So you think your cowboy and Indian days are long gone? Possibly not. Originating back centuries, horse riding goes a little further than Ascot and the Wild West. According to Bracknell Forest Council, “4% of the population are actively horse riding for pleasure throughout the UK”, claiming that horse riding for an hour is equivalent to a game of tennis or a jog, burning around 220 calories. These serene creatures can prove a fitting escape for those keen to get out into the countryside and take up a hobby that would benefit many a stress head. So saddle up and find out why so many are opting for the ultimate thigh toning activity.
Taking out rides since she was sixteen years old, Cressida Passmore is one of the instructors in the family run Llanthony Riding and Trekking Centre in Wales. Living and breathing the sport for many years, she gives WideWorld the low-down on the joys of horse riding and the importance of lessons in matters of safety and enjoyment.
“At the centre, my siblings and I teach people the basics of how to control a horse, and then eventually take them up into the mountains. There’s a strong responsibility involved in educating new riders. We offer extra help and advice where needed as we go along, as we are responsible for making sure riders are safe, comfortable and enjoying themselves.”
Ease yourself into the saddle
“Firstly, you need to find out whether you like it! Visit a pony trekking centre and go for a trek. Trekking allows you to experience the best of horse riding, without having to be an experienced rider. It’s a fantastic activity with breathtaking views! If you enjoy it and wish to take up horse riding on a more serious level, I would suggest that you find a reputable riding centre and book in for a few lessons. (Ensure the centre is licensed by its local authority or approved by the British Horse Society or Welsh Trekking and Riding Association).”
“If you want to eventually get to the stage where you can ride on your own without an experienced person with you, or even own your own horse, lessons are essential. Like many animals, horses can be particularly sensitive, so if an inexperienced rider causes a horse distress, it could be a danger to both the horse and the rider. Horses can also become frightened by new sounds or circumstances, so it is important that you know how to deal with situations safely. If you simply wish to ride occasionally in a group, pony trekking is a great way of doing that without needing lessons, because you have the experienced guides and instructors there to advise you.”
“Horse riding is a sport for everyone, even if you hate sports! It’s so much fun, you don’t even realise you’re doing exercise at the time. It is an all round body workout, using muscles that you never knew you had.”
A social sport
“We offer several types of rides – Treks, Hacks and Trail Rides. Treks are for riders of any experience from beginner level to experienced. These last for either half a day (two hours) or a full day where we stop for lunch at a country pub. Hacks are for smaller groups, involving a maximum of six experienced riders who would like to move at a faster pace and cover more ground. Trail Rides are for experienced riders and last around two to four days, stopping at farmhouse B&Bs or local pubs in the evening.”
“Try to sit on the horse as quietly and lightly as possible, resisting from wriggling around. Just sit as still as possible and keep your weight balanced evenly. The more comfortable the horse, the better the ride.”
Know your horse
“Your horse must learn to trust you. Always remain calm and never get frustrated or angry, as your horse may sense this and become unsettled. This is a living, breathing animal and has feelings and senses just like humans do. Don’t ask your horse to do too much work without building up to it. Conversely, you need to be fit enough to do the work expected of you and make sure you always give clear and consistent aids to your horse.”
“It depends entirely on the individual as to when they are able to ride without assistance. Your instructor will be able to tell you when they think you’re ready to go out on your own. It’s always good to ride with a friend though, however experienced you are. Horses are social animals and prefer company, plus it’s safer to be with someone who could help if you get into difficulties.”
“If you are going pony trekking, I would suggest warm comfortable clothes, long trousers and sturdy shoes, preferably with a small heel. Walking boots and wellies are also fine. A riding hat will probably be provided.
“For a riding lesson however, it’s best to buy the right clothes. You will be much more comfortable and able to ride better. Jodhpurs (tight riding trousers) are designed to prevent pinching and I would advise to wear long or short riding boots with chaps. These ensure that there is no pinching of your lower leg between the stirrup leather and the saddle. They also improve grip in the stirrups. A riding hat should ideally be fitted by a qualified hat fitter and be at the current British standard PAS015 or European standard EN1384.”
Hot trot to location
“Maybe I’m biased because it’s my home, but Llanthony is definitely the most beautiful place I have ever been. Rolling countryside, fields and hedges give way to rugged mountains and open moorland with incredible views.”
For book a lesson or find out more, visit: www.llanthony.co.uk