Horseback riding for city dwellers

Words by Alex Rayner

19 June 2020

Once the citizens of London and New York feared the dominance of horse, or rather its byproducts. Commentators in the late 19th century believed manure would swamp the streets of these Atlantic metropolises in the early 20th century if nothing were done to prevent the rise of equestrian transport. Of course, the motor car solved this problem—while creating many others. Yet today, opportunities to ride still exist for city dwellers keen to escape the asphalt jungle, much in thanks to people such as Catherine Mills, Head of Equestrian Services at Quintessentially.

'You really don't have to be especially fit or good to go for some nice hacks or the odd lesson,' Mills says. 'There are plenty of places within easy reach of London.' Mills says you can ride in Hyde Park, though that can be quite a touristy experience. 'If a client is in North London, I tend to suggest Trent Park which is close to Oakwood underground, while for our West London members, Stag Lodge in Kingston, or Holly Lodge in Richmond are good choices. Some members are happy to travel slightly outside, so I often recommend Shardeloes in Amersham as it caters for all types of riders and families and on a beautiful country estate.'

Quintessentially also offers riders the chance to train with Olympians, either on their own horses or one of their hirelings: well-cared-for, and often sharper, they are well-established competition horses. 'We're planning an event at Heckfield Place in Hampshire, within easy reach of London,' says Mills. 'And we're staging it in
conjunction with Wellington Riding, one of the best training facilities in the country.'

Of course, one of the great pleasures of horse riding is owning and caring for these majestic animals. While you may not have stables close by, city dwellers can still keep their own horses. 'We highly recommend Petersham Farm Stables in Richmond, there is often a waitlist to get in—which is always a good sign,' says Mills, 'though there are also a huge number of livery yards in the home counties, within easy reach of London.'

You can even take ownership a little further and invest in a competition horse with a professional rider, though Mills cautions against viewing horses as mere financial instruments; 'you have to go into it for love,' she says. Buying proper equestrian equipment in London is a little more challenging, Mills admits, but she and her team often host shopping events, where clients can pick up good quality essentials. These include some beautiful day to day riding wear, as well as many safety items, such as back protectors and air jackets—‘some riding schools will encourage that you wear them,' she says.

Mills says inexperience shouldn't hold novices back. 'I've had one member who hadn't ridden before, but bought all the gear, got really into it, started having lessons and loved horses so much she invested in a racehorse,' she says. 'It becomes a passion, and you enjoy the lifestyle and going to different events and meeting new people—this isn't just London, this is across the globe. A lot of our British riders will go out to Wellington, Florida for the winter months, for example.' There's no reason why anyone should hold back from exploring and enjoying this age-old pursuit.

For more information on becoming a part of Quintessentially’s Equestrian Team, contact them here.

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