How does it work?
Any activity involving a large, unpredictable animal may seem a bit nerve-wracking at first, but there’s no need to worry, you’ll be in safe hands. Choosing the right school is important – if in doubt, make sure it’s accredited and that there’s a qualified first aider on site at all times. You can also contact your local Pony Club for a list of recommended schools in your area. It’s worth visiting the school before you sign up too – the style of teaching can vary immensely, with some places preferring to take students out into the surrounding countryside, and others only having the capability to teach in an indoor or outdoor ring. You’ll also be able to choose between private or group lessons, so have a think about whether you want the camaraderie and social aspects gained from learning in a group, or whether you’re willing to fork out a few extra pounds for some one-on-one tuition.
What will you need before you’re ready to jump on? Check with the venue first, but they should supply you with a riding hat, at least for your first few lessons. If you’re not sure whether you’ll like it, there’s no point going all out on the clothing before you even get there. Go for comfortable clothing that doesn’t restrict your movement, but nothing too baggy or it may get in the way. Choose a shoe or a boot with a small heel (no, we don’t mean anything with a stiletto) to stop your feet slipping through the stirrups.
Once you’ve progressed a bit in the saddle, or if you’re a seasoned expert looking for a change, there are a hoof-load of different options for you to try out: Dressage – horse training focussing on the horse’s ability to respond to minimal instruction from the rider in a smooth and controlled motion. It’s carried out in an arena and involves exercises like a figure of eight. Endurance riding – long distance races, usually either 50 to 100 miles. Eventing – combines the three disciplines of dressage, cross country and show jumping, like a triathlon Show jumping – competition judging the horse and rider’s ability to get around a course of jumps within a certain time limit, without knocking any down. Polo – a team sport played on horseback where players try to score by driving a ball into the opposition’s goal with a long-handled mallet. Rodeo – a competitive sport designed to test the speed and skill of the cowboy (or girl). It involves events like bareback bronc-riding and barrel racing. Racing – horse racing can be on flat ground, over jumps, or the horses may also race while pulling a cart. It’s inextricably linked to gambling. Trail riding – leisure riding on natural trails and roads
Is it for me?
Yes, from tiny tots to fully-grown adults – there’s no age limit on this sport. No matter what your fitness level, horse riding is a fantastic option as you can build your endurance gradually and you’ll definitely feel the effects. Riding can also be the perfect option if you’re disabled and can work wonders with improve self-confidence. Even if you have a fear of horses, you may be able to work with a stables in order to overcome your fear before you ride, and you may find that this has a positive effect on your overall wellbeing.
Good to know
Just to put your mind at ease, horse riding is statistically less risky than riding a moped. Must be the comparative horsepower.