03/13/2012 at 12:40 PM EDT
These days, Jaycee Dugard rides horses. Working with the animals is therapeutic, even confidence-boosting, she says.
"You have to be very sure of yourself when you're riding," she tells ABC News
's Diane Sawyer in an interview airing Tuesday (6:30 p.m. ET). "You don't want to have any doubts in your mind because they'll sense that."
It's a motto that seems to have a deeper meaning for Dugard, who was kidnapped in 1991
when she was 11 years old and held captive for 18 years by Phillip and Nancy Garrido.
Horseback riding was on a to-do list she made when freedom seemed out of her reach, along with things like learning to drive and hot-air ballooning (both of which she can now cross off). Just this past weekend, she stepped out for her first public appearance
when she was honored at Diane von Furstenberg's DVF Awards in New York.
Dugard, 31, who chronicled her ordeal in her memoir
, A Stolen Life
, says she now appreciates "just being free to do what I want to do, when I want to do it."
Sometimes, that's as simple as going out to eat pizza. "Just walking down the street with everybody," she says of her first trip to N.Y.C., "it was my favorite moment."
Adds Dugard, who has two daughters, 17 and 14: "I want my girls to have a normal life as much as possible."