At Redmond, we believe everyone has a story to tell, especially about the things that inspire their passions. We want to know the stories behind the faces in our community, so we started the “Why I Ride” series. We asked our own Mike Mumford to answer the question “Why do you ride?” His answer follows.
As a 16 year old gangly teenager in England, I had never been on a horse and was very nervous about this adventure. I had decided to take up Modern Pentathlon, and with show jumping as one of the five events, I had to gird my loins and learn how to ride. Further complicating matters was the fact that I wouldn’t be riding my own horse, but drawing one from a pool of grade B jumpers provided by the competition organizers.
I know the first few times I rode I was a sack of potatoes, desperately hanging on whilst suffering the torture of learning the sitting trot without stirrups. After a few months of weekly indignation and personal physical pain, I could at least feel confident that if I drew a good honest horse, I could stay with him and make a reasonable round without too much embarrassment.
Riding was the unloved stepchild of the five events, and for most of us accomplished pentathletes the results of the riding event were determined more by the luck of the draw than riding ability. Through sheer luck, in the British U 18 Championships I drew a beautiful no-nonsense horse named Natasha, and with four great events in the other disciplines (running, swimming, pistol shooting, and epee fencing) I managed to get a clear round. Other more experienced national athletes were not so lucky in their draw and I won the day, much to their chagrin!
Fast forward to 1984, where I had drawn a horse called Krakatoa in the Los Angeles Olympic Games. After four international competitions earlier in the year, all with clear rounds, I was feeling very confident in my riding ability. We had a good round, however due to my nervousness, I think my mount became nervous. Despite riding an honest round, he dragged his back legs a couple of times to cause two knockdowns. Needless to say, I did not win the day.
That experienced stayed with me like unfinished business. I could have, should have done better. Over time, I have learned that horses are not like a bicycle that you can jump on to go somewhere. They are animals that want to connect. They are telepathic, they are sensitive, and they are so willing in most cases to please you. That horse in L.A. tried.
In the intervening years since Los Angeles, I have grown. I have developed a better understanding of and deeper regard and love for horses. Today, I am working on my relationship with my boy, Basil, so I can be better and help him be better. It’s an ongoing process that may never have a completion date.
So why do I ride? I ride because it has become a real release for me. Riding is an activity that demands being in the present. All those concerns about work demands, relationships out of tune, lack of money, or ugly politics leave our minds when we are on our horses.
These days with my own Arabian, Basil, we do a lot of trail rides, the occasional endurance event, and no jumping (except the odd unannounced spook). I have learned after riding so many other horses it is a real joy to have my own true partnership. I love the opportunity to see him daily and know it has taken this fella a couple of good stable years to adjust, settle down, and learn to trust me. I think it is me that is the slow learner. I feel we are developing and growing together; these small steps each day are fulfilling. Riding is therapy for both of us, and we both have much to learn.