Starting to ride again
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There’s a trend for lapsed riders and older novices to get up in the saddle. The British Horse Society has a scheme to give them the support they need
For MANY people, owning a pony or a horse and learning to ride and is a childhood dream. There are those who begin riding when they are young, and for some it becomes a lifelong obsession. Others, for whatever reason, don’t continue riding.
Once you have been out of the saddle for a while, it can be daunting to start riding again. Rebuilding confidence can be difficult, especially if you have not ridden for decades. There is, however, a new trend for women in later life starting to ride again. It seems for many like the perfect time – no children at home, more disposable income and ,usually, more time to spend down the yard.
To support this trend, the British Horse Society launched a Participation Project, with the aim of creating an informal community at riding centres and livery yards providing horse owners with advice, help and support to ride more frequently.
‘At 50-something and suffering with relapsing-remitting ME, I had assumed that I would never fulfil my childhood dreams of riding and being involved with horses. Life gets in the way and dreams fall by the wayside,’ says Jane Carrot.
‘The London 2012 Olympics rekindled my equine passion and I finally approached my local equestrian centre in August last year and booked in. As I mounted a horse for the first time in decades, the thought flashed through my mind “What on earth am I doing?!” But I knew long before this first lesson was over that I was going to book in for next week. And the next.
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‘I have ridden weekly ever since. It wasn’t long, of course, before it seemed an absolute age between lessons, but then in April my equestrian centre delivered a course for the BHS Progressive Riding Tests. I was quite uncertain about doing them, but received encouragement from the staff, all of whom persuaded me to sign up.
‘The tests have been the perfect way for me to study horse riding and care, with each section being a manageable chunk, split into a riding element and a stable-management element. It is enabling me to work towards not just increased knowledge but a qualification – something I could not have imagined previously. I have not yet completed all six tests but am continuing to work on them in my weekly lessons and the goal is in sight.
‘Being able to ride regularly and to acquire some of the attendant skills via the tests has been a wonderfully uplifting experience for me. Physically it tires me, but in a good way, and my remedial masseur has said that she can feel the difference in my muscle tone. Mentally, it is so completely absorbing that I finish every session feeling refreshed and ready for more.
‘The whole experience has increased my confidence immensely – in general, not just in a horsey context – and I am going to explore ways of gaining further experience and, if possible, further qualifications, hopefully also via the Participation Project.
‘The range of courses on the project is wide and gives people who may not be in a position to follow the traditional stages the opportunity to gain valuable experience and qualifications. The inclusivity it brings is heartening.’
‘The British Horse Society’s Hertfordshire committee runs events throughout the year – a great way to meet other riders. Events include training days, social events and educational talks.
‘Even if you have never ridden before, you are never too old to start to learn. Learning to ride can be a daunting task, but the British Horse Society has a host of information available on its website. You can find a place to ride, see what to expect from your first lesson, and what to wear. With 10 BHS-approved riding centres and livery yards in the county, there are plenty of opportunities to take up riding or get back in the saddle.’