The earliest “horsey” memory I recall is of me sitting on the arm of our sofa, pretending to be a jockey whilst watching The Grand National. Sadly, my dream of becoming the next top jump jockey never got any further than that sofa, but it ignited a passion that has continued to this day.
It’s this same passion for horses that attracted many to join the Glasgow University Riding Club (GURC) this year, with club captain Mhairi Rawluk reporting that over 35 new students signed up to the club, including me. Although I had not been on a horse for over a year before joining the GURC, I was welcomed to the club, along with everyone, from complete beginners to advanced riders.
For many, joining the club would be their very first experience of the sport but for others it was the ideal place to develop and hone their talent. For me, it was the perfect excuse to get back on a horse and to get back into a sport that I love, but in my book, doesn’t get a fair crack of the whip. It is sometimes perceived to be an elitist sport, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
The club tries to make the sport as affordable as possible and this was proved in my first lesson. For the reasonable price of £15, I had the pleasure of a one-hour group lesson at the palatial Ingliston Stables in Renfrewshire, which have to be seen to be believed. If you were planning your perfect stables, this would be the blueprint. It is truly state-of-the-art, with indoor arenas, a gymnasium, and a restaurant.
I was starting to worry that my rusty skills would be no match for Ingliston. I was also slightly anxious, after not being in the saddle for over a year. Last time involved an unfortunate incident on a thoroughbred racehorse bolting down a country lane with me hanging on for dear life. The thing didn’t want to stop, and when it eventually did, its owner quipped: “I bet you’re glad I only train it for two mile races”. It didn’t merit a response!
I digress, but here I am, a fully paid-up member of the GURC and ready for my first lesson. To ease my anxiety, the first half of the lesson was on a simulator — I told you this place was state of the art — a great way to get the basic knowledge and confidence back without worrying what a horse is doing.
After working through the various gaits, it was time for the real thing, and I was paired with a beautifully coloured horse — think the type ridden in cowboy films — called Baillie. The lesson lasted an hour and it felt great to be back in the saddle. It was well worth every single penny.
Aside from lessons, the GURC has a whole host of other things on offer. For the more advanced rider, there is the opportunity to take part in team trials and get onto one of the club’s teams. The competition this year to make the final sixteen has been one of the toughest to date.
The club has four teams who compete in the Scottish BUSA League and the Inter-University League. Glasgow has a history of producing strong teams, most notably in 2007, when incredibly, no fewer than three teams reached the BUCS National finals.
Find out about joining one of the biggest clubs in the University by contacting Mhairi at [email protected]. Or come along to the GUU on Wednesdays and give it a go.