Hello! This is London calling – magazine journalist by day, Riding Clubber by night.
Growing up in my non-horsey family I prayed every night for a pony, ideally with all the tack and somewhere to keep it. No joy, but luckily my sainted father drove me down the A3 to Cobham for riding lessons, once my parents realised I possessed all the tennis skills of a broomstick and was of equally little use around boats.
When my parents upped sticks from London to Hampshire in the early Nineties, we finally got a pony. Unfortunately, it was a Shetland pony my parents had borrowed to perform lawn-mowing duties – no use to 6’1 me. Undeterred, I worked as a Saturday girl at a stable and stud until I went off to university. And then…nothing. No ponies. For years. The real nail in the coffin was that I became a music and film journalist, which meant a) I was drunk for most of my 20s and b) paid so terribly that there was no way I could afford to ride.
When I saw Lee Pearson and Gentleman riding in the 2012 Paradressage, I knew I had to get back on a horse. I started riding again, expecting to pick up where I’d left off, and was completely non-plussed to find that where once I’d merrily galloped around a field on my favourite cob, now I was terrified and had lost all the instinct I’d once had. I gave up riding and ran the London Marathon instead because it felt easier! But I never loved running in the way I did horses. It felt like something I had to do, rather than something I loved.
When I lost my job in 2015, I knew something had to change. Everything felt chaotic and out of sorts. Searching for comforting things, I started buying up all the old pony books I’d loved as a child, and looked up a London stables where an aunt had once dispatched me for a holiday hack. By a stroke of luck, they had a getting back into riding day for nervous riders. I was soon hacking out regularly with a friend who’d also lost their job. The Funemployment Riding Club was now in session.
When I settled into my current job as Social Media Editor at GLAMOUR, it was goodbye to larky daytime rides. I started having evening lessons at a terrific centre on the outskirts of London. Within weeks I’d done things I’d never done before: ridden in open order, ridden in a field, tried a canter track, learned that my old hat broke every Health and Safety rule under the sun (whoops). And Riding Club. Who knew you could do Riding Club without your own horse! I surreptitiously stopped riding in running tights and my husband’s Chelsea boots, and invested in some kit.
In the autumn, a friend casually suggested we investigate a newcomer’s hunt. And soon, somehow, I’d been out four times, adoring every minute of it in between going,
“OhGodohGodohGod this is really very fast.”
But back in the school, I was still hideously nervous. Everything I was worried about in day-to-day life was amplified ten-fold when I got on horseback. Learning how to centre myself so I can be a trustworthy companion for my horse is an ongoing process. I can’t wait to share some of the stories of how this is going with you, and hope that I can help any other nervous riders out there with what’s helped me; city-bound or not.
And above all, I want to show you that it’s never too late to take up something you love again – whether you live in South Devon, or SE5.