Most people have a “bucket list” of things they would like to experience at some point in life – and equestrians are likely to have a “horse bucket list”. Here’s Horse & Hound’s list of suggestions that we think you should consider including – some will be relatively easy to tick off, while others will take a bit of saving up to do. But all of them will be totally worth it when you get there – and even better if you can capture it on one of the best riding hat cameras!
Horse bucket list suggestions to consider
1) Gallop in the sea
Splashing in the surf, galloping along the sand – or even full-on swimming in the sea. Training on the beach was the making of Red Rum, and it’s a treat for any rider and horse.
If you have a horse you can take, here’s what you need to know before you go for a beach ride. If you don’t have a horse you can take, check out these horse experience days to see if there’s a beach riding venue near you.
2) Ride among giraffes in Africa
An African safari is the rider’s equivalent of swimming with dolphins. The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a wilderness paradise of lagoons, islands and forests with the best game viewing in Southern Africa. Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa also offer great riding experiences. Here are some tips to help you choose the right safari for you.
3) Ride out for a racehorse trainer
Wangle an introduction and convince the trainer that, perched atop half a ton of galloping horse, you’ll be able to restrain its power. Be prepared for cold, early mornings – but nothing beats the feeling of having galloped three thoroughbreds by breakfast.
If you don’t fancy riding yourself, why not book a behind-the-scenes tour in Newmarket?
4) Fall off in a water jump
Perhaps not top of your list of priorities, but a rite of passage. Tackle them often enough and it will happen. Just try to ensure a photographer is there to capture the moment.
5) Ride side-saddle
Side-saddle riding has gained new interest since period dramas such as Downton Abbey. It’s elegant, skilled and – once the initial awkwardness is overcome – some riders believe it’s more comfortable than astride. Read this tips on how to ride side-saddle before you give it a go.
6) Jump a 5ft fence
Take your pick and pump up some pluck: a Chase-me-Charlie pole, a hedge out hunting or an Irish wall.
7) Go hunting in Ireland
Not for the faint-hearted – but if double banks, cavernous ditches and a totally gung-ho attitude is up your street, there are plenty of ways to fulfil your dream of hunting on the Emerald Isle. If you’re adding this to your horse bucket list, make sure you book an experienced hireling who will know the lie of the land, fill up your hip flask with some Dutch courage, and find out what people say about hunting in Ireland.
8) Drive a horse
In honour of the late Duke of Edinburgh, who took up driving after retiring from polo, this is one sport every horseman should try. The British Driving Society has a list of contacts for all qualified instructors in all areas of the UK, including those catering for the disabled. We’ve also found a few and rounded them up in our guide to horse experience days.
9) Do tempi changes
One to tick off as and when you are ready rather than pushing for something outside your skill level. But if you are not yet up to training your horse to do them yourself, then you can book in a lesson with a dressage schoolmaster at various training centres around the country, although you will need to prove a certain level of riding ability.
10) Have riding boots made to measure
Although they don’t come cheap, nothing feels as good as slipping on a pair of made-to-measure riding boots. No rubbing, no awkward baggy gaps, and the feel of perfect unison with your horse. Here’s a selection of the best long leather riding boots, some of which are available in made-to-measure sizes.
11) Back a horse or pony
Not for the inexperienced horseman, but everyone who backed a horse has had a first time – just make sure you have someone experienced on hand to help and guide you. The joy of backing your own horse, developing mutual trust and going on to compete is immeasurable and definitely one for the horse bucket list.
12) Have a spin round the Golden Button
If you’re an equestrian adrenaline junkie then look no further than the three-mile race over Ledbury hunt country held in February. Anyone can enter – there’s just 22 natural obstacles between you and the finish line.
13) Lead a winner into the paddock
If you can’t afford the Tattersalls Sales, you could join a syndicate. Most racing stables run syndicates with an enormous variation in
numbers of owners and costs, or there are also racing clubs where you can pay an all-in fee. For instance Elite Racing Club has membership for £17 per month. You may not end up leading in a winner, but you’ll be able to visit the horse training and at the races and be privy to some special owner perks.
14) Be a stunt rider in a movie
“Real” stunt riders need a minimum of six skills (fighting, falling, riding/driving, agility/ strength, water, and miscellaneous – any
skill performed to elite standard). However, many riders have been in the right place at the right time and called up to film a riding scene because they look the part and know how to look authentic on a horse.
15) Ride at sunrise in Hyde Park
The Household Cavalry has a small pool of civilian riders who help exercise their horses, but a serving soldier needs to nominate you
to be added to the waiting list. Alternatively, there are a couple of riding stables on the edge of the park: Ross Nye and Hyde Park Stables, where you can pay for the pleasure. There is also a Civil Service Riding Club for those eligible, which uses Hyde Park.
16) Ride up the centre line at Horse of the Year Show
For showing riders, this is the pinnacle. Ride up the centre line in that hushed arena and you know you’ve made it.
17) Play polo
The feeling of (finally) being able to canter after that white ball and whack it is intensely satisfying, never mind the exhilaration of a ride-off. Check out some venues that offer polo lessons in this collection of horse experience days if you’re adding this to your horse bucket list.
18) Hear the roar at the start of Cheltenham
When the first race of the Cheltenham Festival begins, the crowd’s roar is enough to make your blood sizzle. There were no crowds last year, but hopes are high that this year we will again hear the roar as the tapes are raised for the Supreme Novices on 15 March. Find out more and buy tickets at thejockeyclub.co.uk
19) See a horse being sold for a million
For astronomical prices, head to Newmarket or Kentucky. Records of some kind are smashed year by year, and the buzz of the sales ring is spellbinding.
20) Volunteer at a show
21) Ride at Badminton
An advanced eventer with five-star potential is going to cost you an arm and a leg, and then you’ve got to be able to ride it. However, the Voltaire Design Badminton Grassroots Championships brings together winners from BE90 and BE100 regional qualifiers from around
the country to contest for the championship. This year, Badminton takes place from 3–8 May – find out how to get tickets here. Failing that, or if you fancy the thrill of the chase, take a day out with the Beaufort hunt. You never know where the trail might lead you…
22) Watch the Grand National live
If you’ve never ventured up to Aintree, this is a must. This season, the Randox Grand National Festival takes place from 7–9 April, with the great race on Saturday, 9 April. Get more info at tickets at thejockeyclub.co.uk
23) Watch the Spanish Riding School
Under glittering chandeliers, the famous white Lipizzaner stallions perform the purest form of dressage in Vienna.
24) Get your photo in H&H
Either beat one of our Olympians, or be at the top of your level and send a completely brilliant photo to wow the picture editor.
25) Spend a day at the Calgary Stampede
“The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, as it is billed, brings out the cowboy in everyone. Top-level rodeo riding, barrel racing and more. It takes place in Calgary each July (8–17 July 2022).
26) See a foal being born
Offer to do the last week of nightly vigil for a friend’s in-foal mare. Or, if you’re extremely lucky on a National Stud tour, you might see a live birth during the foaling season, but probably via a video link. A tour of the National Stud is part of this behind-the-scenes day at Newmarket.
27) Ride in a charity race
A number of charities, such as the British Horse Society (BHS), hold special races on allocated days, usually a one-mile Flat race. Riders usually have to source their own racehorse, raise a set amount of money and physically it’s no walk in the park, with riders facing a gruelling assessment and fitness test. Horse & Hound’s Gemma Redrup gave it a go in 2018 and blogged about the experience.
28) Watch the action on the frozen lake at St Moritz
With freezing temperatures and 1,800m above sea level, the Swiss venue of St Moritz is a dazzling setting for elite polo teams, racing and skijoring. White Turf runs on three Saturdays in February, featuring international horse racing, while the Snow Polo World Cup will take place on the lake 28–30 January. Horse & Hound went behind the scenes at St Moritz to check it out.
29) Herd cattle across the plains of Montana
Unless you have a long-lost cowboy uncle, you’ll need to join a trip or work on a ranch. It’s not a cheap riding holiday, but it’s an unmissable experience.
30) Ride a bucking bronco
Either head to the Wild West for the real thing (madness), or hire one for a party.
31) Try reining
Fancy embracing your inner cowboy/girl? Then why not give reining a go – from spins to sliding-stops, reining could offer you a completely new equestrian experience.
32) Give vaulting a go
If you’ve got a pair of leggings and some pumps to wear, you can try your hand at vaulting. You don’t need your own horse and new vaulters are welcomed into the fold. For more information visit the British Equestrian Vaulting website or book yourself onto a vaulting and trick riding session.
33) Ride a heavy horse
Are you a thoroughbred snob? The rolling gait of a heavy horse gives a completely different feel in the saddle. Cumbrian Heavy Horses is the world’s only BHS-approved heavy horse riding centre and offers a range of riding on fields, fells and beaches in the Lake District National Park aboard magnificent Clydesdale, Shire, Suffolk, Comtois and Ardennes heavy horses.
34) Compete in the Mongol Derby
The longest and toughest horse race in the world – over 1,000km of Mongolian Steppe, on semi-wild horses, changing steeds every 40km. You navigate and survive on your wits and skill, living among the herders. It’s you and your horse vs the wild. Here’s eight things you need to know before you start planning your trip.
35) Enjoy the thrill of a team chase
The exhilarating sensation of galloping across the country, over whatever fences block your path, with a group of mates. No one takes themselves too seriously and it’s a lot of fun. Here are some tips on how to get started.
36) Jump bareback
If you want to have a go, the answer is to start small, build up and practise. Just remember, canter is more comfortable than trot! If you feel insecure riding with no saddle, start on the lunge so you can concentrate on your position rather than what the horse is doing. Here are some riders taking part in the Bareback Challenge at Bury Farm to give you some inspiration.
37) Ride an Icelandic in tölt
The small and compact Icelandic horses are famous for their fifth gait, the tölt. Book yourself up on a trip to Iceland to put it to the test – and if you time it right you could see the Northern Lights.
38) Have a go at horseball
Do you back yourself to be able to cling on for a fast-paced game of horseball? A number of riding schools offer lessons and clinics, and the British Horseball Association has a list of registered trainers who are available to come out to groups of riders who want to learn the sport.
39) Ride in the main ring at Hickstead
Hone your dressage, showing and showjumping skills and get out there and get winning.
40) Represent your country
Competition will be exceptionally hot for this year’s World Equestrian Games teams, but there are opportunities at lower levels, such as the CCI3*-S European Cup or the Home Internationals in dressage.
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