Not all of us were ‘born in the saddle’, and often we had to wait for life to quieten down and children to leave home before we could really get stuck into horse riding. If you’re a bit later on the scene, here’s what to expect, as explained by Sara Walker…

1. Your instructor (a mere child) spends patient hours trying to get you to mount correctly. Her cheerful chant of ‘one, two, three…..and spring!’ is all very well in theory, but in practice your spring seems to have well and truly sprung. You can get your foot in the stirrup (using both hands), but your left knee is so outraged at being asked to take your full body weight for the first time in years that your ‘one, two, three….spring’ turns into more of a ‘one, slip, scramble, aaargh…thud’.

2. After two months of agony, someone finally takes pity on you and tells you about padded riding pants. You fall on their neck in gratitude, sobbing.

3. You really can’t believe that it’s possible for human hip flexors and hips to get into that position. You find muscles, the previous existence of which you’ve never suspected, and every single one of them hurts. Your instructor (a slender, athletic 20-year-old) gives instructions like ‘Just put some more weight into your knees’, as though it’s all very easy and there’s no risk of you walking like a crippled crab for several days afterwards.

4. You’re so upset that you didn’t start riding when you were a child and thus missed out on all the cute equestrian gear that you buy yourself a special sweater with a unicorn on it. You no longer care what people think.

5. Every ride over two hours long is carefully examined for ‘suitability’, i.e. access to loos or at least some nice thick hedges.

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6. When anyone drops their whip or a glove or it’s really your turn to open the gate, you pretend you’re having trouble with your horse in case someone asks you to get off and get back on again from the ground.

7. Cold dark mornings, dirty fingernails, breeches covered in hay, permanently cold feet, no money… honestly, your only regret is that you didn’t take up riding years ago.

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