Dare to be different

Are you stuck in an equestrian rut? We all know the feeling that no matter how hard we try, we aren’t making progress.

If so, try something different. You’ll have fun – and probably an adrenaline rush, although you don’t necessarily have to pin on your brave badge. Your horse could benefit, too, even if you need to leave him at home and borrow an equine specialist.

Here are some suggestions – if you have others, we’d love to hear them.

Cantering through the stubble fields. Last week, I persuaded one of my nearest and dearest to enjoy what was meant to be a leisurely poddle around nearby stubble fields. He hadn’t ridden for two years, but which of us wanted to canter? You’ve guessed it.
A lot of riders might sneer at this, but cantering in a big, open space on a willing but obedient horse is a huge confidence booster. And yes, the going was great and that canter did go up a gear…

Try side-saddle on a schoolmaster. It’s brilliant for your posture, which will have a knock-on effect when you go back to riding astride, and you can’t help but feel elegant in a side-saddle habit. For those of us of a certain age, there’s also a chance to wear a veil and hide the wrinkles.
Seriously, many riders say they feel more secure when riding side-saddle. Some people with back problems say they are more comfortable sideways than astride.
Myth number one: it’s for people who don’t jump. Forget that, there are ladies who show-jump and team chase sideways. In 2013, Michaela Bowling set a new British side-saddle high jump record by clearing 6ft 3in. Her horse, Laughing Larry, is blind in one eye.
Myth number two: it’s only for women. Male grooms traditionally trained horses to take a side-saddle so their lady employers could ride them safely. Nowadays, women are doing it for themselves, but there are still men who ride side-saddle to preserve the tradition, or because they’ve suffered leg injuries.

Go Western. Experts say learners develop an independent seat and find their balance faster and more easily if they ride Western. If you ride astride, it reminds you not to rely on your reins. And if you ever get the chance to ride a trained reining horse, take it. Those spins and sliding stops are unbelievable.

Play polo. I’ll skip over this one. I loved the polo pony my polo taster day instructor gave me, but had an insurmountable problem: I couldn’t hit the ball. That aside, it’s great for improving your focus and reactions. In my case, apart from when you want to hit the ball.
I’m told that horseball is also a lot of fun. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can reassure me that it isn’t rugby on horseback.

Hunting. Whether you want to be a thruster who tackles huge hedges or someone who toodles along at the back of the field, hopefully you’ll find that those who go out regularly will be friendly, welcoming and encouraging.
Most horses love hunting. You’ll probably feel the same way.

Ride on a beach. However far you have to travel to reach one, just check the tide tables and do it. My favourite is Holkham beach, Norfolk. If you time it right during the summer, you might see members of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment riding their fabulous black horses.

Where’s your favourite beach? Send us a postcard, or post a picture…