As I child, I spent most of my free time hanging around horses. I was that super fashionable teenager whose wardrobe contained only school uniform and jodhpurs. Then I went to university, bought some jeans, and became a city dweller and my equine fix came from just the occasional visit to my old horse and a bit of holiday riding. I miss it. Not just thundering around the countryside with mud in my teeth – I miss the silky noses, the big huffing nostrils, the smell of hay, the hoof noises and whickers and snorts and general early morning stable sounds.
When you walk past a police horse in Soho and nearly burst into tears you know it’s probably time to dust off the boots, so last weekend I went for a long overdue ride in Richmond Park with the lovely Kingston Riding Centre.
The horses are great – not just your typical riding school types that form a camel train and follow the same route around and around. These seem like a lively, spirited bunch. I was paired with the delightful Rosie, a skewbald mare who particularly enjoyed the fact that my rustiness in the saddle meant I wasn’t particularly vigilant about applying the breaks in time. We had a few occasions where a genteel canter started to look a bit like an unstoppable juggernaut, but it was all in good fun.
It was a fantastic ride. The park has well maintained bridlepaths so there’s always somewhere soft enough to pick up a bit of speed. I’ve never ridden in Hyde Park because I find the idea of just walking and trotting around a busy city park rather dull, but Richmond Park is huge and feels like proper riding land.
It’s not cheap – £47 for an hour at the weekend – but it’s worth it. At a lot of places you can pay that much and just get stuck walking nose to tail around somewhere far less lovely.
The riding centre is extremely welcoming. I hung around a while to untack and give Rosie a brush and basically mooch around making new equine friends. I love it there and I shall go back. If it weren’t so far from my flat I’d be a regular.
From the moment I set foot at the yard, all the way through much of the rest of the day, I smiled so much that I think my ears might have permanently changed position on my head.