Despite only returning to the saddle 18 months ago after a break of around 35 years, Linda Bartlett now can’t imagine life without horses. The 50-year-old from Chelmondiston in Suffolk, who works part-time in PR and advertising, has taken advantage of the British Equestrian Federation’s (BEF’s) Hoof Legacy campaign and enrolled on a Take Back The Reins (TBTR) programme at her local riding centre Valley Farm near Woodbridge. This tailor-made course helps former riders refresh their skills and regain their confidence in the saddle.
“Taking up riding again might have been a sudden decision, but I’m so glad that I did,” she says. “I rode on and off when I was about 11 years old; going away for pony weeks and having lessons with a group of mates, but I never had a pony of my own,” she explains. “I stopped riding when I was about 13 and it never really crossed my mind to take it up again – until now.”
A sudden illness in Linda’s family last year, a move to part-time work and the growing need for a bit more “me time” spurred her into action. Linda heard about the Steady Eddie TBTR course at Valley Farm “I immediately felt at home” she recalls. “There were – and still are – six of us in the group and we are all really supportive of one another. Some of us were more nervous than others to begin with, but Nicki, our instructor, weighed us up in a flash and knew exactly how to get the best out of us.”
Linda has progressed with the same group of riders for the past nine months and has no intention of hanging up her boots again. Every Thursday evening Linda is put through her paces with a small group of like-minded ladies.
“I’ve made some really good friends and it’s a great social outlet. It is also the one thing that I can do completely for myself. It doesn’t matter what else is going on in my life, when I get to the stables it’s all about me and my horse. It’s lovely to be able to spend time around the yard,” she says.
According to Valley Farm proprietor Sarah Robertson, the personalised courses run by the centre are proving popular. “There are six on the Steady Eddie course, four on the Confidence course and four on the You Ride we Guide course” she explains. “We also run western, side saddle, vaulting and carriage driving courses, which some of our TBTR clients have gone on to try.”
To find out more about TBTR visit www.hoofride.co.uk, and if you would like to look at what is on at Valley Farm visit www.valleyfarmonline.co.uk