Age is no barrier when it comes to getting back in the saddle. This week, the 71-year-old Japanese dressage rider Hiroshi Hoketsu will perform under the same London 2012 Olympic Games spotlight as Britain’s 27-year-old medal prospect Charlotte Dujardin. Hiroshi went to his first Games in 1964 – more than 20 years before Charlotte was born.
The British Equestrian Federation’s [BEF] Take Back the Reins [TBTR] project is providing former riders – no matter what age or experience – with the opportunity to rediscover the fun, freedom and fascination of riding.
The scheme is fast gathering momentum. Accredited riding schools right across the country from North Yorkshire right down to Cornwall – have signed up and are offering affordable courses to help former riders refresh their skills and regain their confidence, as well as introducing new people to the sport.
Mother of five Mary Morris from Stoke Newington took up riding three years ago, aged 63.
“Riding has given me an instant social life, an excuse to travel and improved my core strength and balance,” she said. “It is good for mental health, too: if I had ridden before I had my five kids, I’d have been a better mother – riding teaches you patience and understanding.”
Take Back the Reins is an extension of Hoof, the Equestrian Legacy brand of the British Equestrian Federation which has been made possible thanks to funding opportunities from Sport England. Special activities such as Get into dressage days, residential courses for adults and children and riding holidays have already been organised by many centres with great success. These have only come to fruition thanks to Hoof.
To keep up the impetus a nationwide a tour called Take up the Reins, which is being organised by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) is taking place at various venues throughout the country this summer. A team of three mechanical horses, RoboCob, Trigger and Queenie, set off on a journey around the country to spread the word that no matter what age or experience riding is a healthy activity accessible and enjoyable to all.
The tour, which began in June, will stop off at county events, holiday parks, town centres, shopping malls, universities and colleges, and will be offering everyone who has a test ride, a certificate, rosette and goody bag.
Riding schools offering Take Back the Reins can be found at the Hoof online portal www.hoofride.co.uk designed to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ for visitors to find out how, where and why they should pick up the reins. Whether it’s to find out the best place to ride, discover where to watch the country’s top riders in action, or learn more about the many equestrian disciplines and their member bodies, the Hoof portal will provide answers and advice. The portal also features a unique ‘where to ride’ element, which maps and lists equestrian facilities throughout the UK.
For more information on Take Back the Reins visit www.hoofride.co.uk
For more information on the Tour for ‘Take up the Reins’ visit www.takeupthereins.co.uk