On the same day eventers battled it out for the European championships and showjumper Scott Brash won the Rolex Grand Slam, hundreds of budding equestrians tried out horse sport for themselves.
Sunday’s Give Horses a Go Day 2015 provided free riding lessons at 43 centres across England in a British Equestrian Federation initiative to inspire new people into the sport.
The riding centres involved invited people to meet the horses and experience for themselves all that horses and equestrian sport has to offer. The initiative was coordinated through the BEF’s Hoof programme which is funded by Sport England to increase participation in sport.
BEF Head of Participation Anna Hall said the feedback had been positive from the centres and the participants alike, with many of the centres reporting “full sessions and lots of smiling visitors”.
“Our insight tells us that a lot of people harbour a desire to ride horses but sometimes it can be difficult for them to know how to go about fulfilling this dream. The aim of the day has been to help pave the way for people, to show how accessible our sport can be and encourage them to take the first steps to getting involved,” Hall said.
Hall visited The Mill Riding Centre at Pattingham and Foxhills Riding Centre near Walsall on Sunday, and found “a fantastic atmosphere” at both.
“It was obvious how much people were enjoying themselves. What was so nice was to see people of all ages and from all walks of life discovering the joy that horses can bring. Everyone just loved being around the horses, it was really heart-warming to see,” Hall said.
“I’d like to say a huge thanks to all the participating centres, they put massive effort into the variety of things on offer and so far it sounds like it paid off. From horseball demos to grooming, cross country jumping, in-hand demos, mechanical horse rides, they really helped to capture the diversity of our sport and pass this enthusiasm on to the visitors.”
It was a real family outing for participant Peter Marland, who attended Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre open day.
“It’s been a great day, I haven’t ridden in nearly 30 years, but it has all come flooding back to me. The taster session has definitely tempted me to horse ride again. My partner Lisa had a baby only 4 weeks ago and she got back in the saddle today too for the first time, [children] Tommy and Aysha also had a go today and are looking to join the Pony Club mini’s group based at the centre.”
Sue Purshouse from Wolverhampton said the #GiveHorsesAGo event was the “best thing ever.” It was the first time her husband, Malcolm, had been on a horse for 15 years and Sue explained “it was how we met 43 years ago, we have never lost the love of horses, we’ve raised the children and now we’re back”.
Nikki Secker, Yard Manager at Tumpy Green Equestrian Centre said 24 new riders took part in the taster sessions and there were many enquiries for Pony Club membership, and bookings for lessons.
Final numbers of participants from all participating centres are still coming in but early feedback is very positive. With this and other initiatives like it the BEF is aiming to share the benefits of riding and encourages new participants to get involved and give horses a go.