26 July, 2010

Sassy Guest Blogger – Horse Riding in Hong Kong

26 July, 2010

When I  (Maura) first moved to Hong Kong I volunteered with Riding for the Disabled which is an organization that uses horses as therapy for disabled children. I used to love being around the horses every week and I very often wanted to ride them myself instead of letting the little kids have their turn! I was excited to hear that one of our Sassy members, Linda goes horse riding each week here in Hong Kong and today she is telling us all about it. I really do love hearing about activities that extend far beyond grabbing a drink in Soho…don’t you?!

Who would have thought that getting up much earlier than normal (not something I do very often), sweating like the Yangtze river flows (a lot) and have the colour of your face start to resemble solid Magenta to be a good thing? Surprisingly it is, actually, it is a great thing. At least when it’s the result of having spent the last hour on top of a beautiful horse at Lei Yue Mun Riding School.

Every Wednesday morning, at just before 8am (!) I make my way on bus number 8 from Causeway Bay toward Lei Yue Mun Holiday Park. With this early time slot it is lucky that I am a lover of all things equestrian, and surprisingly Hong Kong has not only one but three highly regarded public riding schools. The schools are run by the Hong Kong Jockey club, with two great stables on the Island at Pokfulam and Lei Yue Mun, and the third, and larger of the schools, at Tuen Mun on the west side of the New Territories. The horses are mostly ex-racehorses who have undergone extensive re-schooling to make them suitable to public riding, and all instructors are trained to British BSH (British Horse Society) curriculums and standards.

My lesson starts at 8.30am, and when I arrive at around 8.15am there is already a lesson in session in one of the outdoor arenas. The first lesson kicks off at 7.20am and it is full. At most there will be 6 riders to a lesson, so you will never feel overlooked (and the instructor will see every flaw, which I guess is part of the point). The stable is always manned by several stable hands, all are super friendly and will do everything for you, unless you want to tack up the horse yourself, which you can do if you arrive in time (I never have). Donning my gear, which includes an array of too hot clothing, the fun begins. I lead my horse (Floral Arts, a lovely chestnut gelding) out into the arena where our instructor Boris awaits. I mount and together with the two other riders we start the lessons slowly. It is an hour long but it seriously flies by. Boris who is an excellent instructor with a BSHII certificate puts us through our paces. Half way through we are sweating profusely but loving it. This is what it’s all about! As we are working on transitions, softening and impulsion everything else disappears. The focus is complete and when the hour is up there is an instant feeling of loss, although that is quickly overcome by exhausted exhilaration.

As my feet hit back on terra firma it is evident that something has been achieved, as the silly smile on my ridiculously red face seems plastered into place.  Hot, sweaty and very very thirsty this is probably as happy as I can be!

The application form for riding is standard procedure and very easy to navigate. You can download it online from either of the schools websites (they are all under the same umbrella so you can easily navigate between the three schools) and fill in the questions regarding riding experience/age/weight/which of the three locations you would like to attend and what time. Apart from riding you can also take part in stable management courses, own a pony day (for the younger crowd) and other activities all outlined on the website. Pokfulam and Tuen Mun have the most English-speaking instructors, although Lei Yuen Mun also offers a limited amount of instruction in English. http://www.hkjcridingschools.com/english/riding_schools_index.asp

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