42 horsey things to do before you die

  • Most people have a ‘bucket list’ of things they would like to experience, so here is Horse & Hound’s list of 44 great horsey things we think all riders should try at some point. How many of these fun horsey ambitions can you claim to have done?

    1. Watch the Grand National in person

    How: If you’ve never ventured up to Aintree, this is a must. This season, the great race is on Saturday 11 April (2015), to find out more (tel: 0844 579 3001) or visit www.aintree.co.uk Tickets start at £23.

    2. Swim with your horse in the sea

    How: The British Horse Society has produced a PDF guide, to suitable beaches around the country, or find out which beaches H&H readers’ recommend.

    *H&H recommends wearing a riding hat when riding your horse on the beach or in the sea*

    3. Fall off in a water jump

    water fallHow: Tackle them often enough and it will happen in the end, we promise. Just try to ensure that a photographer is there to capture it to make it worthwhile.

    4. Ride out for a racehorse trainer

    How: Wangle an introduction and convince them that, perched atop half-a-ton of galloping horse, you’ll be able to restrain its power. Or, if you’re already confident, apply for a work rider vacancy in the equestrian jobs section of Horse & Hound and get paid for the pleasure. National hunt trainers do not require you to be a featherweight.

    5. Ride side-saddle

    How: Learning to ride side-saddle is a completely different riding experience. If you want to give it a go, the Side Saddle Association can help.

    6. Go on a horseback safari

    riding-holiday-in-botswanaHow: 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.

    Check out these websites for some more information:

    7. Go cross-country schooling with an elite event rider

    How: Book in for a class! Numerous cross-country courses around the UK host clinics with top riders throughout the spring, summer and autumn. And with plenty of all-weather cross-country courses to choose from, including these two facilities, even the winter can’t stop you! Keep an eye on the What’s On column and regular adverts in Horse & Hound for dates and venues.

    8. Fence judge for the day

    How: If you phone up any event organiser chances are, they’ll take your hand off. Event organisers’ details and dates are available on the British Eventing website.

    9. Have a go at the Golden Button Challenge

    Golden Button Ride 2009

    How: 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 28 obstacles between you and the finish line. Visit the Golden Button website for more details.

    10. “Join up” with your horse

    How: Kelly Marks does some great demonstrations that aren’t that pricey. The courses are listed on Intelligent Horsemanship’s comprehensive website or call, 01488 71300, for details. Tickets for demonstrations start at just £25.

    11. Have a driving lesson, without the car

    How: 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. Prices vary according to area and instructor, but just visit the BDS website or call 01379 384612 for more details.

    12. Ride flying changes

    How: If you’re desperate to experience flying changes then book in for a lesson at one of these centres:

    • Talland Equestrian Centre, Gloucestershire, has advanced horses (up to grand prix standard). Schoolmaster lessons start from £60, depending on the instructor — call 01285 740155 to book in.
    • Contessa Riding Centre has six advanced horses for experienced riders only. A private lesson will cost around £68 — call 01920 821792 to book a lesson. Riders must be experienced, as advanced dressage is highly skilled. Before riding the schoolmasters, pupils will need to be assessed to ensure that they are capable.
    • Oldencraig Equestrian Centre has a selection of grand prix dressage schoolmasters on which the more experienced rider can have a private lesson on. Prices start from £85. Call 01342 833317 to book a lesson.

    13. Try reining


    How: Fancy embracing your inner cow boy/girl? Then why not give reining a go — a member of the H&H did! From spins to sliding stops reining could offer you a completely new equestrian experience. For more information visit the British Reining website.

    14. Have riding boots made to measure

    How: Although they don’t come cheap, nothing feels as good as slipping on a pair of made to measure riding boots.

    Try one of these makers:

    15. Go hunting in Ireland

    How: There are plenty of ways to fulfil your dream of hunting in Ireland, like booking in for a holiday.

    • Louis Murphy, manager of the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Co Limerick, organises hunting package holidays. There’s a choice of nine legendary Irish packs such as the Tipperary and the Galway Blazers to join for a day out. Visit the website or email reservations@dunravenhotel.com for more details on packages available.
    • Flower Hill House in Co Galway organises accommodation, hunting and horse-hire with the East Galway and other packs. Cost: cap: around €100; horse-hire: around €130. Visit the website

    16. Ride in a three-day event

    How: It doesn’t have to be the Olympics! Longleat and Milton Keynes Eventing Centre have held unaffiliated three-day events in the past with classes ranging from 80cm to 100cm. Keep an eye out for future unaffiliated three-day-events if you don’t want to affiliate.

    To qualify for the lowest-level affiliated three-day event (BE100), horses and riders need to have qualified — you can find out more about qualification on the British Eventing website. Combinations can then compete at one of two competitions holding three-day BE100 events in 2015, Great Witchingham in July or Aldon in October.

    17. Go riding at sunrise in Hyde Park

    How: 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. Otherwise, contact Hyde Park Stables for a lesson — call 020 7723 2813. Prices start at £79 per hour and rides start at 7.30am. Autumn is the nicest time to book, when the leaves are turning.

    18. Lead a winner into the paddock

    How: If you can’t afford Tattersalls sales, you could join a syndicate. The British Horseracing Authority can give you a steer — visit their website or call 020 7152 0000 for more information.

    The cheapest entry point is the Elite Racing Club, become a shareholder, go to the races and visit the yard all for £185 per year. Take a look at their website or call 01380 811699.

    19. Learn to play polo

    How: Book in for a lesson at one of these clubs by looking at their website, or calling:

    20. Spend a day at the Calgary Stampede

    How: “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth“, as it is modestly billed, brings out the cowboy in everyone. Top-level rodeo riding, barrel racing and more. It takes place in Calgary each July and tickets can be bought online or call, 001 800 661 1767, for more details.

    21. See a horse sold for more than a million

    How: For astronomical prices, head to Newmarket or Kentucky. In the US, the Keeneland July and September sales are the biggest and in England you could be lucky enough to witness such sales as the filly who sold for a record price of 4.5m guineas in 2014.

    For more information, look here:

    22. Give vaulting a go


    How: 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 you can receive a two hour lesson for £15. For more information visit the British Equestrian Vaulting website.

    23. Ride at Badminton

    How: An advanced eventer with four-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 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Grassroots Championships brings together winners from BE90 and BE100 regional qualifiers from around the country to contest for the Championship. Take a look through these regional finals for information on qualifying events.

    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…

    24. Jump a 5ft fence

    How: Take your pick and pump up some pluck: a Chase-me-Charlie pole, a hedge out hunting or an Irish wall, there are so many options.

    25. Hear the Cheltenham Festival roar

    How: When the first race of the Cheltenham Festival begins, the crowd’s roar is enough to make your blood sizzle. This year the festival starts with Champion Hurdle Day on 10 March 2015. Head to the website to order tickets or call 0844 579 3003 — prices start at £22.

    26. Ride in a charity race

    How: A number of charities hold special races on allocated days. The Amateur Jockeys Association holds these races annually at racecourses across the UK, including Cheltenham, Newbury and Newmarket. If you are interested in taking part in a charity race being organised by the AJA, please contact Sarah Oliver on 01886 884488 or e-mail sph.oliver@btinternet.com

    27. Get your photo in Horse & Hound

    How: Either beat one of our Olympians, or send a hilarious photo to the picture editor. Only seriously funny or really impressive photos will be considered.

    28. Ride a heavy horse

    How: Cumbrian Heavy Horses offer a range of daily rides and riding holidays on their magnificent Clydesdale, Shire and Ardennes heavy horses. Rides start at £65 for 90min, with a full-day ride including an exhilerating gallop along the beach costing £180. Go to the website for more details or call 01229 777764.

    29. Watch the action on the frozen lake at St Moritz

    How: With temperatures of -25°, 1,800m above sea level, this is the perfect setting for elite polo teams to fight out the World Cup on snow. The next World Cup will be on 29 January – 1 February 2015 and six British players will be making up some of the four teams. Visit the website or call 0041 43 343 98 54 for more information.

    If you can’t make it to St Moritz, take a look at H&H’s guide to watching snow polo this winter.

    30. Herd cattle across the plains of Montana

    How: This one’s not cheap, but definitely an unmissable experience — browse these websites for some more information:

    31. Ride a bucking bronco

    How: Either head to the Wild West for the real thing, or hire one for a party from one of these websites:

    32. See a foal being born

    How: 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 you will probably have to satisfy your curiosity with a video.

    33. Watch the Spanish Riding School

    How: Under glittering chandeliers, the famous white Lippizzaner stallions perform the purest form of dressage in Vienna. As well as the evening performances, don’t miss their morning training sessions. Take a look at the Spanish Riding School website or call 00 431 533 9031.

    34. Go to a team chase
    Team Chasing - Class 4"KBIS"Intermediate Team Chase 13 11 2011
    The season typically runs from the end of September to the beginning of November, then from the end of February to the beginning of April, so don’t forget your waterproofs and wellies. Fancy having a go at team chasing? Have a read of H&H’s guide on how to get started. For more information visit www.teamchasing.co.uk.

    35. Jump bareback
    If you want to have a go, the answer is to start small, build up and practise, practise, 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. Take a look at Laura Collett giving it a go.

    36. Follow on foot
    Chilmark&Clifton Beagles for H&H - 25/2/2012
    Don’t just follow hunts in the car, go out with your local beagle or basset pack and enjoy a cracking day’s sport — and often a delicious tea. Make sure you ring the hunt secretary to ask permission to come out, discover what time hounds are meeting and how much the cap is. For more information: Association of Masters of Harriers and Beagles, visit www.amhb.org.uk, Masters of Basset Hounds Association, tel: 01432 860546, Masters of Minkhounds Association, tel: 01635 44754.

    37. Jump a single barrel
    Yogi Breisner Masterclass 28.01.11
    Set yourself a test of accuracy with your trainer and see whether you can keep your horse straight enough to jump a single upturned barrel.

    38. Learn to ride short
    Masterclass with Mark Todd
    Jack up your stirrups a few holes while riding at home and see
    how you find it. It is good for balance and core strength and may even improve muscle tone if you practise often enough.

    39. Ride an Icelandic in tölt

    How: 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. Travel companies including www.inthesaddle.com, www.unicorntrails.com and www.zarasplanet.co.uk run trips.

    40. Have a go at horseball

    Horse ball
    : 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 Assocation has a list of registered trainers who are available to come out to groups of riders who want to learn the sport. A member of the H&H team even gave horseball a go recently – you can watch the video here. Visit www.britishhorseball.co.uk to find out where you can play and how to get started.

    41. Go riding across Mongolia

    How: There aren’t many other places in the world where you can ride for days without seeing a road or fence. Head to Mongolia to experience wilderness at its best. A number of travel companies run trips including www.inthesaddle.com, www.unicorntrails.com, www.zarasplanet.co.uk and www.farandride.com

    42. Watch world record holders in action

    Charlotte Dujardin
    How: Keep an eye on where dressage supremos Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro are due to compete, then do everything you can to go and watch them. A chance for you to witness dressage at its current world best, and they’re British!

    How many of the challenges on our list have you done and what would you add to it? Let us know via facebook comments below…

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