The pros and cons of horse riding
Thinking about taking up horse riding? Millions of people across the world enjoy this popular sport. When it comes to exercise, fresh air and seeing the countryside in a whole new way, horse riding is hard to beat. Here are some of the reasons people dedicate themselves to riding. It’s often a life-long devotion!
Horse riding heritage is thousands of years old
On becoming a horse rider, the beginner joins a noble tradition that goes back more than 6,000 years. Horse domestication began on the Eurasian steppe, when people started to build a relationship with the animals rather than seeing them as a source of meat, bone and skins. The first horse-drawn chariots were constructed over 5,500 years ago in Sintashta, to the east of the Black Sea. Swift, light chariots soon became the elite vehicles of the ancient world.
For thousands of years people continued mostly to drive horses rather than ride them. Cavalry began much later, in the first millennium BCE. From this point on, different horse breeds were developed in different parts of the world. Without the contribution of the horse, human civilisation would not have advanced in the way it did.
Horse riders are members of a global culture
Horse riding traditions extend right across the world. One common theme is herding on horseback, from the cowboys and gauchos of the Americas to the Gardians of France, herding black bulls from the famous white Camargue horses. Horse riders are part of a global culture united in its love and admiration for the horse.
Once on horseback, a new world opens up – a world of people who share a passion for horses. Riding is a journey with another animal species, horse and human learning about each other and exploring the world together.
Beginning the right way
Taking the first steps in any sport can be a nerve-wracking experience! Horse riding is no exception. At its highest levels, such as eventing, show jumping, racing and polo, it’s a high-octane, high risk activity. Preparation is key, so it’s important to find out as much information as possible beforehand. Fortunately, because horse riding is such a well-established leisure and sporting activity, there’s plenty of information available online and in books and magazines.
Wherever they are in the world, beginners need to find an experienced, well-regulated centre with qualified teachers. In the UK, equestrian centres are regulated by industry bodies such as the British Horse Society (BHS). A good instructor will ask questions about physical fitness, confidence levels and what progress the beginner hopes to make. They match riders with the ideal confidence-giving horse for first steps in the saddle. Most people find that first session passes far too quickly and can’t wait for the next one!
What is needed to start?
Becoming a good rider does take money, time and commitment. The minimum equipment that’s required is a well-fitting hat or helmet that reaches the highest kitemarked and international safety standards, plus appropriate footwear. This will be either short or long boots with the correct height of heel. Beginners may also want to use a BETA approved body protector. A good riding centre is able to help with appropriate kit from the start. Manufacturers understand the needs of riders well and work hard to provide good quality entry level clothing at affordable prices.
A word of caution, though. Many people love the sport so much they decide to keep horses of their own. That’s a lot of responsibility – and a fun way to fitness too!