There was a time when Julia Roberts was none too sure about horses and she admits that she was nervous when she was a girl – but she took the bit between her teeth and has been having fun with horses ever since.
“I was very young when I first got up close to a horse and looked up at him with my knees knocking,” says Julia. “I was not very big and that ‘horse’ was probably a 12-hand pony, but it sure looked like a horse to me and I didn’t know anything about reading a horse’s eyes in those days so I took his stare to mean that he didn’t like me very much!
“With encouragement I took to the saddle though and did as I was told. I think I was probably too nervous not to, and yes, I was not unhappy when it was all over. Then I walked away and thought about it and I began to feel differently. The next time I met that pony I wanted us to be friends and the pony didn’t seem to mind too much. That was my turning point and I changed from being frightened to death, to wanting to be around ponies and horses all the time.”
That was how Julia Roberts actually started on the road to becoming a very accomplished rider and she has always welcomed the times when her many great acting roles have meant that she could get into the saddle once again.
“I have read many times that I am scared of horses and didn’t want to have to ride,” she says. “That’s not true of course, I think sometimes they pick up on something I might have said when talking about my growing up and people decide that I must still be nervous about horses. It’s quite the opposite.
“Like most riders I have respect for horses and, of course, a love for them but I have never been scared of them since those very early times. I don’t just enjoy riding, I like being around horses. Sometimes when you are making a movie you shoot the scenes when you are on a horse and then you have to get on with something else. I don’t really like that because I like to take my horse back to the stable and make sure he or sure has all he needs, maybe taking time for some grooming and just generally being together.”
FASCINATED BY ANIMALS
Julia’s love of animals nearly diverted her from an acting career and Hollywood would have been the poorer without her as part of its star-studded family. “I never thought of being an actress when I was growing up in Georgia – I actually wanted to be a vet,” she admits. “I was fascinated by animals from an early age and I thought being a vet would be great because I could work with animals and help them recover from their illnesses. When I realised how difficult it would be to qualify, I changed my mind.
“At school my claims to fame were that I could play the clarinet and I was quite good at English. I didn’t see myself playing the clarinet as a profession, so I studied to be a journalist. That all changed when my brother Eric began to get work in Hollywood. He seemed to be enjoying himself and I was drawn to trying the same thing myself.