Yesterday I went Western riding with a couple of friends, and with it I think I discovered the perfect way to spend a Sunday morning.
We booked a week in advance so when the weekend rolled up I was eager to get back into the saddle. Our session was at 11am and we were welcomed to Bells Farm by two of the cutest Jack Russells I have ever seen. First we had to fill out a short form regarding contact details and level of experience, but once that was done Rachel, the lovely lady who runs the farm, asked us how much previous riding we all had so she could decide which horse we would be best suited to. We soon found out that all the horses were so impeccably well behaved that it wouldn't have mattered too much, it was more a case of personality preference.
My friend L who is a beginner rider, and M who used to take lessons a few years back were matched with very laid-back horses, whilst B and myself who are slightly more confident rode horses that were more forward-going (or 'had a little jiggle in their step' as Rachel described it).
Before mounting our trusty steeds Rachel talked us through a few basic things about Western riding. The only slight worry I had was the difference in reign length - in Western you give a much longer reign which I thought would make me feel less in control but once we got going I soon felt completely at ease.
The ride took us onto the Calstone and Cherhill Downs where we saw some really wonderful views of the British countryside. I apologise that this sounds completely cheesy but with the brilliant blue from the near cloud-less sky, and the bright sun shining down on us it really made me appreciate the beauty of just being outdoors. Okay putting the cheese away now, promise.
Apart from the lovely scenic route the ride was also a success because of the relaxed vibe and being in the company of friends. We walked and trotted most the way but once we got to the top and reached a long clear stretch we all cantered which is my favourite pace as it is so comfortable, especially in a Western saddle.
When we returned back to the farm Rachel taught us how to untack the horses and then we each took a curry comb and helped brush them down. I love how she allowed us to be more hands-on.
It's safe to say the four of us left with terrible hat hair and smelling profoundly of horse but having thoroughly enjoyed our Sunday morning.
If you live in South West England and would like to try out Western Riding then click the link here to find out more. I would strongly recommend it if you are already a rider and are looking to try your hand at something a little different, or even if you have never ridden before and just want to have a unique experience I guarantee you will have a good time!
Don't worry if you have no riding gear of your own, there are helmets there to borrow and Rachel was even kind enough to lend my friends body-warmers as she knew it would be chilly up on the downs. However you will need appropriate footwear, such as a boot with a flat sole and small heel. I would also recommend wearing gloves as your hands may get a little cold! - something with a bit of grip would be best.
For the rest of the day I ate hot-cross buns and watched Toy Story 2 with my brother... Never too old for Toy Story!
Hope you had a lovely Sunday too!
P.S. I'm really annoyed I forgot to bring a camera with me so here is a picture of my grubby riding boots and hat instead!