I'm coming to you today from the lovely Sunshine Coast. Our much loved annual family holiday destination where we hang out with family, visit the beach, kick back, relax...and it's here where I had the opportunity to road test the next Find Your Fit class.
You see my sister in law, Sharni, owns a property in the Mooloolah
Valley that is a bona fide horse ranch.
Affectionately named the Rednek Ranch, it's a busy agistment property where people are always stopping by, tending to their horses, hitting the arena or attending lessons.
This is a dedicated place for horse lovers, and to have such a place, you need to a dedicated horse woman at the helm, and that is Sharni!!
I asked Sharni if she would give me a horse riding lesson, as I'd often seen the kids on the horses but never had a go. I think a big part of why I had never asked to ride was a mixture of confidence and concern. You see, I think horses are majestic, beautiful, knowing and therefore kinda terrifying animals. By terrifying I mean that I feel like while they are gorgeous, they could actually kill you (insert nervous laughter). This is where learning from an expert is key, A knowledgeable teacher will ensure you are paired with the right horse for you. And for me, that horse was Archer!
Archer, who is lovingly referred to as Barbie's horse...you can see the uncanny resemblance right? Haha!
Well Archer, was the horse for me. And, on the advice of my husband who had been riding since he was 10 years old, "I was in charge!" A sentiment that Sharni quickly followed up with, "or just fake it till you make it." So armed with my new found sense of confidence, I met Archer and just quietly lent in and asked him if he'd look after me. I got a little side eye from my noble stead, not a direct confirmation, but enough for me to feel like I was ready to ride.
Sharni took me through getting Archer ready, geez this horse game is 90% preparation! While I tentatively brushed him, Sharni made short work of the rest that included cleaning the mud from his hoofs, attaching the bridle, saddle and all the other paraphernalia that I am no where near qualified to know! I found a helmet and we set off to the arena.
The moments of patting Archer from the safety of the ground were over, I had to get on him! Sharni offered me a mounting box, which would have been easier than mounting from the ground, But in my typical 'never-back-down-from-a-challenge ' way I just had to give it a go from the ground. Of course, I there was a flash of panic when I realised my jeans (yes jeans in Queensland) were stuck to me like glue making reaching for the stirrup wayyy more challenging than first anticipated. But I had committed and with all my 'I do CrossFit' might, I got my butt up and on that beautiful horse. I celebrated for the briefest of moments until it hit me...shit I was high up!!
A quick lesson in holding the reigns was followed with a bunch of really helpful techniques in how to maintain my form...think holding two full cups of coffee...brilliant right! Sharni led Archer (and me) around the arena expertly navigating us and a bunch of other riders with commands that I didn't entirely understand. I practiced swinging my hips to his rhythm and getting used to being up there. We worked on turning and stopping, or halt as it was called. I felt myself naturally clicking my tongue and kicking the stirrup into Archer's side...maybe I've seen too many cowboy movies! But it seemed to be working. This was just basics...but I was getting it.
Next up was learning to trot. I watched the other girls take off on their horses, effortlessly connecting the little sit/stand sequence with such poise it was exquisite. This movement is called rise to the trot. My first attempt, however, was far from this! When Archer went to a trot, my butt slapped up and down on the saddle in a way that was way more Ghetto Twerk Queen than Equine Princess! This was going to take some practice. Sharni assured me that I just had to feel out the rhythm and not forget to pause. All of sudden, boom it all fell into place! A triumphant cheer erupted from the gathering of onlookers as my twerk turned into a proper rise. Hooray!
We kept practicing the trot/post movement until our darling Archer thought that maybe he'd like to go a little faster...um whoa there friend I'm a newbie! Sharni recognised that Archer was getting ancy and we finished up the lesson but not before I completed my dismount. A move that I was sure would have me flat on my face in the mud. However both Sharni and I were pleasantly surprised that I actually slid off the horse with some degree of elegance...so much so that I added a curtsey for good measure!
If you're on the Coast and keen to ride, you have to check out the Rednek Ranch by contacting Sharni on 0417 781 830. Here's a snippet of my lesson below...
Want to know if you can Find Your Fit with Horse Riding?
Here's my five speedy takeaways to help you decide...
1. Horses are really hard work and they are expensive. You might as well know this from the get go and if you still decide to invest the experience of being a horse rider, it will be because you love it not just a flight of fancy.
2. Regardless of the weather, you should wear long pants and full sleeve shirt for safety reasons. Boots with a slight heel and a good support bra are also must haves. Riding schools will provide you with a helmet, and if they don't, you should bring your own.
3. In regards to fitness, horse riding is incredible for developing your core strength and improving your posture and balance. It's imperative that you sit up straight and switch on your core in order to control the horse. Oh and did I mention your legs will get one hell of a workout!! Then there's the added physical requirements of prepping the horse, cleaning it, feeding it and tending to it!
4. If you are still keen to learn to ride. You need to find a reputable riding school in your area. Simply contact your local council, vet, horse supply store or head to the Internet. Then go check them out. Are their horses healthy and well looked after? Do they have all the appropriate safety requirements in place? Is the owner/trainer knowledgeable and friendly?
5. .You don't have to BYO your own horse...see point 1. Most riding schools will have horses on hand for lessons. If you end up loving it but still not sure if you're ready for the massive commitment of owning a horse, you can actually lease a horse. You simply tend to it and work it, but just pay a monthly fee to do so.