Scary riding school story (long post)

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Guessing there will be quite a few folk on here with tales to tell of dodgy riding schools, especially from the good old days - here's mine.

I spent 1986-87 working in northern France and having been a horse mad child I leapt at the chance of some riding lessons. Well ... the first thing was that the school stipulated that you buy insurance (from them) before you could ride. Perhaps that was normal there, but it seemed odd.

Lessons took place indoors, with 35 (I counted) on a ride, plus various liveries schooling rather superior horses at all paces on the inside track. Much swearing if anyone got in their way The ride was taken by a terrifying woman who nobody dared question, and we did everything together, all 35 walking, trotting, cantering, 5m circles, all together. Some of the walking was done standing on the saddle, some of the trotting doing round the world or sitting facing backwards.

Fortunately most of the horses were saints, but the ponies weren't - they would randomly shoot across the school and when one did it the rest joined in, depositing novice children all over the place. At this point a troupe of blonde ten year olds would swarm down from the gallery, vault on the ponies and gallop them hither and thither, before handing them back to the terrified looking child (who was usually crying).

I fell off jumping on a very bad tempered mare who refused/reared in front of a fence. This had been grudgingly lowered to about 3 feet when i protested that I'd only ever jumped tiny crosspoles.
For a while couldn't feel my legs. I can still see the instructor's face above me, shouting GET UP AND GET BACK ON THAT HORSE. I did, despite having torn back muscles and I still get twinges.
 

Widgeon

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Does anyone have any more of these? Admittedly the OP's might be a hard one to beat but I have to admit that I also laughed! Sorry to hear your back's not been quite the same since though OP....
 
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Brilliant story!

I have no RS horror stories, just amusing memories of lead-rein races in the local gymkhanas in the 70s and 80s. It was never about the ability of the (usually tiny and dressed up to the 9s) rider, or even about the ability of the pony. It was all about how fast your Dad could run! I remember my Dad eyeing up another competitive Dad at the start-line, thinking 'Oh God, it's one of 'those' gymkhanas, is it!?' And yes, the other team always beat us. Hahah!
 

SEL

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My father was posted to Germany when I was eight. My riding experience to that date was small ponies of the welsh variety. So I was used to cheeky, I was used to finding myself on a pony with its head down in a grass verge on a hack and I was used to last minute swerving out at jumps. What I absolutely was not used to was 13h scaled down warmbloods with the temperament of dressage divas in a pony body. They were the kind to give a parent nightmares - except mine were clueless about horses and probably spent the next 3 years thinking their daughter couldn't ride she fell off so much!

Lessons were done with about 12 people all in their at the same time. I was expected to half pass, shoulder in etc with all the other riders (I think I'd just about managed a canter 20m circle in the UK). Jumping was up around the 3ft mark - with one of the nutty ponies approaching at the gallop.

But the absolute best bit was the hacking. The Germans didn't really 'do' hacking and would occasionally oblige to keep the UK riders happy. That would mean horsing up all of the Saturday morning UK riders (probably 30 of us) and off we would toddle around the local farmland. The German instructor would suggest a steady gallop up a field margin, set off at a blistering pace and in her wake was the carnage of 30 horses who barely left the indoor arena.

UK riding schools seemed very tame when we came home......
 

Red-1

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My favourite bit of riding school history was that the ponies were kept in a field miles from the school in summer (cheap field rent and the RS fields were all trashed over winter). That meant that when you became a "trusted helper" you could go early and go fetch them in.

The first ride would be 8am, so by 7am we would be Land-Rovered to the field, the one you rode would be in a bridle and the ones you led in halters.

It was common to ride one bareback, lead 2 or even 3 ( :eek: ) and have a "Free Ride" back to the yard. This could be on a bridleway first (where we *may* try to sneak a canter) and then on a road, that was busy enough - for 11 year old kids with no saddles and too many horses.

The RS was BHS approved, they were safety conscious - we all had to wear a cork hat with elastic round the chin.

One time I was wearing a plastic cagoul and the hood got caught up on a branch as I ducked. I managed to pull up the horse I was riding, but the other two carried on and I dare not let go, so was almost throttled. Fortunately the branch broke, but not before the cagoul had a tear in the hood.

Happy days.
 

alainax

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As a riding school helper back in the day we would all get thrown in the back of the Land Rover to go bring the horses in.
They all lived in one huge herd, from shetlands to Clydesdales and everything in between. There would be 4 or 5 of us bringing in 40 horses in the morning. This meant you grabbed one to ride, and lead as many lead ropes as you could fit in either hand! Usually you could have 3 in each hand plus the one you were riding... then up the road to the yard!

I vividly remember feeling The most dangerous part was getting bounced about in the Land Rover! And never ever try to mount on of the shetlands... 😂
 
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Made me laugh out loud. Is that wrong of me?
I can laugh about it now. And I did keep going back. You had to book and pay for ten lessons at a time and I kept it up for the whole year. Can't quite reconcile the person who did that with the nervous nellie I am now ...
 
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Does anyone have any more of these? Admittedly the OP's might be a hard one to beat but I have to admit that I also laughed! Sorry to hear your back's not been quite the same since though OP....
Getting back on was probably not a good idea, but at least I didn't try the jump again, despite being told I was a wimp ... had to sleep on the floor for weeks after.
 
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My favourite bit of riding school history was that the ponies were kept in a field miles from the school in summer (cheap field rent and the RS fields were all trashed over winter). That meant that when you became a "trusted helper" you could go early and go fetch them in.

The first ride would be 8am, so by 7am we would be Land-Rovered to the field, the one you rode would be in a bridle and the ones you led in halters.

It was common to ride one bareback, lead 2 or even 3 ( :eek: ) and have a "Free Ride" back to the yard. This could be on a bridleway first (where we *may* try to sneak a canter) and then on a road, that was busy enough - for 11 year old kids with no saddles and too many horses.

The RS was BHS approved, they were safety conscious - we all had to wear a cork hat with elastic round the chin.

One time I was wearing a plastic cagoul and the hood got caught up on a branch as I ducked. I managed to pull up the horse I was riding, but the other two carried on and I dare not let go, so was almost throttled. Fortunately the branch broke, but not before the cagoul had a tear in the hood.

Happy days.
I had a Gold Top brand cork hat bought at a BHS school's shop. The one time I landed on it my head slid right round inside. Gloves were good protection from the plaited nylon reins once they started to fray. My favourite pony's were bright blue. He wore an an old-fashioned flat saddle with unrecessed stirrup bars which dug into your thighs. How we envied the liveries with their spring trees!
 

YorksG

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Sis and I also learnt to ride with two BHS trained teachers, we too had to wear the all important cork hat :D We used to ride the ponies back to the field at the end of the day, ride and lead without saddle, along with half a dozen others, who would then all clamber into Dad's Cortina Estate for the ride back to the school. We were not supposed to canter on our hacks, as the whole lot went out, from those just off lead rein to those who ha been jumping etc. led to a group of us hanging back on tracks and then having to hurry to catch up :D Mrs B was not happy the day we did it and some of the smaller riders hung back too and we ended up with a stampede :D One of the things I remember well was being lead rider on the road on one of the working livery hunters with three twists in my irons!
 
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As a riding school helper back in the day we would all get thrown in the back of the Land Rover to go bring the horses in.
They all lived in one huge herd, from shetlands to Clydesdales and everything in between. There would be 4 or 5 of us bringing in 40 horses in the morning. This meant you grabbed one to ride, and lead as many lead ropes as you could fit in either hand! Usually you could have 3 in each hand plus the one you were riding... then up the road to the yard!

I vividly remember feeling The most dangerous part was getting bounced about in the Land Rover! And never ever try to mount on of the shetlands... 😂
That brings back memories :). Land Rovers didn't really have suspension. Our work for rides included a lot of leading (on foot)beginners up and down the disused railway track where lessons took place. Lady who ran the place liked her beginners to canter on the lead rein :-0
 

equi

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The school I went to was pretty much a full arena of nose to tail so we too had to do everything together. One of my most memorable was my first time in the field as part of the “big” group. I was on the oldest fattest most reliably slow plod in the school so that I would not get thrown off etc when they all did the gallop up the hill at the end because he was garunteed not to go with them but hang back with the rest of the ponies. Said pony decided that day was the one to have his first ever gallop and this I won the race because everyone else pulled up in shock that little bilko could get out of walk 😂 little shit did it a further two times with me, we had a special bond.
 

Fools Motto

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I remember being in a big group of riders, all riding in open order but on one rein. We were all cantering (as instructed) and then I swore blind the instructor said 'change the rein', so I did! I caused total chaos... riders and ponies/horses going in all directions. Ooops. Obviously wasn't meant to change direction, let alone in canter.
Then there was my first riding school.. All ponies who were being used in the morning rides and same again in the afternoon rides had to be tacked up and taken to the arena. Whether they were being used or not they were left totally unattended standing in the middle of the arena. Sometimes, tacked up ponies without riders joined in trotting along in the rides. Sailor, (grey, well over 30yrs, about 13hh) loved 'joining in' and was so well behaved, Muffin, skewbald, was not - she would randomly just aim for a random passing pony and give it one... everyone soon learnt to steer when Muffin was in!!
 

Widgeon

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That brings back memories :). Land Rovers didn't really have suspension. Our work for rides included a lot of leading (on foot)beginners up and down the disused railway track where lessons took place. Lady who ran the place liked her beginners to canter on the lead rein :-0
I think this was what kept me so fit as a teenager - our lead rein-ers also did plenty of cantering. I developed a sort of loping gait, rather like a human canter, in order to lead them!
 

Cortez

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My father was posted to Germany when I was eight. My riding experience to that date was small ponies of the welsh variety. So I was used to cheeky, I was used to finding myself on a pony with its head down in a grass verge on a hack and I was used to last minute swerving out at jumps. What I absolutely was not used to was 13h scaled down warmbloods with the temperament of dressage divas in a pony body. They were the kind to give a parent nightmares - except mine were clueless about horses and probably spent the next 3 years thinking their daughter couldn't ride she fell off so much!

Lessons were done with about 12 people all in their at the same time. I was expected to half pass, shoulder in etc with all the other riders (I think I'd just about managed a canter 20m circle in the UK). Jumping was up around the 3ft mark - with one of the nutty ponies approaching at the gallop.

But the absolute best bit was the hacking. The Germans didn't really 'do' hacking and would occasionally oblige to keep the UK riders happy. That would mean horsing up all of the Saturday morning UK riders (probably 30 of us) and off we would toddle around the local farmland. The German instructor would suggest a steady gallop up a field margin, set off at a blistering pace and in her wake was the carnage of 30 horses who barely left the indoor arena.

UK riding schools seemed very tame when we came home......
This is rather more a scary indictment of the standard of british riding schools though.....
 
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I also remember bringing the ponies in from down the road, we were always late so we'd drive through the village at break neck speed, catch the ponies, ride one bare back & lead the rest, depending on how many helpers there were you could end up bringing in 7 ponies each (ride one with 3 either side).
We'd have to trot back to the yard, bare back with their little legs going 19 to the dozen & the YO would then drive passed shouting to get a move on!
But at least we had our silly old fashioned cork hats on!
I would often be in the yard & if a horse was playing up there would be a shout to go up to the school get on it & sort it out (in other words be a cash test dummy)
I remember the YO asking me if I wanted to take her 17 hand home bred youngster out on a hack, what she didn't mention was that she hadn't been ridden for several days & was very fresh! She started bucking & I could hear Yo shouting "don't fall off"
They were really happy times, which today's youngsters probably won't get the chance to have due to the compensation culture making such fun impossible.
 
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This is rather more a scary indictment of the standard of british riding schools though.....
Yep. in those days we thought dressage was something unfathomable done by near mythical beings on special horses ... later i borrowed a cob from a RS and had a go at teaching myself and the horse from a book. He was lovely and made it easy. When the cob's owner (an AI who had had him since childhood) saw him going sideways she said she would never have thought he could do that stuff!
 

Cortez

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Yep. in those days we thought dressage was something unfathomable done by near mythical beings on special horses ... later i borrowed a cob from a RS and had a go at teaching myself and the horse from a book. He was lovely and made it easy. When the cob's owner (an AI who had had him since childhood) saw him going sideways she said she would never have thought he could do that stuff!
I was told at Pony Club camp in the early '70's that dressage was cruel, but you had to do it in order to be allowed to go cross country....
 

oldie48

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When I was about 12 I had a few lessons at a RS which some of my school friends went to. I used to catch a bus at just turned 05.00 into Birmingham city centre and then get the train (called the fishermans special) out to Lapworth. I got there early so I could help bring the ponies in and do stables etc so if there was a spare pony, I got a free lesson as my parents couldnt afford to pay for one weekly. The RS was owned by a Miss Gilbert who used to do some of the lessons but spent a lot of time in a rickety caravan that had a very unusual smell, it was years later when I realised it was gin! I still remember the names of the ponies, Freckles was a favourite (strawberry roan),Domino was grey and bucked if your leg was too far back when you asked for canter, Jimmy was a little bay pony who was very well behaved. I dreamed of owning a pony but had to wait nearly 40 years!
 

npage123

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I remember two scary incidents at the riding school.

As beginners, we usually had our lessons in a smaller school, but occasionally we went into the large school, just for a few minutes, basically to practice steering out of one paddock and into another, and to get used to the different environment of the large school. The school itself was laid out with wooden poles within a very large sandy paddock, at one of the boundary wooden post and rail fences of the riding school. It was during one of these sessions in the large school when it happened. We were all walking along in single file, listening to the instructor, when all of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I could swear I've just seen a flash of e.g. a huge fire starting just outside the boundary fence, and before I could look, an almighty loud 'crack' sound made all the ponies spin and run away from the noise. It was chaos - ponies galloping all over the place, kids in the process of falling off and trying to cling on, others immediately falling off... The ponies were all running as fast as they could (and ponies can turn away and run fast!!) away from the danger and came to a stop, shaking, blowing and sweating at the furthest end of the school. It was an overhead electricity cable that had somehow broken loose, and it was still very much 'alive', snaking about with it's end and every now and then when it touched something, made a really loud crack again. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have stayed in the saddle, swiftly dismounted too. I was riding my favourite pony that day - Wild Hooves or 'Wildie'. Was absolutely besotted with him because of his amazingly smooth, comfortable canter. I'm glad to say none of the riders or horses were injured that day.

Another very scary incident, which could have potentially had a horrific outcome, happened one summer holiday, many years later. We had all sorts of special camps and long hacks during that holiday and the riding school was very busy with all sorts of activity. I was in the larger school, riding on my own with Real Inferno. He got that name because he was pitch black and a demon to try and groom, tack up and handle. I was doing my own thing when I saw, on the wide grassy verge between the road and the school's boundary fence, a group of horses being trotted along. But to my horror I quickly realised they weren't ridden as there were no people to be seen, and the group of horses was our school's little group of six mares who shared a separate paddock!! At any moment they could have decided to run onto the road... Oh it was awful!! I immediately galloped with Inferno up to the house of the Riding School owner, who were fortunately standing right outside her house - and I hysterically screamed at her "All of the mares got out!!" She said wait, tell me exactly where you had seen them. So I shouted back "They are all running outside of the school and they are right next to the road!" She quickly dealt with the situation, gave instructions to all sorts of people what they were to do, and soon they were herded back towards the yard. Phew, they very fortunately knew exactly where the entrance to the yard was and all came galloping in. Unfortunately they set of all of the geldings in their big paddock, as they wanted to join in into all of the excitement of cantering along and showing off to one another. It took us a while to catch all the mares one by one as they each went wherever they liked on the premises, but soon the normal order was restored. The Riding School owner called everyone together and had a very stern talking to us all about safety on the yard and remembering to use the clips to shut all the gates, as on that day someone completely forgot to use the clip and one of the clever mares managed to open up the gate... I was so relieved that it all turned out okay in the end. We could have lost all those mares on that day!
 

Gloi

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I was on the last lesson of the day, so after riding in the lesson with my little cork hat on the instructor would be going home past the bus stop a mile or so down the lane where I caught the bus home. She had a motorbike and would give me a lift with me again sitting on the back wearing my little cork hat. This must be about 1970.
Went to a riding school for a while with a ferocious instructor. She always had a lunge whip which she used with deadly accuracy. No pony ever refused a jump when she was around and if you weren't trying hard enough she wasn't averse to flicking the riders with it either.
 

SEL

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This is rather more a scary indictment of the standard of british riding schools though.....
It was many years after we returned to the UK before an instructor asked me to leg yield. Having only been taught it in German it took a while before I grasped that I knew what she was talking about - in fact I knew quite a lot of sideways stuff much to her surprise. I think she thought it would be a novelty lesson and wasn't expecting a teenage "know it all" to run through a complete repertoire of lateral movements.

The big advantage of the UK riding schools back then was they got you out and about enjoying the riding. We also brought ponies in bareback from the field, took them over whatever logs we found, galloped along tracks we shouldn't have and had a lot of fun. It was a lot more regimented in Germany - I think I would have appreciated that yard more in adulthood than as a child.
 
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For a while I went to a school with one excellent instructor, who made everybody's lessons very interesting, regardless of their level. I was amazed when one week I got the school owner's old pony, who was usually very switched off due to being constantly ridden by beginners, to do a perfect canter/walk/canter change of rein.
Then one week that instructor was away and we had her younger colleague. It was the worst lesson I ever had. She immediately got us to quit and cross stirrups and trot as a ride; we then cantered to the back. For HALF AN HOUR. Then we changed the rein and cantered to the back while the ride kept trotting. For ANOTHER HALF HOUR. I don't know who she wanted to punish more; the ponies or us. God knows how many miles we trotted! Don't know why I didn't have a word with the management.
 
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