Saddle up

Words: Meryl Rosenberg & Neigh-Bours | Photos:

Every little girl, and boy, wants a pony. When they grow up, they still secretly want a horse. And at some stage of their adulthood, they're going to want to drag a more-or-less willing 'significant other' along for a trail ride.

Saddle up

In anticipation of this (having heard horror stories about bouncing along on a completely out-of-control beast with a mind of its own and despite assurances from your 'significant other' that the animal was sedately ambling along following the others) you decide that forearmed is forewarned and plan to take a couple of precautionary riding lessons first!

You hit the 'net and find a stable yard that advertises riding lessons close by, and slightly apprehensively, call to make an appointment. A cheerful but brisk voice on the other end of the line tells you that they have everything needed in terms of both horse and safety helmets, and that you will not be required to bring your own - all you need is closed school-shoe type footwear and jeans. You manage to squeak out that you've never ridden before and are a little nervous. “Don't worry,” she says, “you'll be just fine!” (You can almost hear the unspoken, “Ya big pansy,” tacked onto the end of that! ;)

Arriving at the riding school that's up a short dirt road (lowered suspension is apparently not for horse riders!), you're greeted by the brisk, cheerful face that matches the voice on the phone. The first thing you notice are tiny - and not so tiny - brisk cheerful ladies leading around huge, intimidating beasts. You overhear two of them chatting, “He's just not responding to inside leg!” “That's because you have his chin strapped to his chest ...” Just hearing that, your apprehension mounts!

And then, so do you! Within a few minutes, your instructor has you up on an alarmingly large brown beast. You're then told that this particular shade of brown is called ‘chestnut’ - who knew? The large brown ... ahem, chestnut beast turns out to be a rather sweet mare (you are riding a chick!), who is exceptionally patient with you as you try to get your sudden waterfowl-alignment problem under control i.e. get your ducks in a row.

Now, you're a reasonably athletic person, intelligent, and able to multitask. So why can't your heels grasp the concept of going down without your hands going up? It is bizarre. Just 20 minutes later, you are able to mostly steer around the safety ring, called a ‘lunge’, and are then informed that you will be spending a few months until you ‘had your seat’. (And here you thought you had one of those already: look, you're sitting on it). You suspect that the pretty chestnut mare was doing most of the thinking for you, but your instructor is encouraging and giggles along with you when you do something dafter than usual.

You are shown the correct way to dismount (chucking a leg over the horse's head and leaping wildly to safety is apparently not the done thing) and are safely back on terra firma, with less terra than anticipated, but slightly more wobbly than firma!

Inspired, you approach the steed with a thank-you carrot, which you feed flat handed so she doesn't inadvertently nip your fingers. As she chews contentedly and gazes at you with those calm, liquid-brown eyes, you feel as though she thinks you are the best human being on the planet … and you're hooked. Line and sinker!

Catch my next lesson, same time next month.

Saddle up

About Chikara Stables

Just a minute or two away from the Lion Park, across Malibongwe Drive in Nooitgedacht, Chikara Stables is owned and managed by Lynn Bremner, an advanced level dressage rider and coach, who has ridden for Provincial and SANEF teams. With a background in both eventing and showing, Lynn is able to teach all disciplines of equestrianism, with focus being placed on the basics of riding. Beginner riding lessons with novice adults' instructor Meryl are half-an-hour long individual lessons on their well-schooled, calm school horses. 

For more information Chikara, visit