Hacking and rides out at horse riding schools in Nottingham
Woodside Riding School, Bestwood
Woodside Riding School is set in the leafy Bestwood Country Park in North Nottinghamshire. The surroundings are very peaceful and hacks through the forest take in some stunning scenery. This also includes fairly steep hills and narrow tracks. There's also a former coal mine on the edge of the forest which is an interesting sight to pass by on horse back.
Lessons at Woodside take place in the outdoor school. Group lessons often include younger children. However, instructors who take private lessons are generally more experienced and can give guidance to adult riders.
The horses are well-trained and the manager is knowledgeable of horses. Group lessons and hacks for adults are around £16 while a private lesson is around £25. Livery is also offered and college courses are run there in the week for youngsters. Excellent place for novice and intermediate riders.
Fairview Farm Equestrian
The equestrian centre is set in Mansfield in North Nottinghamshire among the vast open hills. It is, however, close enough the local village to still feel connected to the world.
Everything about Fairview feels so relaxed and safe. The horses are great and the school has a soft sand floor. The whole place is clean, buzzing and friendly. Many of the horses are more responsive and forward going than at other riding centres in Nottinghamshire.
The instructors are professional and helpful as are the staff there. Again, prices are affordable and the school would also suit more advanced riders as several shows are held there. Courses are also held for youngsters who want to develop their skills.
Facilities at Fairview Farm include two large car parks, reception and viewing area with hot & cold drink and snacks available. There are three floodlit riding schools and they also hacks over the fields, but always within the grounds of the centre.
St Leonards Riding School
St Leonard is a typical riding school with lots of ponies, heavy-footed cob horses and the text-book type teacher - kick harder, whip him, get right back on if you fall off. This is all well and good for children, and produces 'gutsy' riders as one instructor told me, but it is definitely not the place for nervous or adult riders to go when they are starting out.
The staff are friendly enough and there is also a viewing are that serves food and drinks. However, the group lessons are held in a bizarre track that runs round the edge of the ménage. This is covered by a roof, and has metal poles on one side and a effectively a metal wall on the other. It's a bit of a funny feeling cantering round the corners and coming within inches of clattering your head on the pillars! (Although they are wrapped in foam!)
Having said all of the that, the group rides that St Leonards do are well worth a go for more experienced riders. They're unlike any other hack or trek. Around 20 - 20 youngsters jump on the horses once a day and head out across the roads, nature reserves or fields. On one of these hacks, people were taking it in turns to jumps over fallen logs that had been set up as jumps, then we crossed through a river and galloped up a hill, then cantered across the grounds of a former industrial works. It was all very exhilerating, and much more exciting than the usual hour of plodding along with the occasional canter that some riding centres do.
St Leonards Riding School in Toton, Nottinghamshire, is a school that's definitely not for the feint-hearted. However, for more experienced riders they have livery available and the rides out may be of interest.
Gertrude Road Stables
Gertrude Road Stables are the cheapest place in Nottingham to ride at £10 for a one hour hack. They don't have a ménage and don't really do lessons other than taking youngsters out for a walk and giving general guidance.
The yard manager is fairly relaxed and allows riders to take the horse out alone if they are competent. The horses themselves aren't great. They are all small cob type horses and haven't really been properly schooled other than to a basic level.
The stables are in a failry unique setting among a suburban street Edwardian houses in Lady Bay, close to West Bridgford. Thankfully, it’s only a five-minte walk between roads before reaching the open fields next to the river Trent. These are particularly peaceful and fun to ride through, and sit between the the National Water Sports Centre and the Nottingham Forest FC training ground.
Overall, this is not the best place to come to learn to ride or for more experienced and advanced rider. However, it is useful if you fancy an hour out on a calm horse.
Please add your thoughts and experiences of riding schools you've ridden at in Nottingham. You can send them through the contact page. Look forward to hearing about it - thanks!