Following the inspirational equestrian medal success at the Rio Olympics over 4000 participants came along to get closer to horses as part of National Give Horses a go Weekend; an initiative ran by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) on 17 – 18 September 2016.
65 riding centres opened their doors across the weekend inviting everyone, no matter age, gender or ability the opportunity to get up close and personal with horses and try riding or even carriage driving for free at riding centres. There was no pressure though, plenty of people enjoyed spectating at over 20 equestrian events or meeting the horses at seven charities.
Anna Hall, Head of Participation at the BEF commented:
“We’ve had lots of positive feedback from centres and participants alike with many of the centres reporting full sessions, along with lots of smiling visitors. The aim of the weekend was to allow everyone the opportunity to get up close to horses, with riding centres, sanctuaries and equestrian events opening their doors across the weekend offering free taster riding sessions, a chance to spectate or simply a chance to meet the horses.
We know that some exercise improves fitness, some relieves stress, some gets you out in the open air, but we believe that horse riding and equestrian volunteering delivers all that and more! It really is a sport of well-being for the mind, body and spirit, the interaction with horses and the contact with nature brings added psychological benefits. 90% of horse riders report riding makes them feel cheerful; whilst over 80% say riding makes them feel relaxed, happy and active (BHS Report, 2011)
I visited Meadow Bank Riding Centre in Herefordshire, there was a fantastic atmosphere and it was obvious how much people were enjoying themselves. It was lovely to see people of all ages and backgrounds discovering the joy that horses can bring, with an 85 year old lady having a go at horse riding for the first time on Henry the mechanical horse, proving that age is no barrier.
I’d like to say a huge thanks to all the participating centres, they put huge effort into the open days offering a variety of different demonstrations including horseball, carriage driving, horse agility, pony club drills to grooming sessions, cross country jumping, in-hand demos and mechanical horse rides. This really helped to capture the diversity of different offerings our sport has and pass this enthusiasm on to the visitors.”
Last year the BEF’s inaugural Give Horse a Go event saw over 40 riding centres open their doors to those looking to get closer to horses and give riding a go. Over 2,000 people attended the events, with 330 booking lessons on the day of the event.
Dad Musavir Mohammed attended Moorwards Farm Equestrian Coaching Facility in Buckinghamshire and said, “The open days are a fantastic idea. My family and I have thought about trying horse riding before but never did anything about it. We saw the event advertised on Facebook and the open, welcoming idea encouraged us to come along. The children have loved it and we will be back for more lessons.”
It wasn’t just children that enjoyed the event at Moorwards Farm, a group of Mums where delighted to have a go and get back in the saddle, “We saw the advert on Facebook and squealed with excitement” one mum said.
New Hill House Riding School had a visit from David Dawson from Southport, who last sat on a horse three years ago said, “I think Give Horses a Go is a really good thing to get more young guys to ride, it keeps you fit and you grow to love horses.”
Laura Bendel, Centre manager at Bryerley Springs Equestrian Centre said, “It was a great day all round and lovely to see lots of new faces who have never ridden before. The sun didn’t stop shining for us and we have over seventy new potential clients through the gates with nearly 50% booking either individual lessons or a course of lessons.”
Horse riding is one of the few sports where men and women compete equally – whether at local shows or at the Olympic or Paralympic Games and the BEF hope recent medal success in Rio will continue to inspire even more people to give the sport a go.
Final numbers of participants from all participating centres are still coming in but early feedback is extremely positive. For further information about how you can get closer to horses visit BEF’s Hoof website www.hoofride.co.uk. You can also follow Hoof on social media using @hoofride and #JoinTheRide, we would love to hear from you.