Riding through the eyes of young riders and their instructor
An interview with Maciek, Ania, and Ula from the Tabun Centre for Equestrian Recreation and Rehabilitation (branch of the Youth Community Centre for Scouts in Kraków)
ŁS: What is the most difficult part when learning horse riding?
Ania: You must learn to balance and follow the horse’s movements. Horses react to the rider – if they sense that the rider is uncertain, they start doing whatever they want – they do not respond to commands, and may even seem malicious and indifferent to us.
ŁS: Everyone has a bad day sometimes, feels bad, does not want to do anything, and would love to go back to bed – but you need to go to school, go shopping, take out the garbage, walk the dog. We moan and shuffle off to do whatever we were meant to do. What about a horse?
Maciek (instructor): Horses have their moods, like humans. It happens that after a long day and a few hours of riding, they are tired, have aching muscles and sometimes swelling. But they have to ride again and “do their thing”. That’s why the behaviour of horses may differ; they, like us, have their good and bad days.
ŁS: So horses also sulk... And what would you say is the best way to “make contact” with the horse in the early days of one’s horse riding experience?
Maciek: It is good to establish a common understanding off the horseback. Get the horse used to your presence, tame it. It is easier to relate to each other later, when you’re on its back. One of the girls, before she started to ride, has been coming to the farm for several months to help us with the horses. She found it much easier that way. People have different personalities, horses too. Some are more vicious and some inherently quieter. Of course, beginners are given gentle horses. And the quietest are used in hippotherapy.
ŁS: I cannot but ask: what do you get from horse riding?
Ania and Ula: Pleasure, a way to vent stress, an outlet for our energy. Better mood. Do you see anyone sad here?
ŁS: And when the weather is bad…
Maciek: Horse riding in autumn and winter time requires a great deal of determination and perseverance. The cold and mud not only interfere with the ride – in this weather, there is much more to do after the ride – cleaning the horse takes sometimes up to an hour. But cleaning is also a way of making contact with the animal. There are those who want to ride only in season – from May to September. They do not always, however, find free dates as priority is given to those who come all the time. People who come to the club, spend here at least 2 to 2.5 hours, although the ride itself lasts an hour. But some people stay up to 5 hours.
Ania: You can feel family atmosphere here. Sometimes we meet outside the club.
ŁS: Tabun is a branch of a cultural institution, so the cost of riding must be smaller than elsewhere.
Ula: One ride costs PLN 30, and under a monthly pass – PLN 20. But you need to make a declaration and pay for a few in advance. There is also the possibility of earning money for your rides, such as doing night shifts. During such shifts, you take care of the animals – feed them and perform basic veterinary procedures: wrap swollen muscles, apply compresses, and rub in warming ointments for swelling. You can also help in training and in hippotherapy.
ŁS: Where do you usually go riding?
Maciek: At the club, we ride mainly in the arena, but also in the field. We also organize rallies. A rally is an opportunity to form a special bond with the horse – when you spend a few days together, experiencing the difficulties of the journey, a unique union is formed between the rider and the horse. The club provides – of course – the horses and the equipment: saddle, stirrups... But clothes are usually the responsibility of the rider. The club admits persons aged at least 10 – younger kids would require individual instructors, and we have group classes. We do classical style, or English, riding. In the world, but mainly in the USA, where it originated, western riding is also popular.
Ania: Tabun and other clubs also organize competitions. Their level may not be high, but on the other hand, almost anyone can participate. Fun comes first.
Interviewer: Łukasz Smogorowski