Horse-riding: more than muddy ponies and pushy parents?
Is horse riding really just for those who live in their wellies in the countryside? Personally, I think not – it is something that everyone should try.
I think the idea of horse riding is an idea that is often associated with mud, with competitive mothers at Pony Club and children throwing tantrums on top of their ponies whilst they refuse to move. Whilst at times this may, admittedly, be the case, I believe that the benefits of horse riding can be felt by anyone. It is not restricted to those who live in the countryside, as is so often presumed – many towns have nearby stables offering horse riding, and the number of equestrian centres is ever growing. Although I run the risk of coming across as one of those ‘horse obsessed girls’ as I say this, riding has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and over the years, I have come to find that it is so much more than simply a sport or hobby – it is something social, something that can de-stress me in a way that nothing else can, and something I don’t think I could cope without.
When I tell people that riding is hard work, people often tend to think I’m just being pathetic, and that ‘all you do is sit on a horse’. Although I may not be the sportiest of people, riding certainly is a sport! It does indeed require a lot of energy, both mentally and physically. It is particularly good for leg and core muscles, taking a great deal of strength in both the upper and lower body. It has been suggested that an hour of riding can burn around 300 calories, and is surely much more fun than going to a gym and running on a treadmill?! You don’t even need a horse of your own to take part in the sport – across the country, there are hundreds of riding centers that provide the horse for you. The Equestrian sport industry is huge, with many British Riders riding at the very top level internationally. At the London 2012 Olympics, Team GB came top, with three gold medals and five medals in total, with the teams having now qualified for the Rio Olympics and with high hopes for more medals to be won. It is therefore a very exciting sport, with interest growing more and more. Although the sport is undeniably costly, perhaps its main downside, it equally does not need to be something that pulls at the purse strings: riding lessons cost around £20, but you certainly don’t need to pay this every week. Even just riding once a month or less is hugely beneficial, and simply spending time with a horse doesn’t need to cost anything at all.
Horse riding doesn’t necessarily need to be something competitive, and can in fact be far from it. What I love the most about riding is simply that, in my opinion, there is nothing more relaxing and therapeutic than spending time with a horse. Going for a ride seems to remove all worries about exams and school work; it is a space for just you and the horse, and they don’t seem to mind at all whether you’ve had a bad day or not. Horses are good listeners, and have certainly leant an ear to my long rants over the years. Whenever I am stressed about something, going for a horse ride is one of the only things that can make me relax. In this sense, riding does not need to be something based around competitions or having lessons, but can instead simply be an escape from day to day stresses, even if this is just to talk to a horse in the field down the road.
As well as being with horses, riding can actually be an amazing opportunity to meet lots of people, too. Some of my closest friends are friends that have been made through horses; going for a ride with someone is a lovely opportunity to simply talk to them, and at a riding stable you are bound to meet so many like-minded people. Riding competitively is also an amazing opportunity to meet people, with there being a real sense of comradeship and support within riding teams, something that I cannot help but notice at any competition that I have been to. I have lost count of the number of times that I have fallen off my horse and one of my friends has been on hand to either catch the horse for me before it gallops off, or to pick me up off the floor, and the support that riders give one another is amazing. It is therefore something hugely social, and this is yet another reason why horse riding can be so much fun.
Joining the Riding Society at York is one of the best things that I’ve done this term. Getting to be a member of the team is amazing, and I love the fact that I still get to see a horse once a week – again, I am convinced that this has kept me from getting too stressed so far, and in the week running up to my first essay being due, I cannot explain how much better my riding lesson made me feel. I have also made lovely friends through the Riding Society here at York. I would encourage anyone to join: It is such a fun way of getting a bit of exercise, as well as getting to see some of Yorkshire’s countryside, and is a lovely way to meet so many amazing people.
Horse riding is therefore something for everyone, whether you live in a town, or the middle of nowhere, and doesn’t need to be the financial drain it is so often seen as. Yes, it’s muddy, it’s a bit smelly, and falling off does hurt – but at the same time, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon.