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Riding in and around London ?

66 replies

Greytshakes · 08/09/2022 11:09

Hi all. I think I have, over the last 20 years or so, tried most of the riding schools / equestrian centres around London which are within reach of public transport. I have yet to find somewhere that ticks all the boxes.

Does anyone have any other ideas to the ones below? Sorry this is quite long...

I'm experienced and reasonably competent but prone to occasional attacks of nerves (usually in restricted spaces like indoor schools) having had a few bad crashes over the years. I don't have enough time to devote to a proper loan. A share one - maybe two- days a week is doable. I have my Stage 1 and 'ride safe'.

I'm looking for somewhere that has good, properly qualified instructors, decently schooled horses, turnout, hacking, and is not completely overrun with kids at the weekends. And is not more than absolute max £65 an hour. My aim is to get my Stage 2, work up to Stage 3, with a view to possibly teaching and having my own horses in the future.

Going round the London clockface I have tried these and would really appreciate some other recommendations / updates on these places if people have them :

London Equestrian Centre near Mill Hill: rode there as a kid, it was fairly bog-standard then, don't know what it's like now.
Contessa: Had one trial lesson which was promising, I liked the classical focus, it's but too far to travel for me.
Lee Valley: Did BHS stage courses there, took lessons 2005-2012-ish, had one really good instructor (Mandy) who left. The place went downhill, used very green and unbalanced ponies for novice riders, some quite bitchy instructors. Haven't been since 2018. Also, no hacking.
Aldersbrook: Had a trial lesson in 2019, place was a tip, got bucked off a green cob and didn't go back.
Aldborough Hall: Had a few lessons last year, pretty good instructor and nice horses but hacking is very limited.
Chelsfield EC: Had one good and one not so good lesson in 2019, haven't been back. Seemed very focussed on kids (which is of course fine but I'm not a kid :))
Greenwich EC: Had lessons 2018-2019. Had an excellent (and quite tough) instructor I learnt a lot from. Went back after she left and didn't get on with the other instructors. Horses are OK but you can't tack up yourself and there is no hacking.
Old Bexley Stables: Trial lesson and one hack in 2021. Probably not representative but my limited experience was not good (some rude staff, chaotic yard) and I didn't go back.
Wildwoods: Have hacked out from there which was fun. Didn't enjoy the lessons (2018) as teaching quite 'gung ho' - not for me. Also quite far away.
Kingston RC: One trial lesson and one hack in Richmond Park (2019). Not a good experience. Horse I rode had a massive bucking fit on the way home, not taken at all seriously by ride leader or manager on yard. Lucky I stick fairly well. Didn't go back.
Stag Lodge: Couple of lessons/hacks ages ago, was nice to ride in Richmond Park but they look very expensive now.
Operation Centaur: Went for a trial ride last summer, it seemed to go well (was told so) but wasn't called back and they haven't responded to messages since.
Wimbledon Village Stables: not actually ridden there, had an Equicise session on their mechanical horse recently which was brilliant (have some hip issues and wanted to see if they are affecting my position). I liked the instructor and the place seems nice, but put off by lack of daily turnout opportunity - the horses are boxed to turnout nearby.
Ham House Stables: Had some really good technical tuition a while ago now, but found teaching style knocked my confidence (reduced to tears one time). Expensive now, and no hacking.
Littlebourne EC: Fantastic hacking, a couple of helpful private lessons but 10+ years ago. Quite far for me but would try again if it's still good.

I've also had lessons as a civilian rider with the Kings Troop, about 10 years ago now but I wouldn't be up to that level/confidence at the moment. Trying out Flemish Farm (HAC) in Windsor soon.

Basically I would like to find somewhere which takes instruction seriously, **and I'm not treated like a complete numpty if I admit to the occasional bout of the Fear. Being able to ride out independently would be a huge bonus.

Thank you for reading and any tips you may have !

**so for example correcting bad positions, very few places seem to have instructors who care enough to do this, it's amazing.

Riding in and around London ?
OP posts:
Lastqueenofscotland2 · 08/09/2022 11:39

It’s obviously a bit further out but maybe Wellington?
However being honest riding out independently is massively unlikely anywhere. Their insurance simply won’t cover it

Greytshakes · 08/09/2022 12:04

Thank you ! I have just looked and Wellington's day courses look great for starters.

OP posts:
Pleasedontdothat · 08/09/2022 12:10

Have you looked at Kingsmead equestrian centre in Warlingham? They take horse welfare very seriously, there’s plenty of turnout and the hacking is gorgeous. Not the flashiest place in terms of facilities but the outdoor school is ok. They put a good mix of activities for adults - sessions on improving canter/jumping/XC/musical rides/TREC/horse agility/groundwork etc. The horses are mostly cobs with a few IDx and TBs in the mix but pretty well schooled for RS horses and it’s also quite a bit cheaper than some of the south London alternatives.

Wildwoods - hacking still lovely but the instructor I really liked has left and I had a couple of lessons with a very obviously bored girl where I didn’t feel I’d learned anything - they’ve also put up their prices considerably

Stag Lodge - very expensive and mostly not great tuition - the horses at Stag 1 have no turnout and it’s very limited at Stag 2 (on the A3).

Wimbledon Village Stables now operate a membership system so you have to buy a membership before you can have regular lessons there. The horses have no turnout which bothers me plus it’s staggeringly expensive. I think the membership is only currently open to ‘experienced’ riders - not 100% sure of their definition!

Kingston riding school has now moved to the Barwell estate in Chessington - eye watering rates for lessons and livery - the hacking is good and they have great facilities now - I know nothing about the quality of instruction

Lower Morden equestrian centre is now a riding school as well as a livery yard - there’s no hacking but the arenas are newly installed - they’re quite a bit cheaper than other alternatives

Ealing Riding School offers training for BHS stage 2 so might be an option. As far as I know there’s no hacking but a friend’s daughter used to work there and was happy

JustLikeJasper · 08/09/2022 12:22

How about South Medburn in Elstree or Trent Park in Southgate

Greytshakes · 08/09/2022 13:01

Thank you Pleasedontdothat and JustLikeJasper, much appreciated.

I haven't tried Kingsmead but will definitely take a look, they sound like what I'm looking for .. I will also check out Ealing's Stage 2 course.

The good instructors always move on, don't they !

I forgot to add Trent Park to my list. I did go there a couple of times ages ago, hacking was great but I didn't get much out of the lessons. School had multiple lessons on at the same time which was tricky. But may check it out again.

I will have a look at South Medburn too, don't know much about them.

OP posts:
maxelly · 08/09/2022 13:41

Trent park I was about to mention, I think it fails your criteria on a number of grounds, particularly lack of turnout and it is also pricey (although is £65 p/hour per group lessons or private?). It's huge, the biggest centre I've ever ridden at I think and personally I found it a bit too impersonal and business like, plus I didn't like the very limited turnout the horses get, but some of the advanced instructors were very good and because a lot of their horses are on working livery they had some very nice ones competing at a high level available for the more experienced riders. An exam centre as well although not totally sure if they do stage 3 there due to lack of an XC area?

LEC I've not been to in a few years but more recently than you from the sounds of things, a much more medium sized place and more kiddie focussed but they always used to have at least of couple of good instructors and nice horses for adults about the place (sometimes not 'officially' school horses as they belonged to the owner or the yard manager but you would be put up if good enough). No hacking though unless you count rides around their own fields in summer and not an exam centre. And back then (like I say it might have changed) you definitely had to go through an annoying period where they were 'sizing you up' and putting you on sluggish cobs etc. before you got allowed onto the nicer horses and into the better lessons but I think that's pretty common for most riding schools TBH. And I have heard/seen via social media they have a pro showjumper who comes in and does clinics so that would be good from your stage 2 jumping POV.

I'm further west these days and you have a few options around the M25 berks/bucks borders, Berkshire EC, Snowball Farm, Wayside Stables are all options to consider? Hacking and prices will be much better further out of London but obviously worse journey times as it would be a taxi from Slough job?

dogrilla · 08/09/2022 14:54

I think you need to split up your requirements. Trent park is a BHS training centre so if you can get there midweek for a private session on a good horse with a senior instructor, that's probably your best bet lessons-wise. I rode there in the evenings and did my BHS exams when I lived in London and they had some fabulous horses. Retired eventers etc that give you a real feel of an educated horse without the fireworks. For hacking, have you tried Tally Ho in Windsor Great Park? Also recommend Wellington - brilliant for x-country and general confidence boosting.

catlovingdoctor · 08/09/2022 15:00

Would echo recommendations for Trent Park, the best riding I've been able to do in London and not as eye-wateringly expensive as some of the more central schools.

DuaneDibbley · 08/09/2022 16:51

Trent Park does do stage 3 BHS

NotEnoughMud · 08/09/2022 17:27

How about the yards in Windsor Great Park? Tally Ho and Wayside believe. I've only hacked there - but that was pretty fantastic.

Handsfullofholes · 11/09/2022 18:31

I wouldn’t bother with Trent Park if you are fairly advanced and are looking to do more than walk, trot, canter. I went back recently after years of not riding there in the hope I would sit on something nice and get some good lateral work instruction in an advanced lesson.

instead I was put on a sweet but incredibly green cob who was about 3hh too small for me, and felt I’d wasted £56 to school him for them.

Flossie2shoes · 13/09/2022 15:58

I would also suggest Kingsmead. A riding school where the horses and ponies really matter. Really lovely people and great riding.

XelaM · 13/09/2022 22:35

Handsfullofholes · 11/09/2022 18:31

I wouldn’t bother with Trent Park if you are fairly advanced and are looking to do more than walk, trot, canter. I went back recently after years of not riding there in the hope I would sit on something nice and get some good lateral work instruction in an advanced lesson.

instead I was put on a sweet but incredibly green cob who was about 3hh too small for me, and felt I’d wasted £56 to school him for them.

This.

Can those who say TP has amazing horses competing at high level name the horses? Because I don't know anyone at TP competing at high level. None of their very talented kids do affiliated shows (I think bar one who is 18-ish) because they don't support them at all with it and they would be left to organise everything on their own. I know as my daughter moved from there.

They have good hacking but that's about it. Bad turn-out and some of the best instructors have left. It's very commercial and al geared towards beginner PC kids (who also don't compete at any PC competitions outside of TP).

maxelly · 13/09/2022 23:10

That's a shame Xela, it sounds like it's gone significantly down hill since I was last there which must have been at least 5 years ago - should probably have put that in my post! Back then they def had some nice schoolmaster types that had competed at AM and some showjumpers too on working livery although I'm certain they would have belonged to adults not kids, I can well believe they aren't interested in their liveries going out to compete and that people have to sort themselves out if they want to - their livery is so eye watering for such poor turnout they must be making some £££ just off that from people prepared to pay for the location and facilities, why bother with more. Hope your DD is happier at her new place.

If Trent still do stage 3 exams though they must have at least some reasonable quality horses, they need to show novice-ele level dressage, 1m showjumping and 90cm XC for that which if not a very high competetive level is certainly more than total beginner territory. And the BHS is quite strict on at least threatening to remove their exam centre status if the horses used on exams aren't up to scratch, I know cos my local centre very nearly lost theirs after several times in a row putting sour school horses forward for stage 2 that wouldn't jump at all unless belted repeatedly Angry. But I can also imagine that any school will be very protective of their better horses esp if those are fewer in number than before, I just don't think you can ever turn up and get on a nice horse first time these days, even if you do actually have your stage 2/3 and have paid for the chief instructor you'll be on a slug at best, until they've decided if you are worth putting up on the nicer horses, sadly I think part of it is are you a good enough rider and partly are you going to be a valuable enough client to make it worth their while...

dogrilla · 14/09/2022 00:36

@XelaM my experience of TP is also out of date but they used to have really nice quality schoolmaster types to use selectively in the school, esp for instructors to ride and those doing stage 3, as @maxelly says. No idea about liveries and competing externally - I'm sure that's a very different kettle of fish.

Ridingladybugs · 01/10/2022 20:27

@Greytshakes

Unfortunately I don’t have any suggestions to offer but did just want to say thanks as you’ve inadvertently made me feel a bit better!

I rode a lot as a child/teenager ( classic stable lass for free, ran the stables and rode all the loopy horses). Came back to riding as an adult and was a bit low on confidence - but was enjoying riding again at a local stables. Moved to London and had lessons at Ham House and just completely lost my confidence ( even though it was very good tuition technically). I actually just gave up ( better for bank balance I guess) but felt really sad that I’d lost my ability/confidence so much. Anyway your post has made me feel perhaps it wasn’t just totally me so thank you!

Botsy · 02/10/2022 07:41

OP I know Flemish Farm well though not ridden there for a while. Do you have a public sector connection with your job at all? Look at the civil service riding club if so.

CherryogDog · 02/10/2022 08:28

Is Lea Valley still operating?
I'm not in the area any more so can't comment on where would meet your needs.
Have you tried Dulwich? Had an excellent reputation when I was a South London pony clubber.
Have you considered getting a part share and using a freelance instructor?
Would be worth a scroll on Horse and Hound forums and asking on the local boards.

Redqueenheart · 02/10/2022 09:32

''@CherryogDog
Is Lea Valley still operating?''

Lee Valley is where I am at the moment and there are still operating. They have some great horses (and a few not so great...), good facilities and the horses are put out in the fields everyday. Lovely stable staff too.

BUT their instructors really vary and a couple are actually incredibly rude and unprofessional. As a beginner adult rider I learned a lot there but I also had to make a formal complain about one of their instructor who treated both learners and horses poorly.

So you really need to get to know who to book with and be prepared to speak out if you end up with one of the ones that try to pass their bullying as ''banter''.

Lessons are also cheaper there during weekdays if you can get free time then.

Pleasedontdothat · 02/10/2022 11:58

Definitely not Dulwich - there’s no turnout, no hacking and my dd was basically being used as a crash test dummy as she was given all the ‘naughty’ ponies to ride as she could (usually) stay on. With hindsight and knowing much more now, those ponies were shouting as loudly as they could that they were in pain 😕

dogrilla · 02/10/2022 12:10

Agree definitely not Dulwich. No turnout and no hacking. Those poor ponies...

CherryogDog · 02/10/2022 23:43

Dulwich obviously has changed then, they used to hack around the park and there was a XC course across the road.

DuaneDibbley · 03/10/2022 06:19

Botsy · 02/10/2022 07:41

OP I know Flemish Farm well though not ridden there for a while. Do you have a public sector connection with your job at all? Look at the civil service riding club if so.

Thank you for this, just joined!

AtillatheHun · 03/10/2022 07:53

Really astonished to hear the stories about Ham House - please tell me that the two bad lessons weren’t with MRE? I learned a lot from her and think she’s wonderful.
echo what others have said about heading west along the Elizabeth line to Snowball or the terrible Windsor train line to Tally Ho.

CherryogDog · 03/10/2022 08:27

@AtillatheHun yes I'm surprised too, Minette was someone I had lessons with when I was training for my PC A test, excellent and thorough instructor.
I moved away from London in the mid 90s, but it had a huge horsey community, many excellent riding schools, livery yards and loads of back garden and pub stables with privately owned horses.
Sad to see not many have survived and some of those still running not having a very good reputation.
If you ever get your hands on a copy of "Horses in Suburbia", written by my old DC, there's some lovely old pictures of the yards in the area.
Sorry OP for derailing your thread with my bit of nostalgia!

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