From the strange looks you will receive on the tube to wondering whether you will ever leave the confines of an arena — Ploy Radford rounds up the perils of riding in London
London. A giant labyrinth of commerce, hipster hangouts, museums and monuments. It has so much to offer a country girl looking for entertainment and to broaden her horizons…
Except sometimes, we’d rather not broaden our horizons too far. And if you decide to swap bars for breeches, there are a few things you’ll swiftly learn about riding in London.
1. Firstly, good luck finding somewhere
Locating a riding school that is close to where you live, with good quality horses and tuition and won’t entirely empty your bank account, is ACTUALLY impossible. I have tried out so many London riding schools from the run-down stables with a rocking-horse creaking ominously on the roof and no-one else in sight, to the place right next to a busy bypass. (I shall generously assume that the reason the instructor spent my one and only lesson there screaming at me was just to be heard above the traffic.)
2. Prepare to clock up the miles and odd looks
Ironically, given the horse used to be a major form of transport, you will now need to use every modern form of public transport to get to a horse. Think, tube, national rail and bus all together. I’m just waiting for the day I need to use the riverboat or Emirates cable car.
While on said forms of transport pre-lesson your crop will get shifty side-long glances (because no one of course catches anyone’s eye on London transport). Post lesson you will get the recoil-and-sudden-change-in-direction-towards-another-seat-manoeuvre.
3. Accept that you will be late. Often
Public transport always fails when you have a lesson you need to get to, meaning your blood pressure will hit levels its not supposed to until you’re at least 60. For the sake of your heart, either leave hours in advance of a lesson, or learn to meditate. Remember your horse will not mind in any way having less lesson time…
4. The riding could be pretty slow going too…
You know that scene in Lord of the Rings where Arwen gallops through the trees to get away from the Ringwraiths? Yeah, you won’t be getting to do that in London. Besides the fact that riding school horses are notoriously bitter about the idea of movement, there just isn’t the space. There will be a lot of spiralling in despair around arenas.
5. Traffic and Londoners are a problem
I would not be surprised if some Londoners have never seen a horse before. Which, would explain why they feel the need to drive nerve-shatteringly close to the horse you’re riding on a road to get somewhere remotely green. They just want a closer look and are in no way in severe need of swift kick to remind them of their place.
6. Friends won’t even bother making conversation when there’s a horse around
Horses are such a rare sight comparatively in London, that once you and your friends go past the Household Cavalry or some mounted police officers, talking to you is a lost cause. You’re too busy cooing over the horse and dreaming of a career change.
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7. And you can kiss that dream of getting onto the property ladder goodbye
Aside from the fact lesson prices in London range from painful to eye-watering, there will be uber rides to get to lessons on time once public transport fails. So, prepare to be permanently broke. But, damn is it worth it.