Self-confessed 'casual city rider' Ploy Radford heads to Wheal Buller Riding School in Cornwall for an intensive riding course — and learns a thing or two along the way...
If I’d been holding a small terrier and wearing red shoes I would have said: “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” As it was I was in riding boots trying to prevent Colin the horse from taking further chunks out of my arm and what I did say was unprintable. The sentiment still stood though.
Oz in this instance was Wheal Buller Riding School, set in the Mineral Tramways World Heritage Site in Cornwall, and it was the first day of an intensive riding course.
A fit of madness, much like the tornado that displaced Dorothy, had driven me to leave casual, arena-based riding in London for the Cornish countryside and three five-hour days of flatwork, jumping, hacking, lunge work, side-saddle and Western riding, in a bid to improve my riding.
I was right when I stood there surveying the rolling green hills dotted with crumbling mining towers while fending off Colin. This was a different riding world to London and I learned a lot on the way about surviving intensive courses if not some equitation…
1. Unless you have a bum like Kim Kardashian, you are going to hurt. A lot
My bum is never going to break the internet like Kim’s. In fact, my seat bones felt like they were broken. And that was just by the middle of the first day.
2. Therefore, you need to ensure you have a comfortable, restive environment for your poor broken body
This means not driving a sporty Mazda or any other very low car. You may look cool with the roof down and your shades on, whizzing down country lanes with your best friend. Not so cool, when once parked, you both literally have to crawl out of the car.
It is also advisable to book accommodation with a bathtub. In fact, if you can, book somewhere with spa facilities.
3. Be aware that there could be smug children, who aren’t apparently in as much pain, nonchalantly reeling off their achievements at the start of class
Don’t worry, horses don’t like smug children either and you will experience a pleasant Schadenfreude when you witness them sailing through the air on multiple occasions.
4. Don’t let an adorably naughty demeanour fool you into taking a horse out for lunch
Or rather, picking them for a day-long hack. Because before you know it, once you’ve stopped for lunch, they’ll have stolen your food and started nibbling you for dessert. And to add insult to injury, they will still have you twisted around their hoof so much you will bite chunks out of an apple and spit them out onto your hand for them to eat. So pack a knife (for the apple, not the horse).
5. Pack plenty of spare clothes
In light of the aforementioned poor table manners as well as the intensive activity, it really will help to have lots of spare clothes. Eau de slobber with added chunks of mushed up grass smeared across clothing combined with your own sweat will cause even horses to shy away from you.
6. Side-saddle is not for the faint-hearted
I doff my riding hat (although once safely off a side saddle) to the ladies of centuries past. Walking proved problematic enough, however, trot caused all manners of shrieks as I clung on for dear life. Trying to shimmy your arse against gravity is no mean feat (although maybe a good toning technique?).
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7. It’s not all about being on the horse
Dotting solid ground-based activities throughout your intensive schedule will provide a very useful respite. Grooming and tacking up for instance, or learning to lunge. Doing these will not only help you feel like a more competent horseman/woman — well when the horse doesn’t fart at you to signal how unimpressed he is that you’ve dropped all the tack — but your body will thank you.
Ploy was riding at Wheal Buller Riding School, Buller Hill, Redruth, Cornwall. The per day cost of an adult riding holiday if you live out is £90, which includes five hours of riding. Visit www.cornishridingholidays.co.uk