I adore my column in Warwickshire Life magazine! This monthly assignment affords me the opportunity to explore some quintessentially British experiences and write about them. And, recently, the penny finally dropped, and I realised my column is a great means to just having a bit fun!
| Red House Proprietress,|
And, what an amazing day it was! Tucked snugly between Leamington Spa and Lillington, Red House Riding School, was a bit tricky to find. I trundled through housing estates, disbelieving my iPhone's insistence that I "turn right", but when I did eventually "turn right", the wide open spaces of Red House Riding school opened before me, offering the most unbelievable and
breathtaking views of the Warwickshire countryside.
Between intermittent squalls and dazzling sunshine, I spent a glorious afternoon atop a gorgeous Welsh Section D - Cob called "George". Welsh Section Ds are known for their hardiness and gentle nature, and this sweet chap was like a version of my dearly missed and dearly beloved Lucy, in equine form!
|Gorgeous Welsh Cob, George|
My middle sister (9 years my senior) attended boarding school in the heart of very horsey, bluegrass country in Kentucky. There, she excelled and won numerous white ribbons for riding. As riding was "her sport", my interest in that activity remained closeted. I merely wondered at it from afar.
How nice now, to be free from silly constraints and have a go, finally! Interesting, according to Andrea Jackman of the British Horse Society, the fastest growing group amongst riding enthusiasts are the over 40s and beyond! No longer merely the domain of horse-mad adolescents, adult first-timers are making up for missed opportunities, and turning to riding as a delightful means of exercise and recreation.
And, I don't blame them one bit! Although, I woke this morning with a slightly achy lower back, and sore thighs, the experience has left a permanent smile on my face. There is something so soothing, almost mesmerising about being in the company of a horse. Their serene calm and majestic gentleness completely overwhelms your senses.
|Rider Rachel & her beautiful chestnut, Prince|
Ironically, my wonderful instructor was most aptly named Nikki Shakespear. Nikki is a gem, and takes a caring, friendly approach to teaching riding. I will confess I was very nervous when I arrived at Red House - more anxious about the people, than the horses.
Undoubtedly, there are more than a few preconceptions about riding circles; and (also undoubtedly) in some cases these preconceptions probably ring true. Like many a newcomer, I'd expect, when I arrived at Red House Riding School, I feared that I would be walking into a very exclusive, closed and uninviting club. However, my actual experience there could not have been farther from my expectations!
|Having a go!|
They even gave me a few small challenges to complete on my own within a very well-supported context (walk, trot, dismount). In addition, the social side of things is clearly at the heart of this riding school. Everyone was jovial, smiling and laughing as the mucked in, and out, together (quite literally).
Another myth dispelled by my experience yesterday - the cost of learning to ride, at least at Red House Riding School, is not as dear as I'd have thought it would be. Nikki favours Group Lessons over private ones, and offers them for a range of experience levels and age groups. Comraderie and kinship is key to this fellowship of the horse. And, I have to say that yesterday was a truly remarkable day. A highlight of my life here in Warwickshire that I will never forget!