than ever before. One horse became two, early gym visits were replaced with 5am yard visits and I began to day dream about that African Safari.

At this point I had a husband, with no previous equine experience. He didn’t ride, nor did he have any real desire to do so. But I wanted fast and furious gallops across arid terrain, chasing Zebra and running with Giraffe, I needed my husband to rise to the challenge. In one year, he committed to learning not just to ride, but to ride without hesitation, to understand the bond between horse and rider that only comes with experience, time and in some cases, injury. This was no easy feat.

The process began slowly. Painful lessons at the local riding school. As an adult beginner there is a serious lack of decent steeds at most riding schools, he so desperately wanted to enjoy it, but every time he came back scowling, cold and literally waking like John Wayne, my heart sank a little more. How would I convince my husband that the thrill of riding could compete with any extreme sport or any race track experience. To tune into the mind of a beast, to reach speeds on the back of an animal that made your eyes water. I took a risk. I introduced my young inexperienced horse to my young (ish) inexperienced husband in the hope they would learn together.

There were indeed thrills and spills. More spills, admittedly. Hospital visits (nothing too serious) but slowly my husband, through his determination to stay on board, finally got it. I witnessed the actual moment immediately after his first flat out gallop, which was not planned, but a spirited horse wanting to run for the joy of it. My husband’s eyes were as wild as my thoroughbreds, both lost in the speed and the freedom of the flight.

‘again!’ their eyes roared.

Our safari was what dreams are made of. Galloping through thunderstorms, racing with buffalo. Everything we could have wished for.

And so came my husband’s dream, to spend his 40th Birthday scuba diving in Sri Lanka, he faced the same challenge, how to help me unlock an undiscovered world I had no concept of which and of which my phobia of water had always hidden from me.

It was my turn to learn, trust and let go of my fear. With first steps at a swimming pool each Tuesday, a very patient instructor, and an overwhelming desire to make my husband as proud of me as I was of him, I too had that moment of understanding, when I experienced the amazing calm of diving, the pure tranquillity and silence of deep water.

We fly in December, to swim in that other world. It will be as epic as Africa, the prospect of seeing new creatures through these older eyes, even the contemplation of it, makes me tingle.

To discover something new at any age is an understated pleasure. So much is crammed into our youth, we belly flop into the learning pool with joyous abandon. All too quickly over.

Whereas now, with an understanding of time and how important it is to luxuriate in new experiences, learning is so much sweeter.

claire.shaw@foggassociates.com

01925 226 139