Try something new in 2019 — pleasure rides

If you’re looking for something new to try with your horse this year, then we’re here to help. Sara Walker talks us through how you and your horse or pony could embark on a pleasure ride...

Pleasure rides are organised rides over set routes, and they are often held by a riding club, endurance group or on behalf of a charity. They can vary in length and difficulty, but are non-competitive and, as the name suggests, designed to be fun!

They’re an ideal way of introducing a young or green horse to riding in company, and are useful as part of a training programme if you’re trying to get your horse fit. They often offer the chance to ride over countryside that’s not normally accessible, and are great for horses that need to gain a bit of life experience. Above all, they’re sociable, no-pressure events that you can complete at your own pace and are accessible to everyone – there’s normally a rosette awarded when you finish, as well.

BHSAI Sam Campling organised her first pleasure ride last year in her local area in Staffordshire: “I love the area I ride in and wanted to share it with others. I organised the ride in association with the Sport Endurance group and they gave me a lot of help with what I needed to do. For my ride, entrants were covered by Sport Endurance insurance for the day, but sometimes events will require you to have your own third party liability insurance such as BHS Gold membership, and you’ll be asked to show proof on the day.

“There was a lot of planning involved — I needed to organise a safe parking area with good access, plan the route and mark the maps. I rode the route beforehand with some friends and we discussed what people might find difficult, such as slippery road surfaces, uneven tracks or a cottage with a ‘barky’ dog, so that we could detail these on the ride notes for entrants. We marked the route with a temporary chalk spray which was easy to see, as well as handing out maps.”

Kay Allen set up the ARC ride, a new pleasure ride on part of the Cranbourne Chase, an area of the southern downs which straddles Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset. The ride ran for the first time in 2018 and raised £4,000 for local charities, including Wilton Riding for the Disabled. Options included 7km, 14km and 25km routes and 187 riders took part.

“The hard bit of the planning was thinking everything through including toilet stops, catering, rosettes, signage, maps and marshals. We bought hi-viz jackets for the marshals, had maps printed and even got map bags sponsored. The great thing is we now have everything we need to just repeat the ride every year. The hardest job was getting all the arrows in place and the orange tape route markers. We had DORSAR (Dorset Search and Rescue) on standby on the day but fortunately they weren’t needed at all! Everyone had a fantastic time and we’ll be holding the ride again in 2019.”

Pleasure rides are more common in spring and summer, but endurance groups often organise year-round events. If you’re thinking of taking part, then start by looking at local equestrian websites or the Endurance GB website to find events in your area.

Even if your horse hasn’t been in much regular work, if he’s turned out regularly, he’ll be walking up to six miles (around 9.5km) a day in the field anyway. That means he should be fit enough already to complete one of the shorter routes if you take it easy.

You also need to make sure you’re fit enough as a rider for your chosen route — covering six miles at a walking pace will mean up to two hours in the saddle.

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You only need your usual, comfortable hacking clothes including a riding hat which meets current safety standards. Your horse should wear well-fitting tack, and his feet (and shoes, if applicable) should be in good condition. If you’re tackling a longer route, it’s a good idea to take a saddlebag with a waterproof coat and a drink, as well. You’ll be issued with a hi-viz tabard with a number at the venue, so that marshals can check you off as you make your way around the course.

“These events are fabulous for training and fitness for your horse and to discover different parts of the country, both near and far,” says Sam. “You might discover a fantastic new route right on your doorstep, or ride over tracks you’ve always fancied exploring – either way, it’s usually a brilliant day out.”

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