Halfway through my return to riding programme I’m already plotting how I’ll make horse riding a regular thing once I’ve completed the twelve lessons. Understandably, some people can be reluctant to commit to lessons ad infinitum, however scheduling a dozen is very doable as a starting point to test the water. I needed to rearrange my third lesson because of work commitments, a simple task with the organised and obliging staff at Lavant Equestrian. This meant a mere three day gap between riding lessons. Upside, only a short wait for my horsey fix. Downside, muscle recovery time was more than halved.
I was on Popcorn again, which was fine by me – he’s a star, a handsome and energetic one at that. More importantly, we had built up a good rapport previously and it was beneficial to build on that.
Because of rescheduling, the tables had turned and it was my daughters’ turn to watch me. I packed them a hot water bottle each, a must for spectating between October and March (you are welcome), and a little after-school picnic to help them last the 45 minutes. I’m not sure they believe I had hobbies/skills/a life before they came along. It was lovely for them to get a glimpse of what made Mama so happy in her childhood. Popcorn and I experienced cheerleading and also constructive critique each time we passed the heated viewing gallery . Thanks kids.
Having a private horse riding lesson in one of the outdoor arenas was a different vibe altogether; riding as the winter sun set over Chichester, the breeze flushing my cheeks and birds flying overhead. Just dreamy. The floodlights are such that even in complete darkness, the school is well lit. My coach commented on the ease with which I rode compared to previous lessons. I attribute this completely to her positivity, acceptance and skill set, with which she has instilled trust and confidence in me.
Work without stirrups highlighted imbalances in my body, something I’m accustomed to noticing in Yoga classes but had been blinkered to in lessons so far. My coach said oftentimes, people are not only stronger on one side, they carry their weight/balance to one side. Not only can this give your horse mixed signals, it can cause a physical strain on your body. Developing awareness, alongside targeted schooling exercises meant I worked on making small corrections continuously to remedy the issues.
‘Horse riding is not a sport, the horse does all the work!’ Anyone else heard this line? After three one-to-one lessons at Lavant Equestrian Centre, I can tell you that I, and indeed all my muscles, disagree. Furthermore, so do experts. The general consensus from riding instructors, bodyworkers and medics is that horse riding is a full body workout.
‘Horse riding not only tones your whole body, it’s also fun, rewarding and interesting – you simply don’t realise you’re getting a great workout. After having a baby earlier this year, the only thing that really got me back into shape and feeling fit and healthy was getting back in the saddle!’ Amelia Ayling BHSII
Your core is called upon as the abdomen, back and pelvis work together to stabilise your body. Coordination is improved as you master the many movements that need to happen simultaneously as your riding progresses. Motor function and reflexes develop as you become increasingly responsive in the saddle and your cardiovascular system has a boost – an hour’s horse riding can burn between 200-450 calories depending on the intensity.
It is a sport that is suitable for many, including those with limited mobility. Age is no barrier, with Queen Elizabeth II being a fine example of this, still regularly riding aged 93. Lessons at Lavant Equestrian can be as mellow or challenging as you desire. Some riders have no aspirations to even break into a trot, let alone a canter and that is just fine. Lavant’s qualified and experienced instructors have plenty of activities to help build confidence and physical condition at walking speed. I didn’t see much walking during my lesson, filled with trot/canter transitions, no stirrups and pole work. I did say I wanted my coach to push me. As for next week, could there be a jump in my midst?