By: Sarah Miller, Year 10
The feeling of being in sync with the movement of a horse, knowing that changing how you use your weight will impact how the horse moves, being in control of a 1200 pound animal is unexplainable and truly eye-opening. Of course, it takes a while to get there, but even the process is great fun as you learn more and more about the sport and the horses.
Horse riding is completely different from the sports done by the majority of students at BSM. First, you have a whole other living animal added into the equation which can make it more difficult. But if you’re good, it looks like you aren’t doing much (so when you say that in some ways you are giving us riders a compliment!). Contrary to what you may think, the horse doesn’t do all the work and the rider doesn’t ‘just sit there’; there is so much more to the sport than what meets the eye.
As with other sports, there are plenty of different disciplines within horse riding. There are divisions such as English, Western, vaulting, polo and more, within which you’ll find subdivisions like jumping and trail riding. In Western riding, you have a large saddle with a large front and you tend to wear more relaxed clothes. In English riding and polo, you’ll have a flat saddle and more ‘formal’ clothes. Vaulting is usually called ‘gymnastics on horseback’, so you don’t have a saddle! In the Philippines, the most popular English riding disciplines are Dressage (commonly called ‘Dancing Horses’) and Show Jumping, in which riders jump a course in the shortest time possible.
When I first started riding, I viewed it as a hobby or sport – something fun to do. I never really thought about the horse. Of course, I’d think about what the horse was doing, and I’d give them treats after my lessons. But that changed after my first few lessons. I started off riding this chestnut mare called Chanel who was so stubborn, but I loved her! After each lesson I would always give her treats (she loved red apples) and visit even if I wasn’t scheduled to ride that day. I got to know her really well and it made riding more interesting and fun. Unfortunately, she is now retired on a farm. I haven’t seen her in almost a year, but I always look back and see how much she taught me!
For the first three months of riding, expect to be sore after your lessons. When you ride, you use muscles your body is not used to using, therefore it will hurt quite a bit the first few times. It may also feel somewhat repetitive, but before you can start doing some harder or more interesting activities, you need to get your basics really good. Some exercises that you will be doing a lot are “forward seat” (kind of like a squatting position on the horse), “no stirrups” (trotting without stirrups), lots of circles and drills to help you keep your horse straight. As you get more advanced, you’ll get to try out new movements!
Some of the things on the list may seem very simple, but trust me – they’re not. Here are some tips that have really helped me!
- Heels Down! You will have probably heard this a lot, but it really helps! Keeping your heels down ‘secures’ your position in the saddle and really makes your position much nicer and can make some things a lot easier. Also, don’t let your feet slide all the way into the stirrup! Remember to keep them at the ball of your feet.
- Be Gentle! Especially when you first start, you will think that just pulling on the reins and kicking the horse will get it to do what you want. To some extent, this is true however, a horse isn’t a machine and you shouldn’t treat it as such. This becomes important when riding a new horse, as some horses are very sensitive and you don’t know how they will react.
- Bring Treats! Bringing some carrots or apples to feed your horse after your lesson is such a good idea, as it not only lets you get to know what the horse is like on the ground, but it can help form a small bond between you and that horse which affects how your ide the horse. If you don’t have any, it’s also nice to spend some time around their stall.
Looking back at my old riding self, it surprises me constantly how much I have progressed. As you advance, you can easily look back and critique yourself, and check how much you have improved. Outside of the ‘Riding World’, horse riding has also had an impact on how I act daily. I’ve discovered that I tend to have more patience and understanding. I often think about how my actions can affect others, and I’ve noticed that when I’m with younger children, I don’t get frustrated as easily. Starting horse riding has been an amazing journey which I hope some of you reading this will take on.
If you’re interested in riding:
Where to find equipment
For your lessons, I would recommend bringing some specific items so that you won’t have to pay extra to borrow. The Manila Polo Club has a small tack store where you can buy some of these items; you don’t have to go to the store, as they ship nationwide. Decathlon in Alabang also has some good options too.
Places where you can ride
The Philippines has a few stables, but I’ve created a list of some in Manila or the nearby area:
The Marikina Equestrian Center offers lessons and participates in events. The only downside of riding here would probably be the fact that it is somewhat far away from BGC.
Pook Ligaya Riding Stables is also located in Quezon City. It is quite a small facility, however, they do offer lessons.
The Manila Polo Club is the main equestrian centre in the Philippines. If you really want to be serious about riding, I highly recommend riding there. They host regular shows and competitions and there are plenty of people you can take lessons with, such as Team Equisport, who I often see around the area when I ride, and DXD Equestrian Specialists. I ride with DXD, and they give lessons every day when they are in town. I definitely recommend riding with them, as a lot of my friends and some other BSM students ride with them.
Depending on where you choose to take your first lesson, it will all be a different experience. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy it!