When I was a little girl growing up in the UK, my mum used to treat me to horse riding lessons on Saturday mornings. I loved it but grew out of the hobby as a teenager (I thought I had far cooler things to do). Now that I have kids, I take my eldest Amara for pony rides regularly as she is still too young to actually start lessons. Seeing Amara on a pony made me realise just how much I used to enjoy riding, which in turn made me think it was time that I actually got back in the saddle!
My schedule is hectic, so the thought of having to drive to the nearest stables out in the desert has actually put me off. That is, until I stumbled across a little hidden gem in Al Safa 2 (just near Safa 2 park and Noor Islamic Bank Metro Station) called Al Dhabi Horses & Camel Rental, not 10 minutes from my house. Mamas this place is such a well kept secret that I almost didn’t want to share it with you….but then sharing these little gems is what Sassy Mama is all about. So here goes.
Al Dhabi a quaint little stable with 15 horses and ponies. On my first lesson, the lovely British trainer Trina informed me that all the horses are rescue or retired horses which makes them perfect for a riding school as they are unlikely to bolt (and which made me love this place even more). Trina’s passion and love for the horses came across in an instant, she trains them all personally and even works with body language so they understand each other better. This is the advantage of a smaller stable she explained, being so hands on with everything.
Once I was acquainted with my horse Lombo, I stepped onto the box and lifted myself into the saddle. Once I was on, Trina told me it’s like riding a bike: you never forget. I grabbed onto the reins in my fore fingers gave them a little bit of slack, so as not to pull the horse’s head to the side and had flashbacks to my pre-teenage years!
To warm up the horses and to get myself comfortable, we started walking slowly around the arena with two other beginners. It wasn’t long into it that I wanted to have a little trot, so with a quick run through and Trina by my side, I gave Lombo a kick of my heels and I was off. Okay, so I wasn’t so fast, but it had been a good two decades since I last did this! I had to remember to sit upright, squeezing the inside of my legs for some control and balanced, gently rising up and down to the rhythm of the horse.
Adrenaline definitely ran through my veins, as I knew that with more lessons and confidence, I would be able to ride off into the desert.
During my lesson, my daughter was in the other arena having a pony ride with Daddy and the twins looked on. There were also ducks running around freely and horses in the stables to keep the kids entertained.
Once the hour had finished, I was reminded how to dismount and lead the horse back to his stable. Just walking alongside this giant horse with the reins held tightly and closely under his mouth felt rather exhilarating. I really enjoyed the thrill of getting back on to a horse and looking forward to my weekly lessons every Saturday mamas!
If you’re thinking of taking riding lessons, here are a few tips from Trina:
You should wear jeans and boots that have a heel. If you don’t have sturdy boots, sneakers are the bare minimum – don’t try to ride in sandals mamas! It’s best to have something with at least a 1” heel and good traction on it to help keep your foot from sliding around in the stirrup. This protects your toes on the ground. Don’t wear shorts as your legs will get rubbed raw by the saddle!
Horse Riding for Beginners Tip #1
Riding is a lot more about balance on the move than gripping with your legs.
Try to sit squarely in the saddle, moving your body with your horse. The more tense you are, the more you will bounce. Stay in tune with how he is moving. It will be less likely that you will be to be thrown off balance.
For beginners, I tend to tell them to sit near their back pockets but without slouching the upper body. Having your weight set further back will help keep you secure if the horse stops suddenly. Think of driving in a car without a seat belt. If the driver suddenly hits the brakes you’ll go flying forward.
It’s the same thing on a horse except you won’t have the seat belt to keep you in the saddle! The same is true if you are sitting too far back on the horse, if he heads off quickly you’ll be left behind.
Horse Riding for Beginners Tip #2
Always look where you are going. Horses are very intuitive. They feel the slightest movements and are also great at reading our intentions. So look up in the direction you want to go in and it’ll help you guide your horse there, along with your leg and rein aids.
Horse Riding for Beginners Tip #3
The ball of your foot (the widest part behind your toes) should be where your foot sits on the stirrup.
You don’t want to have your feet in any further than that or you risk getting hung up in case of a fall. Point your toes to the sky while riding.
Horse Riding for Beginners Tip #4
Hold your reins evenly and don’t have too much slack in them.
How you hold the reins will vary whether you are riding English or Western. Western riders hold their reins in one hand and don’t have contact with the horses mouth because there is a small bit of slack or loop.
Western beginners tend to hold the reins too long, making it difficult to correct them if needed. English riders hold the reins in two hands and with more contact or feel on the reins. Beginner English riders can tend to use the reins to keep their own balance by hanging on them. This ends up hurting the horses‘ mouth as your hands bounce all over the place with the weight of your body too. If you are riding English, you will need to do your best to keep your body balanced with your hands level and still.
For more information about Al Dhabi Horses please visit www.dubaicitystable.com or call (+971)(0) 4 450 8811.
Al Dhabi Horses & Camel Rental, International City, Dubai, (+971)(0) 4 450 8811, www.dubaicitystable.com