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Planning Retirement Online

Out of the box - In the saddle

March 2011

This is our regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try.

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.

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In the saddle

ridingI came across a website the other day called Grey Horse Matters, and it was full of enthusiastic comments from people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s about horse riding.

The interesting aspect wasn’t the information about older riders, but the enthusiasm from people who had taken up riding as a completely new hobby in their 50s and 60s.

It is not an obvious choice of a retirement hobby; horses are big and vigorous; you have to be able to clamber on them and then clamber off; there is a risk of falling off and at our age we want to take good care of our bones...the list of why we should not consider this sport at our age goes on and on.

But then you read the positive stories from people who have found a truly absorbing hobby, met new friends and are having the time of their lives because they began riding lessons later in life, and it makes you think that perhaps it could work.

Speak to many riding instructors, and you will be told that you are never too old to learn something new, and you are never too old to learn horseback riding. The key is finding the right instructor and the right horse.

There are riding schools all over the country, but selecting the right one can be difficult. You really want to find a school who seriously welcomes older beginners, who has well trained horses for odler beginners and who has qualified instructors who understand the restrictions of starting a new hobby when one is a bit older .

There are two organisations that govern standards in riding schools, the British Horse Society and the Association of British Riding Schools. So it is a good start to ensure any school you are looking at has been approved by one of these organisations.

Once you have located a couple of schools that may seem appropriate, it is a good idea to visit them before finally signing up. Facilities at schools vary widely, and seeing how a yard is looked after can give a good idea of the care and attention paid by the owners and staff. Also some schools may offer covered or indoor schools as well as outdoor all weather surfaces, and this of course can be useful in ensuring we can keep up with our regular lessons whatever the weather is throwing at us.

A qualified instructor is of course very important and to teach safe riding to beginners of any age, you do not need higher instructor qualifications. It may sound a bit over cautious, but it is a good idea to check your instructor has had first aid training and preferably holds a current first aid certificate. With horses, there can always be a risk, they are big animals however well schooled, and it makes sense that in an unfortunate incident, the instructor can administer first aid.

Before you go any further, it is worth booking a taster lesson, where you can have a gentle ride under close supervision so that you can decide whether it really is something you would like to learn properly. Most riding schools will offer this facility.

The next stage of course is to book lessons. Riding schools generally offer a range of lessons but bear in mind that group lessons are often monopolised by keen young children and you may feel uncomfortable and out of place in these group classes. Private lessons are of course more expensive but you learn so much more on a one to one basis. Make sure the school is aware of your age and any mobility limitations you may have. They may even ask your weight and height to ensure they select the right horse for you.

Once you have got as far as booking your first lesson, the next step is what to wear. Trying a new sport or hobby is expensive enough without shedding out a great deal more on clothes that we may not wear more than a couple of times if it all goes wrong. The riding school will provide riding hats, and all you need for those early lessons is a pair of comfortable trousers, not too tight or too baggy. Ideally boots or shoes with a very small heal are ideal but of course they need to be comfortable. Jacket, gloves and other items are just a matter of choice.

Interestingly, you may think sitting on a horse is rather a stationary pastime but in fact riding uses a mass of muscles you may not even have realised you had! Be ready to leap into a long hot bath on your return from your first few riding lessons!

Once you get going a little, you don’t need to feel you have to compete with the competitive kids at the riding school. Instead, there are some wonderful trecking holidays and even gentle days out on well schooled horses that are ideal for people with limited experience and capabilities.

Riding over the moors, on lovely well defined paths through glorious countryside, coastal and forest routes – the choice of riding holidays for all ages and all levels of experience is huge. There are ranch holidays in America, riding holidays based in beautiful French chateaux and even gentle African riding safaris. Once you know the basics of being in the saddle, a whole new world can open up.

 

 
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The above article is part of the features section of laterlife.com called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to laterlife.com written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

It includes both one off articles and also associated regular columns of a more specialist nature such as Healthwise, Gardener's Diary, our regular IT question and answer section called YoucandoIT and there's also 'It could be you' by Maggi Stamp laterlife's counsellor on human relationships. 

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