A big thank you to Judy Barker and Emma Winfield from everone who took part in the Social Rides along the Camel Valley.
The main aim of the ride was simply to have fun. It was designed to get happy hackers and nervous riders out on their horses into a new environment, doing something they would not normally have the confidence to do. The scenery was stunning, and for both rides the weather was very kind.
Everyone had a great time and any cyclists, fishermen and walkers who thought they were going to have a quiet afternoon in the country must have been quite surprised. They could hear the chatter and laughter before they could see everyone. The cyclists were considerate and the horses completely relaxed about the bikes, large puddles, low branches, and small children, when they were on the Camel trail section of the ride. They even managed to achieve six different TREC obstacles without realising it.
It was planned as a walk and trot ride, but somehow a few people managed to find a small branch to jump. One lady was elated as it was the first time she had jumped anything since her hip operation - everything worked with no pain.
The escort, Emma, who is a freelance BHS instructor, was there to help in case of problems but there were none. All of the riders were suitably mounted on very nice horses. They were quite capable but most were simply lacking in confidence. The problem of hacking out alone or with one other or on the same routes all the time is that you think you are the only one with any confidence issues. Your horse can get bored and spooky with the same routes and small issues get magnified. All the riders discovered that they shared the same issues but found that being out in a strange area with a different group you just ‘get on with it’, and the problems disappear. Without exception, everyone wanted to do the same thing again at different venues on a regular basis.
These rides were the first time the BHS in Cornwall has done anything like this, and it is part of their inclusion policy to get as many riders and horses out enjoying themselves as possible. There is plenty for more confident riders to do with riding clubs, training clinics and affiliated competition but there is definitely a gap in the market for 'happy hackers' to get out and enjoy their horses.
"I think we need to get rid of any chips on our shoulders, stop apologising for being 'only' a happy hacker and enjoy our moments of freedom and relaxation in the open air with or horses and ponies," said one of the participants.
If the idea of taking part in Social Rides and perhaps forming a group of like-minded riders near you is of interest, please message us on The BHS Cornwall Facebook page. Alternatively contact Judy Barker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tamsin Banks at Tamsin.email@example.com.