Now you’ve made the decision to take up riding, it’s time to turn your attention to preparing for that all-important first lesson. Harriet Page looks at what to expect

Working on your fitness

Don’t panic — you don’t need to be marathon-runner fit for your first riding lesson. However, it’s recommended that you have a good base-level fitness, because horse riding requires more physical exertion than you might think.

“While you don’t need to be too fit, fitting in some exercises around your riding will help to prevent you feeling too saddle-sore,” said Sarah Phillips, director of participation at the British Horse Society.

Rosie Lord BHSI, Owner of Berkshire Riding Centre Ltd told H&H that often “it doesn’t matter how unfit you are, you’ll enjoy riding and that can act as a trigger to improve your fitness,” adding that it’s “only when you start riding that you realise you need to be fitter to enjoy it.”

As your riding develops, so will your muscles to ensure you’ve got the correct balance on the horse, so you’ll notice an improvement in your fitness levels the more you ride.

Rosie recommends swimming and pilates as good alternative exercises that will help with your fitness and riding. Although, even with good fitness preperation, we can’t guarantee that your legs won’t ache the next day!

All the gear…

Your riding school should provide you with a hat that you can borrow for your first few lessons. Sarah added that most riding schools will encourage you to buy your own hat after the first couple of lessons, once you’re sure you are committed to riding.

While trainers may seem like the most comfortable option, they are unpractical for riding in. You’ll need a pair of shoes that have a slight heel to prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup, and a smooth sole, with boots being your most practical choice.

Berkshire Riding Centre also recommends wearing a suitable pair of gloves for your lesson, and that polo shirts or comfy t-shirts are preferable to strap tops. If you haven’t rushed out to buy a pair of jodhpurs, then look to leggings as your clothing choice. Jeans should be avoided as the seams can cause some painful rubbing on your leg, not something you want to be focusing on in your lesson.

What to expect from your first lesson

Be prepared for anything! Rosie Lord believes that people are coming to ride because they want contact with the horse — you should expect to spend around 10 minutes just getting to know the horse or pony you’ll be riding, and letting them get to know you. This gives you an idea about your steed, and pony cuddles are always fun!

She said the first thing they do at Berkshire Riding Centre is introduce you to your horse and explain how to lead the horse and how they’re likely to behave in your lesson. This is something you’ll find at many riding schools. You’ll also be made aware of the necessary safety aspects to ensure your welfare as well as the horse’s.

Once you’re mounted, you’ll spend a good portion of time working on your position to ensure that you’re riding in the most effective way to help you and the horse.

The first lesson is always a lead-rein lesson, that may progress to a lunge lesson depending on how the rider progresses,” said Rosie.

This will allow you to focus on the basics of riding in a secure environment, aiding your progression. Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions, it shows how interested and keen you are in horse riding, and they’ll be more than happy to help.

“An instructor will be trying to build a relationship with the client, understand their needs and trying to include that in their riding lesson,” added Rosie.

Don’t expect to be preparing for Badminton at the end of your first lesson — there’s a lot to learn in horse riding, but each part is as interesting as the next.

Most of all, expect to have fun and realise that you’ve just discovered the very best hobby there is!

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