Ocarina of Time was a blast to explore my first time around. I was a thirteen-year-old kid with an overactive imagination and an obsession with fantasy, but after rolling across Hyrule Field a few hundred times, even my amazement could not help me ignore the tediousness. A better mode of travel quickly moved to the top of my list of desired upgrades. I needed a horse. I needed Epona.

Realm of Memories is a series where we reflect on our absolute favorite moments in The Legend of Zelda games. These could be the times we first fell in love with a game, were moved by the events of the story or actions of a character, felt triumphant when overcoming a tough boss or challenge, or we had an experience so unique that the adventure truly became our own. The Zelda series has touched our lives in many ways, and just as Hyrule has endless stories to share, so do our writers!

I knew of Epona’s existence in the game before ever playing it (she’s in the opening title sequence, after all), but I wasn’t sure how or where to get her. I just knew it was about time I was allowed to saddle up.

I could believe that all I wanted, but it turns out it didn’t count for much. I traveled to Lon Lon Ranch for the first time after visiting Hyrule Castle Town and seeing Princess Zelda. More importantly, I met Talon and Malon. Despite my knack for not paying attention to dialogue, I figured out they were my ticket to equestrian victory.

I didn’t really know what to expect from the ranch, but I was pleasantly surprised by its charm, content, and appearance. It definitely had that cozy Little House on the Praire vibe. It was nice, but more importantly, it had horses. It had a young horse. It had my horse.

Malon taught me Epona’s Song, which quickly became one of my favorite songs in the game, and I immediately used it to earn the trust of my soon-to-be best friend. I was upset when I realized the song did little more than summon her to me, but I had heard enough from friends and the internet to know what I had done was important for what came later.

Fast forward a little bit (let’s say about seven in-game years), and the “save the world” story was put on hold so I could complete the “get far enough to acquire Epona” story. I had finished the Forest Temple, so I figured it was time to stop putting it off. I say that because by that point I had learned about what needed to be done in order to get Epona. I learned about the races, and I hated races.

The pressure of such sequences always made me nervous. The idea that I couldn’t mess up made me anxious, which of course would ruin everything for me. But it had to be done. I had to be reunited with my trusty steed. I had to save the ranch. Also, by now I was just so sick of rolling.

That grouchy Luigi wannabe Ingo had certainly made some major changes to the place, particularly in the case of horse care. This guy was annoying seven years ago, was annoying now, and the fact that I was required to put him in his place to win my horse was a very exciting proposal.

I paid the greedy rancher for the chance to take him on, and the race began. I was doing fine at first, but eventually that anxiety I mentioned started to ebb away at my patience. I used my speed boosts too quickly, and while staying close to the center of the track I managed to get pinned against it by Ingo and his horse. I didn’t know if that was an intentional part of the race or just the game being bad for a brief moment, but whatever the reason I was irritated, and after I lost the race I was furious.

I tried again. And again. And again. I spent all my rupees, so I ran back and forth between the ranch and Hyrule Field to farm some more, and kept challenging Ingo. I was not about to let him win. I wanted that horse.

After close to an hour of trying, I managed to stop screwing up and won. Then I realized I had to race him one more time. At this point, I was too fed up with it all to feel nervous. I won the rematch immediately.

Ingo was more of a sore loser than I expected him to be. I didn’t know what to do at first, but after a few seconds I remembered how good Epona was at jumping, and I made for one of the walls at full speed.

The cutscene that played resonated with me. Despite all the frustration, I was finally free to reenact the game’s title screen cinematic to my heart’s content. It was like at that moment the game was telling me, “Yes, I know you know how awesome this is. Good job, you earned it.”