Fancy a ride?
A novice to riding but feel like saddling up and going for a canter? These stables will set you on the right hack. No previous experience required. And it's great for the glutes…
I’ve just read Jilly Cooper’s Mount and, E.L. James, pah!, but, as well as all the exciting between-the-sheets shenanigans (nice to see you again Rupert), the riding bit was pretty great too. Which got me thinking, we are in Gloucestershire, home of royal and Olympic riding supremo Zara Phillips (and Jilly too!), and Cheltenham Race Week is round the corner, so why not saddle up and go for a ride? Sounds a bit less exhausting than a run, but it’s still exercise you know (core, quads, hamstrings, glutes, all engaged). Here are a few of the county’s best stables.
Cotswold Riding at Durhams Farm Riding School, near Moreton-in-Marsh
You’re deep in the honey-coloured heart of the Cotswolds here and what better way to drink it all in than on horseback? Beginners are assessed before they’re sent off into the wilderness, but then off you go, privately or in groups of up to four (a two-hour ride for two or more is £45), where you’ll hack through woodland trails and that gorgeous open countryside. Sounds like a good alternative to a coffee morning! Or, if you have toddlers in tow, they do a wonderful Mums & Tots ride (from £25) where you and your offspring (up to two) get taught together for 20 minutes, then you carry on honing your skills for another half hour while the tots go off to a log cabin to play with toys. Also comes with cuddle and grooming time with impossibly cute ponies. Anyone got a toddler they can lend me?
Durhams Farm Riding School, Durham Farm, Kitebrook Road, Chastleton, Moreton-in-Marsh GL46 0SZ. Tel: 01608 674867. cotswoldriding.com
Talland School of Equitation, near Cirencester
These stables are top drawer (note ‘equitation’, that’s posh for ‘riding’) – the current boss, Pammy Hutton, is a big noise in the dressage world and one of their clients is a gold-winning Paralympian! But there’s no need to feel intimidated – the family-run school welcomes beginners with open arms; in fact, they actively encourage them and couldn’t be friendlier. You can go for a 45-minute hack around the farm (pretty flat, but there is a cross-country run with jumps and water ditches if you ain’t no beginner) for £39 (£29 if you do it with a friend), or you can block book four lessons for £156 (£116 if you share) and get a fifth free. So who’s coming with me then?!
Forest Trekking, The Forest of Dean, near Lydney
This pretty much does what it says on the tin – it’s not a school, with livery, arenas, cross-country courses, pony clubs – it’s all about the trekking, which for beginners or nervous riders starts from a reasonable £25 for an hour. It’s a great way to explore this ancient woodland, which was once the royal hunting ground of the Tudors, and more recently the setting for the snow scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My youngest mudlet was all over that, but hey, maybe next time kid. Though, joking aside, if you do get a taste for being in the saddle, it would be a great thing to do with the kids if your bank balance can handle the strain.
Forest Trekking, Court Farm, Bream, near Lydney, GL15 6ES. Tel: 07956 087445. forest-trekking.co.uk
Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre, near Dursley
More stunning countryside, this time close to the Severn, this school near Dursley actively embraces curious beginners, as well as experienced or lapsed riders. Hacking opportunities are abundant and can be combined with lessons, picnics or a pub visit (this is definitely better than running!) from £30 for a group hack. They also offer children’s parties from £20 per child, which would make a change from the current trend for trampoline parties and expose the young ‘uns to some fresh air.
Tumpy Green Lane, Cam, Dursley, GL11 5HZ. Tel: 01453 899002. tumpygreenequestrian.co.uk