Around a million UK kids count horse riding as a hobby. Does your child fancy joining them? Not only do they get fit, but horse riding lessons allow children who don’t have pets at home to learn about the responsibility of animal care.
What is it? The practice of riding a horse is not simply about the physical skill but the care and bond between the child and the animal. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about when they can start, but 6 is generally considered an appropriate age.
Why we love it? Riding is good exercise and teaches children balance and coordination. It’s also very social – your children are likely to make lots of friends through the sport. You’ll find it teaches them new skills, as well as the ins and outs of caring for a large animal. It gets them outdoors, improves wellbeing. Oh, and it’s loads of fun.
Where to go: Riding is traditionally considered a country sport – most stables are in rural or semi-rural areas. But city kids needn’t miss out. There are stables dotted around London – you’ll find them in Clapton, Lancaster Gate and Dulwich, or Hampstead Heath among other places. You can even do group or private lessons in Hyde Park.
When to go: Horse riding is a year-round hobby. Many stables have indoor arenas, so children can usually get a ride in, whatever the weather.
In the kit bag: They’ll need a hat and riding boots with a small block heel (Wellies won’t do!). Put them in jodhpurs if you can, or failing that, a pair of stretchy or loose-fitting trousers: avoid jeans as they will rub. Most stables will loan out the essentials, so check before you buy anything.
Find out more: Riding still has a bit of a snooty reputation, but anyone can have a go, regardless of age or ability. To find out where to ride near you, visit the British Horse Society. Under-25s can also join the Pony Club, which allows them to work towards tests and badges, and teaches them how to look after a horse. The British Equestrian Federation, meanwhile, has an excellent site that should tell you everything you need to know.