Having always had a burning ambition to be a horsewoman (it’s the spurs and whips that caught my attention) I eventually got round to buying my own horse when I hit my forties. Some people would say I was slightly crazy (especially my husband) for buying a rather large, specialist jumping horse with a strong character and lots of energy when I’m a novice with a few month’s training behind me. But after a shaky start (3 falls and a couple of months of pure panic) I’m off and running (and jumping) again.
I’ve found there’s an unofficial over 40s riding club developing here in the Murcia countryside. It’s interesting that many people come to Spain and take up riding again, or in fact start riding for the first time. Liz, 47, who visits Murcia during the school holidays says, “I thought it would be a way of seeing some of the countryside if you went hacking, and that it would be a good thing for me to do while Brian was away golfing, but I didn’t bargain on taking up golf too! I’m more confident on a horse than when I first started and can do all the basic gaits like walk, trot, canter and the very occasional (and not always intentional) gallop!”
Sue, 59, who lives here permanently noted: “When I arrived in Spain I had almost decided to give up riding as I had lost my confidence. I met Juan, a local riding instructor, and decided to have a few lessons just to make sure of my decision. That was February and I have been having lessons and riding in the campo since. I have also bought one of his horses, Jack.”
But it’s not just the ladies who are enjoying horse riding. David, 60, moved here 8 months ago and took up riding to improve his fitness now he’s retired and thinks it’s a great way to make new friends and improve his mobility.
“My biggest achievement is in not letting the language barrier stop me from riding in Spain. It’s a really enjoyable experience,” Liz enthused. Sue agrees, “The biggest hurdle has been interpreting the instructions during the lessons but I’m enjoy the challenge of learning the language.”
For me the pleasure of learning a new skill and realising that I’m not too old to take up a new sport has been great. I love the connection I have with my horse, the camaraderie of my fellow riders and the opportunity to get to know the countryside better. It’s wonderful to see the seasons change, the almond trees blossom, the poppies flower and the wheat harvested.
Sue, who rode for many years in England adds, “Riding in the UK often involves some road work which in today’s heavy traffic is not ideal and in the winter months there are the icy conditions to deal with and freezing temperatures and rain. Here in Spain we do get rain but not the ice nor freezing conditions and we’re lucky because most campo riding doesn’t involve roads.”
Whatever level of skill or experience you have – complete beginner (like I was), an enthusiastic hacker, a jump jockey or you haven’t ridden for twenty years – there’s a horse and training plan just for you. If you’re out here for a week and want to have a hack through the orchards and huerta of Cartagena then that can be arranged. If you’re here for a few weeks and want to improve your dressage or learn to jump then a couple of lessons a week won’t break the bank. And the best part is that the kids can come too!
If you ride with us at EQCentroEcuestre.com then lessons start at 20€ for one solid hour, if you buy 4 lessons in advance then it costs 70€ and for 8 lessons 120€ – great savings. If you have your own horse then the livery is great value too, just ask Juan for details.
Top 5 reasons to take up horse riding in Murcia
- It’s brilliant for your health – I lost 20 kilos in weight in the last year from a combination of cutting back on the yummy Spanish bread and an hour riding each day.
- I’ve found that one of the best ways to learn Spanish is to take up a hobby that really interests you and make sure your instructor is Spanish. You learn by accident and necessity, rather than by rote or book. We have great fun with hand signals and guesswork.
- It’s good for the brain – research shows that learning a new skill keeps your brain active and young.
- You get to see the Murcian countryside from a different perspective – the back of a horse. You’ll visit places that only the goats usually get to see, follow tracks through fields of wheat and discover wildflowers and birds in hidden ramblas.
- You can have loads of fun and make new friends!
For a cheat sheet of Spanish/English horse riding translations and more information on the many riding schools in the area visit: www.NativeSpain.com/horses Or if you want to ride with me then get in touch at www.NativeSpain.com