My weekend took an unexpected turn, as it transcended a mere horseback riding adventure. It becomes a metaphor for personal growth, environmental awareness and cultural appreciation, reminding me to look beyond the surface and embrace what life has to offer.

It all started with a rhythmic clopping of hooves against the sun-baked earth that reignited a long-dormant passion. I craved a substantial challenge, an adventure that would push my boundaries. My research led me to the venerable Jan Meda stables, a haven for equestrian enthusiasts steeped in tradition. With a confirmed booking and a heart brimming with anticipation, I embarked on a journey that would redefine my perception of the city I called home.

Stepping away from the urban environment and reconnecting with nature is important. The Jan Meda Equestrian Club exuded a rustic charm. I was greeted by a young stable boy Ephrem whose infectious enthusiasm for all things equine was evident in his every word and gesture. He spoke passionately about his lifelong bond with horses, his voice tinged with amusement as he recounted past tumbles – mere temporary setbacks in his enduring love affair with these majestic creatures.

Our excursion began with a visit to the stable's locker room. There, I was equipped with the necessary gear: knee-high leather boots that offered a sense of security, a plastic helmet for essential protection, and a sleek horsewhip, a tool not for dominance but for gentle guidance. After cladding myself comfortably, the moment of truth arrived – choosing my steed for the day.

The boy selected "Nestanet" for me, a melodic Amharic word meaning "freedom". It was a young, vibrant white horse, gleaming in the afternoon sun. The intelligent eyes sparkled with a spirit that mirrored my yearning for adventure. For himself, the boy chose "Emnet," meaning "faith" and we embarked toward a distant hill.

A surge of excitement laced with a hint of apprehension came over me as he outlined the itinerary – a captivating blend of urban landscapes, a bustling highway, the serenity of a hidden forest, and even the challenge of steep mountain roads. Was I truly prepared for this potentially risky escapade?

Trotting on horseback in the safely fenced arenas is one thing, going out in the open in the busy city traffic, then the forest and mountains is quite a different story. The current undertaking was completely different from my previous highly controlled and monitored experiences in Beka Ferda and Yaya village ranches. So I braced for the new adventure in great anticipation having pushed the limits and raised the bar. It was indeed an exciting challenge.

I grasped the reins. A long rope held by Ephrem for additional control in case of unforeseen circumstances provided a sense of security. We set off, crossing busy intersections near Menelik Hospital near the Arat Kilo area. Every time a wave of anxiety washed over me, the boy offered a reassuring nod and a calm demeanour. His unwavering confidence instilled a sense of trust, and I decided to surrender to the exhilarating rhythm of the journey.

My initial apprehension gradually transformed into trust in both the horses and my abilities. Successfully navigating the moments of fear showcased the importance of overcoming obstacles and the power of trust.

The rhythmic thud of hooves resonated against the asphalt while passing through narrow streets. Onlookers, a mix of curious residents and wide-eyed children, watched in awe as we passed. Some offered cheerful greetings, their faces breaking into smiles as they witnessed this unconventional sight amidst the urban sprawl. A young woman playfully requested a ride, her laughter echoing in the air. Children, filled with unbridled enthusiasm, rushed to touch the horses, their innocent joy adding an unexpected layer of human connection to the adventure.

Reaching the highway junction near the German Embassy, I was cautioned about the upcoming traffic. The horses themselves displayed a remarkable awareness of their surroundings, their movements a testament to their inherent intelligence. We crossed the square carefully, the cityscape sprawling before us. As we proceeded towards a steep uphill climb, the panorama unfolded further.

Ephrem placed his trust in my burgeoning skills, handing me the reins and encouraging me to nudge Nestanet's side for a faster pace. As the horses accelerated, a surge of adrenaline coursed through me. The wind whipped through my head, the world blurring into a canvas of vibrant greens and sun-drenched browns. The exhilaration was palpable – the cheers of onlookers a mere echo in the face of the pure joy of galloping freely.

It was a moment of pure connection, not just between rider and horse, but also with the very essence of the city. We were no longer mere spectators navigating the urban landscape; we were active participants, the wind carrying the scent of exhaust fumes intermingling with the earthy aroma of the approaching countryside.

The highway soon gave way to a dirt road, leading us to a sparsely populated area. Lush greenery replaced the concrete jungle, and a sense of serenity enveloped us. The path transformed into a treacherous marshland, the ground pockmarked with muddy puddles and deep tyre tracks left by heavy machinery.

A sliver of doubt crept in. Could these magnificent creatures navigate such a challenging terrain?

"They know the way," the boy stated. And indeed they did. With a seemingly effortless grace, the horses picked their way through the marshland, their hooves finding solid footing where none seemed to exist. Maintaining my balance and trusting the horses' judgment became paramount. The names Freedom and Faith took on a new significance. We were surrendering to the rhythm of their hooves, a testament to the inherent ability of these animals to navigate the unknown.

Once we cleared the narrow path, the journey led us into the thick of the Kebena forest. As we ascended a gentle slope, the landscape transformed dramatically. The sprawling metropolis of Addis Abeba unfolded before us, a breathtaking panorama that stretched as far as the eye could see. Buildings that once seemed imposing now appeared as miniature models in a vast urban landscape. This shift in perspective offered a profound insight – a reminder of how often we take our surroundings for granted, oblivious to the hidden beauty that exists right beneath our noses.

Another exhilarating climb awaited us when we reached a highway with lighter traffic, leading towards the iconic churches perched atop a distant hill. With the newfound confidence that had blossomed within, I took complete control. Nestanet responded eagerly to my gentle nudges, its powerful strides propelling us forward.

At that moment, I felt a deep sense of accomplishment. The initial trepidation had been replaced by a newfound sense of self-assurance, a testament to the transformative power of the experience. Reaching the designated turnaround point, a wave of exhilaration washed over me. It was a journey of self-discovery, pushing boundaries and gaining a newfound sense of confidence and appreciation for nature.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1246]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (

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