Horse & Hound’s Madeleine Pitt joined the North London Horseball Club under the guidance of trainer Jim Copeland, to but her ball skills to the test — on horseback. If you’ve always fancied giving horseball a try, take a look at her top tips for first-time success before you take to the pitch.
Madeleine’s 7 tips for first-time horseball players
1. Swot up on the rules — having a rough idea about the rules of the game before you start will mean you feel marginally less useless once the game kicks off. Knowing that you can only hold the ball for 10 seconds, that three consecutive passes have to be made between team members before you can shoot and that giving the ball from hand-to-hand doesn’t count as pass is a good start. Visit www.britishhorseball.co.uk to get the full details.
2. Dig out a ball and practise throwing — it may well have been a long time since you graced a netball court or rugby pitch, but digging out a ball and having a throw around before your lesson will get your eye in. There’s the added bonus that the ball used for horseball — which is a junior size football — has a harness with six leather straps on it, reducing the chances of you being labelled a butterfingers.
3. Try ditching the reins — getting a feel for riding without relying on your reins will give you an advantage once you’re concentrating on trying to throw and catch at the same time.
4. Get flexible — leaning out of the side door to pick up the ball doesn’t come as easily in reality as it does in your head. However tall you may be and however small your mount is, it feels like a long way to stretch down, so it might be wise working on your flexibility/ reach before you start.
5. Keep your eyes on the ball — picking up the ball can be frustratingly difficult. Just when you think you have a grip on it, you seem to sail past without it. Jim Copeland’s top tip is to keep your eyes on the ball until you’ve almost passed it — it’s tempting to look up too early.
6. Don’t linger at the back — don’t be hesitant about getting involved. It might be tempting to linger at the back, keeping a wide berth of the ball. But the more you’re involved in catching and throwing, the better you get a feel for the flow of the game.
7. Stock up on bubble bath — a long, hot bath is the only answer to recovering after your first attempt at horseball. Be prepared for aching muscles (and thigh bruises) like you’ve never had before. But as you soak in your bath, you can enjoy basking in the glory of the goal you scored and start planning your next lesson.
Keen to give horseball a try?
Visit www.northlondonhorseball.org.uk to find out more. Members have their own horses and training sessions cost around £5.
Don’t miss the full article about trying horseball for the first time in the 1 January 2015 issue of Horse & Hound