Going Horsey...
20 October, 2011
Going Horsey...

Irina Apkhaidze, 18 is the horsiest character I have ever seen in my entire life. I myself have always been crazy about the horsey ways but I can’t even compare with this Amazon of a girl – she is so different, so special. One should see her at work in the stables and then in the training – just one body and one soul with the beloved creature, poised and elegant, both vulnerable and in control, both tender and valiant. Irina’s

life among horses and those who are like her (Almost!) is not just a horse-riding pastime or part of the time she spends there. This is her entire life, her love, her infatuation. The future looks blank and bleak without a horse she wants to take care of and then ride it in a careful and professional manner. The other day, we exchanged those two photos and we both thought that sharing our mutual feelings about horses and life in stables might be a good idea, being sure that we are sailing in the same boat with many, many other lovers of this amazing animal. I was pictured on the back of this beautiful white horse a couple of years ago in Maryland, USA while having a happy instance of a slight dressage, and Irina was caught by a camera in her horseback flight during one of her regular competitions. We both though that the two pictures deserve to be coupled as part of this interview. There seems to be a magic invisible thread of a rider’s nerve linking those two images into the same world, inspired by historically organic touch between a horse and a man.

NBR – When was it that you fell in love with horses?

I.A. – Believe it or not, I was just three. When I used to see horses on the TV I was getting so excited that I was dreaming about them almost every night. My mom told me I was even raving of my beloved animal in the dream.

NBR – How old were you when you first found yourself on horseback?

I.A. – I was six, and I will never forget that day. I even remember the way I was dressed – black tights and a white T-shirt. That day, mom sent me to the grocery to buy a loaf of bread. There I heard a woman talking about her son who had fallen from a horse. I perked my little ears and sheepishly asked the lady where it had happened. She told me where, and since then I have not spent a single day of my life without running breathlessly to Tbilisi Hippodrome where my dream horses where waiting for me to ride and have fun with.

NBR – Have you already achieved a professional level in horseback-riding?

I.A. – Professional level is a matter of life-time training and lengthy efforts to achieve the desirable. I am only 18 and that is not old for equestrian activity. In other words, this sport has no age. I can imagine myself at the age of 85 when I will still be riding and training others too.

NBR – As I know, you go to college where you major in veterinary. That must be very time-consuming. How much time are you dedicating to horses a week?

I.A. – Probably not less than 6 hours a day, 24/7! I am a freshman at college and I have not yet started fulltime. College will definitely get in my way, but I am determined to become a very strong veterinarian. Understandably! I will have to somehow carve my time so that nothing keeps me from doing what I think is the most important part of my life. First a horse and then a college – or anything else that I might have to do in life!

NBR – Even a marriage?

I.A. – Will you be terribly surprised if I say yes, even a marriage? Some day I will of course get married and I will have kids, but I promise they will all be into horses. I cannot imagine my future life otherwise.

NBR – You must be a good jumper as I see. What is the maximum height you have taken?

I.A. – I haven’t yet gone beyond 130 centimeters, but I have a reason for this. I think the equestrian sport in Georgia is still male-dominated. The most commonplace opinion is that a female person here has less chance of achieving big success in the field, the reason for this being just physiology – women get pregnant and they give up.

NBR – What a nonsense this stupid statement is! 70 % of riders in the world are women?

I.A. – I know! And I have to say that I hate this macho-minded attitude which reigns in Georgia in this particular sport. Hopefully, this will not be the case some day in the nearest future. And I am going to be the female revolutionary. I will see to it very carefully and persistently. That’s why I need to be a very strong professional, both in veterinary science and equestrian sports.

NBR – Is there anything particular what is killing the joy for you?

I.A. – Well . . . I hate mentioning the names and pointing fingers, but I have to admit that there are certain young people (Males!) in my generation of horse-riders and trainers who would make irrelevantly unfair decisions when it comes to a lady’s (like myself) success in the horse-and-human life. Frankly speaking, I wish them well, but they will have to understand that success is impossible in general without our active participation, including the equestrian future of this country.

NBR – Your participation in this sport is limited with local minor competitions. Isn’t it high time for you to claim certain important titles, even the international ones? You don’t seem to be a baby any more who is asking her daddy to put her on a horseback for a short ride!

I.A. – Very true! I am getting a little late, but there are a lot of obstacles, artificially built on my way to success. I don’t know why, but those men who I depend on in my further improvements as a rider are very lackadaisical in their efforts to let me make steps forward. There is no demand around that the talented girls made thier way in the realm.

NBR – Is this beautiful horse in the picture yours?

I.A. – It used to be! It is no longer mine. I spent more than a year with him, and we both were happy together, but alas, it was pinched away from me.

NBR – Why?

I.A. – A good former friend of mine and the guy whom I loved dearly and respected wholeheartedly, all of a sudden wanted to deprive me of the right to continue with this lovely animal, which I was in love with like crazy. He decidedly and expressly stated (without any particular reason for this) that from this day on it will not be me who would be riding this horse. Period! I will make it finally. I am terribly sorry that he has frustrated me so badly. This was funny and bitter at the same time, but I had to endure the loss. So my heart was broken. But not forever! I am not losing courage.

NBR – Good for you! What are your most cherished plans?

I.A. – In the first place, I want Georgia to hear about me. Move over, men! We the Georgian Amazons are coming! Secondly, I want to be in international competitions as often as possible, and do a good job on behalf of my wonderful Motherland.

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