There’s a reason why 2.7million people enjoy horse riding in the UK and that’s because it’s great fun, a good way to stay fit and it gets you out and about in the countryside.

Spending time with horses isn’t just good for your physical health — studies have shown it’s a great way to boost your mood and improve your mental health too.

People of all ages and abilities, and those with long-standing illnesses or disabilities also reap the physical and mental health benefits of horse riding.

So where do you get started?

Where to ride?

Finding somewhere to ride can be a bit daunting with so many centres to choose from, but help is at hand. Horse & Hound have a list of places to have riding lessons near you to choose from.

Another good source of information is the British Horse Society (BHS).

“The BHS has over 600 approved riding schools across the country,” says the BHS. “Our Approved Establishments have horse and pony welfare along with client safety and satisfaction as priorities. All establishments are insured for public liability and comply with the latest health and safety legislation, so you can rest assured that it is safe and well run, leaving you free to just relax and enjoy yourself.”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the qualifications of the instructors, and which instructors teach beginner riders. A friendly atmosphere is important, and watching a lesson can be a good guide. Even if you do not know much about horses, you will be able to judge if they are nervous and highly strung, or quiet and relaxed.

“Riding centres should have a variety of horses to cater for the type of rider they specialise in teaching,” adds the BHS. “For a beginner, the horses and ponies need to be steady and experienced. All equipment should be in good condition and clean.

“Your local British Horse Society approved centre will ask your height, weight, and about your past riding experience, if any, when you book, to ensure that you are matched with a horse that is right for you. Novice riders should stick to short treks (commonly known as hacks) to begin with, as even gentle riding at a walking pace will exercise your muscles. More experienced riders can look forward to exploring further afield in the saddle, and perhaps aim at becoming ride-fit for an entire holiday spent on horseback.”

Is there an age limit?

Horse riding is open to nearly all ages and abilities. Most riding centres will take children who have reached school age, but check with your local centre to find out if they are insured to teach younger children, too. There is no upper age limit.

Do you need specialist clothing or your own helmet?

The most important item when riding is a well-fitting safety hat and most riding centres will have hats in a variety of makes and sizes that they can loan to novice riders for their first lessons. Footwear is also important, and boots with a slight heel that cover your ankle are ideal, as they will prevent your foot slipping through the stirrup, or becoming rubbed and sore.

Jodhpurs (leggings specially designed for riding) are useful but for beginners, a pair of strong trousers without a seam on the inside leg will be fine, as a seam can pinch your leg while in the saddle.

Wearing gloves is advisable to help avoid blisters while getting used to the reins. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket that is fastened so that it doesn’t flap, or a sweatshirt will help to ensure that you are comfortable on your ride.

How much should it cost?

This really does depend on where you go, and how long you ride for, but lessons and hacks generally start from around £20 to £30 per hour.

For more information or to find an Approved Centre, visit the BHS website ww.bhs.org.uk

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