When first deliberating as to what direction I wanted to take the blog in, it led me to ask how I even got to this point in the first place!! It was never my intention to own a riding school and basically came about when we moved to Cornwall and I felt I was far too young to retire! For too many years, I had run a livery yard; though I enjoyed the teaching and training side so it felt like a natural progression. All I can say is that it has been a rollercoaster of a ride!
Riding schools have to an extent been somewhat derided by some in the equestrian community who perhaps fail to realise what a valuable contribution they make! I was one of those to a point but having been on the sharp end for what is a relatively short amount of time compared to others, I can tell you they are the unsung heroes in our industry!! This should have been no surprise as I grew up virtually living at our local riding school as a kid. It was my home from home, literally!! At the time I never really appreciated how lucky I was to be in such a brilliant environment, surrounded by my beloved horses and knocking about with other like-minded people. I had a ball!! What I didn’t appreciate was what went on behind the scenes.
Riding schools have the most amazing capacity to generate paperwork. We have risk assessments for everything and if all the paper was returned back to its original state as a tree, Barguse would resemble part of a South American rainforest as you came down our drive!! My poor yard manager spends inordinate amounts of time, filing, updating and ensuring all is correct ready for any unannounced visits from the BHS inspector!! We are constantly told by the various different ruling bodies that we must aim to improve facilities to encourage new people into our sport and yet each time we do, we are penalised with higher rates. Don’t even start me on our indoor arena costs!!
All riding schools juggle a constant line in delivering high quality tuition against the fear of being sued because someone fell off, the insurance bill is mind-blowingly scary!! So you may ask why bother?
When I first came to riding as a child, I went because I loved how being around a horse made me feel. Still to this day I love the smell of leather and horse when you first step into a tack room, early mornings walking across the fields with head collar in hand and the quiet contented munching sound in the evening when the day is done. I admit it may be a difficult concept for some people to get but it evokes the most fantastic memories. Over the years, I found these senses slightly dulled as the focus suddenly became more serious with competition results and performance taking precedence. Barguse has returned those for me! As a busy mum of two with a business to run, my riding time has become more precious to me and even my husband recognises I’m a happier person when I’ve sat on a horse. It allows me time for myself and I guess the chance to capture my youth!
When I walk across our yard to the chat of children discussing which ponies they’ve ridden, the red faces and giddy happiness of having conquered that filler that Trigger usually hates and the frustration of never quite getting to grips with putting the bridle on, I realise that life has not really changed in riding schools that much since I was wee. Well, except for the presence of mobiles and the choice of jodhpur colour’s extending beyond beige, black and bottle green!!
They provide great tuition, an amazing babysitting service for those poor parents trying to juggle work and holidays and the opportunity to learn how to care for something other than yourself whilst in the company of people from a varied background who are all there for the same purpose! So, I guess I feel that I have come full circle and that to be able to give others the chance to experience and enjoy what I have over the years is only right. Hopefully, through my blog I can share tips, experiences and advice on what I have picked up over the years. You may not agree with it, may choose to ignore it but at least hopefully it will give you something to muse on and it’s for free so what’s to lose!