“Are you ready for a bit of a canter?” “Sure“, I calmly replied as I slipped into hang-on-for-your-bloody-lifeposition. Cantering, in my experience, is smoother than a trot. Although once we bolted off, it became clear that this wasn’t a canter. It was about twice the speed and double the reckless factor. This was a gallop on a hack. Letting the horse ‘stretch her legs’ in the great outdoors, sploshing through muddy rain puddles and sliding under branches misplaced from the week of gales.
“Gosh, sorry about that, just couldn’t hold her back.” Chimed my instructor. Casually wiping mud from my mouth, “Yes, so it seemed.”
Now this is not to make first-timers nervous. After declaring I had ‘previous experience’ we watched the newcomers get lazily led by their steeds on a well-trodden path. I had opted for a bit of speed and was obliged by one of the teachers who trotted me back and fired me from a gun.
This was last Sunday, week one of 2012, hobby one of 52 to complete this year. I had decided to head out to
the green English country side Enfield to partake in a ‘3 hour equestrian experience’, £39 instead of £80 due to a voucher we’d picked up. Unfortunately it turned out to be more like a test-your-patience experience with a 1 hour hack or outride thrown in. But it was a great day out and I’m glad I did it.
In part it was liberating and exciting, in another it was mildly terrifying, holding one hand on the reigns, the other on the tip of the saddle trying to cling my body to the horse’s with my knees to minimise the distance between my arse and the saddle, and in turn the bruises that might appear later.
I love horse riding. Few sports allow you to be at the total mercy of another being and most likely come out on the other end okay. But it’s not for everyone.
- Cost – ££-£££ (one-off can be done fairly cheaply, picking it up regularly can become very expensive).
- Energy – depending on level, sedentary to moderate. You are likely to have a tender rump for a day or two after and walk like John Wayne.
- Sociability – the small group allows the opportunity to chat to a few people, maybe catch a drink after the class. As the riding schools are mostly out-of-town, though, the chance of meeting up again unless you pick it up as a regular hobby could be slim.
- Equipment needed – none. Any decent riding school has boots/hats/gloves/crops to hire for a small fee. The hat is essential, in my opinion.
- Experience needed – none. Most riding schools cater for never-been-on-a-horse beginners.
Want to give it a go?
Most stables offer a one-off 1 hour hack for £45-60.
Here are a few links to places (untried) accessible from London to give it a go:
- Wear comfortable clothing you can bend your legs in – and preferably track pants if you don’t have jodhpurs as jeans have a seem on the inner leg that can rub.
- Wear a closed shoe with a small heel to hold the stirrup in place – not trainers as these are often too wide for the stirrup.
- If you can get on an outride or hack, that’s where the true experience of horse riding hides.