8 people who have learnt to ride during lockdown, plus one who has found a new passion in enjoying horses

  • With the coronavirus pandemic forcing most people to work from home, abiding by lockdown rules, and a proportion of those furloughed too, some people have taken to learning a new skill. The following people have learnt to ride during lockdown, and we think their progress is remarkable. Plus, don’t miss the rider who has embraced a new discipline, despite having previously maintained she hated it...

    Early on in lockdown

    “I am a mounted police officer in central London and have had my step children live with us throughout lockdown — they live in Qatar normally. My step daughter is 12 and this is the first time we have had her for a long enough period of time to allow me to teach her to ride. For the first month we had access to a share pony twice a week but I really wanted her to be able to progress as much as possible through lockdown so I loaned a pony from a friend.

    My step daughter more recently

    “This has led to the most wonderful bonding time for my step daughter and I, watching her grow in confidence and ability has made me so proud. We hack out together on adventures — I feel like I am 12 again! She is able to canter with me in open spaces which was my goal!” — Charlotte Powell


    “My daughter, Amelie, aged 10, learned to ride in lockdown. My mum’s elderly ponies have been living with us for three years and it took a pandemic to spark her interest and get them out of retirement. We took them for walks to start with and then it grew from there!” — Alex Compton


    “I’ve learnt to ride on one of my mother’s horses during lockdown. I have been on many trips out with him to Thetford Forest and sponsored hunt rides, once they restarted.


    “While also learning to ride I’ve learnt to drive as well. Even competing in a driving trials competition and have slso been on many socially distant trips out on the carriage with my friends” — Owen Embleton

    “My name is Alison McFarlane (Ali) and I’m 30 years old. I met my partner, Cat, who owns two horses in July 2019. Things went well, I met both her horses and sat on her cob Gypsy before I left the country for work. I had ridden a horse once or twice when I was about nine years old on a pony trek, but knew absolutely nothing about them! If anything I was quite wary and nervous around them.

    “I left Scotland in the middle of December 2019 to work in Hakuba, Japan for four months as a ski instructor. While I was away Cat asked if I would like to move in with her when I came back to Scotland and, having resided with my parents up until that point, I eagerly agreed.

    “With the fast moving pandemic and borders being shut, I decided to curtail my trip and arrived back in Scotland on 22 March 2020. After navigating my way through busy Tokyo and Dubai Airport I was anxious about seeing my mum who has asthma with potential spreading of Covid-19, so Cat picked me up from the airport and took me to her flat. Then lockdown was announced! We went from not seeing each other for months to being with each other 24/7.


    “My income before I went away was working at a dry ski slope in Edinburgh as a ski instructor and also as an usher in two different theatres. Of course that was all gone and I had very little furlough money having been away over the winter. I got quite down about it, but then Cat took me to her yard and started giving me lessons on Gypsy. That was in April and now we are in August. I now know how to walk, trot and canter but it hasn’t always been easy! I fell off once and was limping with a bruise for a while after, I got a fright when Gypsy spooked twice in a row and lost my confidence for a couple of weeks as well. However, horse riding has pretty much seen me through lockdown, got me out the flat when I didn’t feel like it, allowed me to bond with an animal more than I ever have before and I’ve taken achievement in learning a new sport!

    “Gypsy has been the best horse to learn on during this time. She has looked after me well and also challenged me at times! She may not know it, but she’s been a hero!” — Ali MacFarlane


    “My daughter Myia, who’s only three years old, started to ride in March as we had gone into lockdown and schools and nurseries where closed, with just walking around on her pony. Over lockdown she learned how to trot and hold her reins, she attended her first show, coming first out off a large class of ponies. Myia’s sister Ella, who is five years, old also rides and has also progressed in her ridding. Myia just loves ponies and loves being around them. It was her third birthday on 17 July and we have just bought her a new show pony for next season. She will continue to ride over the winter, with hope that we have more shows next season” — Andrea Latto

    “My mum (59) has started to ride mostly while in lockdown. Before this she had sat through hours and hours of lessons I and my brother has had as well as volunteering for British Eventing. She had 10 lessons at a local riding school and her final one was the week of lockdown.

    “When we went into lockdown, lessons stopped and we made the decision that it wasn’t a good idea for her to ride my pony, but mum is great on the ground. The pony went lame and mum spent the first six weeks of lockdown learning to long rein and lunge during my pony’s recovery period and keep him busy. When restrictions eased and lessons could resume, we made the decision that mum now knew my pony well enough that she should try a few lessons on him with our yard manager and she hasn’t looked back since!

    “In such a short space of time mum has gone from only walking and trotting in a school to now hacking and schooling on her own, and she’s now looking to do her first ever dessage test in September and start jumping!” — Franki Clapham

    One of Jacqueline Morrall’s daughters

    “My daughters aged eight and nine have learnt to ride over the past nine weeks due to not being able to go to school and Covid-19. A friend’s outgrown New Forest (Nutmeg) who has been there done that has taught them so much, including cantering, riding without stirrups, jumping and last week each completing a walk/trot dressage test with them finishing second and fourth!

    The other of Jacqueline’s daughters

    “All this has been made possible by the daughter of my friend, who is 16 and had her GSCE’s cancelled, so has been teaching the girls twice a week and taking them out to hack. The is a great thing to come out of these unknown and tough times” — Jacqueline Morrall

    “I met my boyfriend Jorge in April last year and he shares the same passion for animals as me, and took a very quick interest in the horses as they are a massive part of my life! He is Portuguese and has lived in the UK for nearly 10 years and has never been around horses in any way before meeting me. He is 22 and works as a team leader in one of the leading textiles companies.

    “He had a sit on my mare, Nia, at the back end of last year, but as she is not a novice we thought it would be better he had a riding lesson at a local riding school. We chose Carrington Riding School and on finishing the first lesson I wasn’t sure he was telling me the truth that he has never ridden before because he was so natural and took to rising trot straight away on his first attempt.


    “He then got the riding bug and wanted to learn so we decided to look for horse on loan for him that would be more suitable than Nia, and found the most perfect horse — Red an 11-year-old in February this year whom we love so much! Red hasn’t done much himself so they have been learning together, but he is a saint.


    “Jorge then started to have lessons each weekend over lockdown with my riding instructor Leanne Cunningham on Red, and even she was in awe of his natural position and ability to pick everything up so quickly. He is now jumping my mare over small fences and is confident to do so and wants to continue in jumping and cross-country” — Charlotte Maddox

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    Something slightly different

    “I didn’t quite learn to ride during lockdown as I have ridden all my life, but I have taken the combination of lockdown and incredibly hard ground to turn my hand to dressage! I am 41 this week and was born to a horsey mum, so we have always had horses at home. I have always been a hacking/some hunting/some showjumping/some cross-country kind of a girl. This has all been low level riding club stuff and I had intended to really work on my jumping over lockdown.

    “I am a full-time science teacher and mother of two, and although I worked every day from home during lockdown and was in school one day a week, I found that with neither me nor my kids being in school, I was finished earlier in the afternoon. With this new found time, I planned to nail the jumping. But the ground was too hard, so my cunning instructor started drip feeding me dressage! I have never bothered with dressage and maintained I hated the idea — turns out I actually like it!

    “I went from first lesson to first test at my local riding club in three weeks! I didnt want a caller so I managed to miss out two movements, my boots broke and I missed the bell to go in! I thought it was a total car crash but we got 64.4% and finished second. This was the first dressage test for me and only the second for my horse. The judge gave some lovely comments and I was thrilled that the bits I knew I had ballsed up came through on the marks and comments, so I knew I was at least thinking along the right lines — I even got an eight for something! I have no clue whatsoever about dressage but I have an amazing instructor and the most wonderful sharp little cob — I call the arena a dressage tank!

    “We have our second test on Sunday and then another in two weeks where I will do intro and prelim. I never thought I would enjoy dressage, but lockdown gave me an opportunity to learn something new and I’ve really enjoyed it. I will absolutely keep it up, even when the ground is soft enough to jump again. It’s my mission to see how far I can go knowing absolutely nothing whatsoever about dressage” — Hannah Pattinson

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