Are you looking for a new challenge in 2016? Something a bit different from aiming to get 70%+ in your dressage tests, or affiliating in your chosen discipline, perhaps? If you want to broaden your horsey horizons, why not try one of the following…
Pilates is already popular among equestrians, as it’s great for improving posture and core strength, but Equilates takes it to the next level, aiming to improve the rider’s position on the horse through specific strengthening exercises. There are a number of companies and trainers offering this throughout the UK, and the techniques used may vary, some mainly focusing on ground work, and others using simulators — or even actual horses. A quick Google search should provide you with those who can help you locally.
2. Hunting side-saddle
Downton Abbey may have left our screens but its legacy lives on in the form of an upsurge of riders hunting side-saddle. Ladies have been riding side-saddle since the 14th Century, and it still looks wonderfully elegant. The novelist Anthony Trollope, a keen huntsman in the early 20th Century when side-saddle was de rigeur for women, is said to have commented: “Women who ride, as a rule, ride better than men.” If you want to give it a go, you’ll need lessons first — visit www.sidesaddleassociation.co.uk for details of instructors in your area. Apparently a good bra is a must…
A relatively new equestrian sport, horseboarding basically involves a skateboarder being pulled along by a horse (and rider). Sounds mad? In fairness, the rider has the easier job! If you’d like to get involved, visit www.horseboardinguk.org, which runs regular training days in Wiltshire, Cambridge, Norwich, Cheshire and Yorkshire, as well as private lessons, and hosts national championship competitions.
4. Concours D’Elegance
If you love dressing up — and who doesn’t? — then Concours D’Elegance may be for you. Hearkening back to a bygone era of equestrian elegance, it’s usually side-saddle or driven, and the idea is that both rider and horse should be a picture of beautifully turned-out elegance, in period costume. Classes are held at various large shows throughout the summer. Visit the Concours D’Elegance UK Facebook page for more information: www.facebook.com/pages/Concours-DElegance-UK-Group
5. Gypsy vanning
Sadly, the beautiful multi-coloured horse-pulled gypsy caravans of old seem to have disappeared forever from our roads and byways — but if it was your childhood dream to drive one, you can still make this come true. Travel company Wanderlust (www.wanderlust.co.uk) offers gypsy caravan breaks, where you can travel the Cumbrian back roads with family and friends, and even take the reins of a traditional vardo yourself. What’s not to love?
6. Horseback archery
Originating as a military art, horseback archery is now another equestrian sport for thrill-seekers that’s experienced a resurgence of interest over the past 20 years. It requires both poise in the saddle, strength and a good eye! There are a host of different styles you can try, from Yubusame, which was practised in Japan, to Qabak, Turkish gourd shooting. Check out the British Horseback Archery’s website www.bhaa.org.uk for more information. NB: Horse & Hound recommends you wear an up-to-standard hat at all times while riding.