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Hanker­ing after your Pony Club days, or think rid­ing clubs are just for kids? Adults like you are get­ting in on the fun, too, thanks to Bri­tish Rid­ing Clubs, with clin­ics, men­tors and camps to en­joy

Your Horse (UK) - - Contents -

FOR HORSE-MAD young­sters, be­ing part of The Pony Club is one of the best ways to make friends and try new things. Go­ing to camps, en­ter­ing your first show and maybe even try­ing mounted games to­gether, you and your pony im­prove your bond, hone your skills and make life­long friend­ships, all in the safety of a sup­port­ive equine com­mu­nity.

Once school and your teenage years are over, how­ever, you might no­tice your fel­low mem­bers be­com­ing younger, and it’s easy to feel you’ve out­grown the whole thing. They say all good things must come to an end — but do they? Whether you’re a for­mer Pony Club­ber, started rid­ing in adult­hood or just want a new gang of like-minded friends, there’s a rid­ing club out there for you.

Find­ing the right fit

There are hundreds of clubs up and down the coun­try, but it’s im­por­tant to find one that not only at­tracts fel­low grown-ups, but fits in with your life­style. “I live on the Dorset/Hamp­shire/Wilt­shire bor­ders, so there’s a huge se­lec­tion of clubs,” says Your Horse reader, Amy Walden. “But I wanted some­thing that was pre­dom­i­nantly adult that I could also fit in around my job. “I work full-time and I was find­ing that a lot of clubs have clin­ics and get-to­geth­ers dur­ing the day, which wasn’t right for me. Luck­ily, I found Shilling­stone & Dis­trict Rid­ing Club. Ev­ery Fri­day night, they of­fer rid­ing from 6.30pm un­til 8.30pm, so it’s per­fect for me.” An­other con­sid­er­a­tion is the events that the rid­ing club has. Be­fore you sign up, write a list of your goals and what you want to do with your horse. It’s no good choos­ing a club that caters mainly for happy hack­ers if you want to progress your dres­sage ca­reer. “We have a men­tor­ing sys­tem at Wit­ter­ing,” says Tracey Matthews, chair­man of Wit­ter­ing Academy Rid­ing Club in Cam­bridgeshire. “Mem­bers are al­lo­cated a men­tor who’s a trainer that they might not oth­er­wise get the op­por­tu­nity to ride with. They can then con­tact them for ad­vice and re­ceive sub­sidised lessons with them. It’s a great way to progress in your cho­sen field with your horse. “Along with lessons and clin­ics, we also hold reg­u­lar com­pe­ti­tions in showjump­ing, dres­sage and Le Trec at a range of lev­els. The em­pha­sis is on hav­ing a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.” In fact, join­ing a rid­ing club can be your first port of call if you want to progress in your com­pet­i­tive ca­reer. Clubs are a hot­bed for hold­ing weekly events, in­clud­ing area and na­tional qual­i­fiers, as well as team com­pe­ti­tions in var­i­ous dis­ci­plines. “A lot of our mem­bers who started off quite ner­vous have gone on to com­pete and be re­ally suc­cess­ful,” adds Tracey. “We’ve got every­one from novice rid­ers to those com­pet­ing na­tion­ally.” Rid­ing clubs are a great way to help you re­lax and en­joy your horse. One rid­ing club in Lon­don, Trent Park Eques­trian Cen­tre, not only of­fers a rid­ing club solely for those aged over 18, it also has a monthly jaunt to the lo­cal pub on horse­back. Along with fun rides and group hacks, you might also find a club that gives you

It’s I a great way to progress in your cho­sen field with your horse

and your horse the op­por­tu­nity to get away for the week­end. “We run a Le Trec week­end,” adds Tracey. “We have a train­ing day on the Fri­day and com­pete on the Sun­day, us­ing a range of ob­sta­cles. This is bril­liant for build­ing bonds be­tween horse and rider — and be­tween the mem­bers, too.”

Mak­ing friends

An­other added bonus of join­ing a rid­ing club is that you’ll meet peo­ple who share your pas­sion for horses. Find the right club, and the sup­port sys­tem around you and your horse can help you achieve great things. “Be­fore I even joined, I was in­vited to a club event to see what it was like,” says Amy. “Every­one was very wel­com­ing and the place had a lovely at­mos­phere. “I watched some arena cross-coun­try the other day. My heart was in my mouth, but I hope that one day me and my horse, Teddy, will be able to join in. If any­thing, I feel like this is the place to help me achieve it.” With mem­bers of a va­ri­ety of ages and from all walks of life, you’re bound to meet loads of like-minded friends and en­joy learn­ing to­gether. “We of­fer group lessons as it’s a great way to learn and re­ceive en­cour­age­ment from oth­ers,” says Tracey. “It’s ideal for rid­ers want­ing to progress in a com­pan­ion­able and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment.” Many clubs also host reg­u­lar so­cial events, such as quiz nights and din­ner dances, giv­ing you a great ex­cuse to brush that hay out of your hair and get your glad rags on. “Once a year we try to host an an­nual party for ev­ery­body to get to­gether,” says Tracey. “It’s a great night to cel­e­brate achieve­ments and see every­one. We’re all friends.” “I at­tended a BBQ with my rid­ing club a few weeks ago,” adds Amy. “Hav­ing only joined a few months ago, it was a great op­por­tu­nity to meet every­one prop­erly.”

Rid­ing clubs of­fer a whole new so­cial scene for you (and your horse!)

Rid­ing clubs of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to train in fun, sup­port­ive groups

N E D L A W Y M A : O T O H P

Amy a nd Teddy are look­ing for­ward to em­brac­ing all the ac­tiv­i­ties at their rid­ing club

It’s not all work in the sad­dle! Rid­ing clubs are great places to so­cialise, en­joy a nat­ter and even a cheeky glass of Pimm’s

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