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Information » Things To Do » Sports and Keeping Fit » Horse Riding

Horse Riding

  • Horse riding is a term used to describe the activity of riding a horse as a hobby or for a number of competitive sports
  • Competitive horse riding sports are dressage, show-jumping, endurance, eventing, harness racing and horse racing
  • If you don't want to compete, you can ride a horse as a hobby and as a great way to explore the outdoors
  • Horse riding is enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities
  • Horse riding uses up a lot of energy and really exercises your muscles, an hour's horse riding is the same as a jog or a game of tennis
  • As a competitive sport, it provides you with the opportunity to master amazing skills


  • Horse riding clothing is designed to make sure you are safe and comfortable
  • Riding wear includes:
    • A riding hat
    • A riding jacket
    • A body protector
    • Jodhpurs
    • Breeches
    • Chaps and gaiters
    • Riding boots

Riding Schools

  • You should make sure the riding school you go to is approved by the British Horse Society and/or the Association of British Riding Schools so that they meet the national horse riding safety standards
  • Horse riding can always be dangerous due to the unpredictable nature of horses and ponies - even in an approved riding school, you should make sure instructors have first aid training and hold a current first aid certificate
  • Whether you want to eventually compete in one of these events or just learn to ride a horse, you should join a riding school
  • In the UK, there are over 430 riding schools which are affiliated to the British Horse Society
  • Riding schools usually give private, semi-private and group lessons
  • Private lessons mean just you and an instructor
  • Semi-private mean two or three learners and an instructor
  • Groups lessons mean a large group of people being taught by one instructor
  • Private lessons are more expensive, but recommended if you are a beginner
  • It's always a good idea to visit a riding school before joining to see the facilities, whether it is indoor or outdoor, and to look at the horses and ponies you'll be riding
  • If you don't want to join a riding school or become an accomplished horse rider, you can simply ride a horse in a park or on a ranch - many places offer recreational horse riding
  • The ability to ride a horse can also be applied to practical purposes, such as for police work
  • Horse riding can also be enjoyed by people with disabilities - therapeutic riding and hippotherapy are the two types of horseback riding which may greatly benefit the disabled


  • When riding a horse on the road you must follow the Highway Code, which sets out guidelines, and also take advice from your instructor beforehand about how to manage your horse on the road
  • You should carry out regular checks of your saddlery and tack to ensure safe riding and your horse's comfort
  • The BHS operates a Riding and Road Safety Test and many riding schools carry out training days in riding and road safety


  • Dressage is a horse riding sport designed to test the horse's physical ability, suppleness, responsiveness to its owner, balance and obedience
  • It is described as 'gymnastics or dance on horseback'
  • In competitive dressage, the horse and its rider are given a score according to how well they perform together
  • A horse is scored on:
    • Impulsion
    • Freedom of movement
    • Regularity of paces
  • The rider is scored on:
    • Position
    • Correctness
    • Effectiveness of aids
  • There are various levels of dressage, from preliminary dressage to Grand Prix dressage
  • In preliminary dressage, the horse is usually required to perform walk, trot and canter, circles and turns
  • In Grand Prix dressage, the horse and rider are required to perform more advanced movements such as:
    • A piaffe, which is trotting on the spot
    • Canter pirouettes, where the horse turns on its hindquarters while in canter

Show Jumping

  • Show jumping is a timed event in which the horse and rider are judged on their ability to jump over a series of obstacles in a given order
  • These obstacles are usually hedges or fences
  • The judges look for the smoothest completion of the course - if the horse refuses to jump over an obstacle or knocks one down, it is marked down
  • At the highest level, fences may reach a height of 6ft


  • Endurance is a competitive horse riding sport in which the horse and rider must ride over a long distance within a time limit
  • Distances are between 15 and 100 miles
  • The horse with the fastest time wins the competition

Horse racing

  • Horse racing is a sport in which horses and their riders race each other on a track
  • Horse racing is a popular spectator sport and people can place bets on the outcome of the race
  • WARNING: It is illegal to bet if you are under 18 years old
  • The British Horseracing Board is the governing body for horse racing in Britain
  • There are two main types of horse races - National Hunt races and flat races
  • National Hunt races involves the horse jumping over obstacles such as fences and water ditches
  • These races are held during National Hunt Season which is mid-October until the end of April
  • Flat races involve fast running with no obstacles
  • They are held during Flat Season which is March to November
  • The most famous race meeting in the world is the Royal Ascot
  • The Cheltenham National Hunt Festival and the Grand National are also important national horse racing events

Did you know...?

  • There are over 38,000 members of the British Horse Society
  • Dressage started as long ago as 430 BC, in classical Greek horsemanship
  • Dressage became an Olympic sport in 1912, but only military officers were eligible to compete until 1952
  • Horse racing is one of the most ancient sports - it was a sport among the nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia
  • Horse racing in Britain started as early as the 12th Century when English knights returned from the Crusades with Arab horses
  • Arab horses were bred with English horses. This produced the thoroughbred horse which is the breed used in horse racing today
  • Royal Ascot was founded by Queen Anne in 1711

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