I have been extremely lucky to learn from some great teachers, The most influential being my current Horse and equine partner for life Noo noo. The humans along the way have been wonderful too. It all started a mere 20yrs ago when I discovered a neighbour who would teach me about horses and riding in exchange for work. My youngest child had just started Nursery and my mum had offered help as well,after 7 yrs as a stay at home mum devoting myself to the kids I was ready for something,this seemed to be the thing that was just meant to come along for me.
I asked my first teacher Gillian French if she would write something for me about her life with horses. Here it is.
Before I met Jayne I ran a riding school at Hampton court for 20+ yrs where we gave lessons and rode in Bushy Park. Many adults in their 40’s-60’s,who found themselves with a disposable income,began to ride with us through the 1970’s and 80’s. Their one regret was that they were not able to ride when they were younger. It was gently pointed out that they would not become Jockeys or showjumpers but they loved their riding. Initially we taught children too but,as traffic became worse,we took only teenagers and adults. I think the adults appreciated that there were no 10-14yr olds as inevitably the young people would learn more quickly and be more confident,and possibly make the older riders feel inadequate.
We would ride as a group with mixtures of ability,and the park was an excellent place for both lessons and hacking ( pleasure riding) It is about 2,000 acres,about half of which is used for riding,and is very easy for horses to work in-excellent grassland and no hard tracks-and for riders beautiful scenery.
We always bought older horses and ponies becuase they are set in their ways (hopefully good ways) and will not be upset by an inexperienced rider. We had virually no turnover,as people liked to ride horses they had seen and ridden before. We liked horses to work with that we knew-in fact we never sold any. The horses were stabled 24/7 as we had no grazing on site,but they were all turned out for 6-8 weeks in the spring and summer. Stable routine was two feeds and two lots of hay daily and they thrived. I think regular work, which was undemanding,and routine suited them. Many worked into their twenties giving us excellent service and we giving them a good home in their later years.
Jumping is not allowed in the park, which was in fact an asset, otherwise once clients could walk,trot,and canter jumping would have been the next step.We would always send any ambitous clients to another riding school if this was what they wanted to do. Most just enjoyed riding in the park on a sensible steady horse,and many people formed friendships and would ride together at the same time each week.
I progressed people gradually,letting them enjoy the whole experience of riding in the park- telling beginners to sit in not on their saddle;to realise that everyone has good and bad days when riding-two steps forward,one step back sometimes- and that the horse is doing it right,it is the rider who is wrong if the horse does not understand what is wanted of it. We taught beginners on the leading rein, riding beside them and chatting; this helped the older rider relax. The lead horse would canter beside the instructors mount,for only a few steps initially,but it was very controlled. Once they had cantered a few times we would let them off the leading rein for part of the ride to learn to go solo-there was no schooling ring in Bushey park but riders could learn control by riding around trees,or circling the instructress’s horse.
In the early 1990’s recession was beginning,and also our family situation had changed. The riding school lease was sold and we moved to a private property in bookham,with three acres and stableing. Some special horses came with us or were lent to people we could trust and a few were sold.
In 1997 a special pony was lent to me by his owner,and we had him for some 8 years. Everyone loved Pebbles-14hh,presented as grey but actually appaloosa which showed when he was wet. Forward- bound but safe,very kind,rock solid with traffic and spooky things. He would look after a beginner and be great fun for an experienced rider. A real character,who loved life,an extrovert,and delightful.
He taught jayne a lot and was probably responisble for her love of horses!!
Thank you so much Gillian for sharing just a snippet of your life with horses, Gillian is a true lady and as such I won t reveal her age but lets just say she is amazing and continues to look after and ride horses,also teaching some children at the yard where her horses are.
I did fall head over heals in love with Pebbles even having him come to stay briefly when we had our own property with land. It was also the the wonderful introduction to- caring for, and riding horses from Gillian that help get me hooked.
This is a film I found of the deer in the park where Gillian used to have her riding school.