Horse riding in an Association of Irish Riding Establishment approved riding centre can tick all the boxes for children and adults.
Linda Young of the AIRE says the association closely monitors all the member riding schools through yearly inspections, ensuring the quality of teaching, child protection, safety standards and welfare of the animals are up to standard.
The Association of Irish Riding Establishments is the body authorised by the Department of Agriculture to maintain standards in the leisure horse industry and is also recognised by Failte Ireland as the authority on this matter.
AIRE has responsibility for the inspection and registration of horse riding schools and establishments in Ireland.
Horse riding, she says, has become accessible for all, with lessons ranging in price from€15 to €25, depending on lesson duration and expertise required.
“Not only are the prices of lessons reasonable, but all riding schools that are members of the Association of Irish Riding Establishments provide everything - the horse, riding helmet, boots and tack.”
Many AIRE riding schools also run BHS training courses which coach participants in stable management, horse riding and teaching.
“Pony camps are plentiful around the country during the holiday period, popular with children for fun and activities with their friends.
“Students who are serious in improving their skills may take part in the AIRE amateur tests and, upon successful completion, will receive certificates. These courses are accessible to novice level of horse riding. Those who wish to make a career out of instructing can take part in BHS exams and the centres will assist each student in his/her programme.”
While children can start from as young as five, beginners vary in age from teens to twenties, thirties, forties and fifties. There is no age limit for the sport and the AIRE says horse riding is suitable for all - be it for a stroll along the beach, a show jumping or dressage lesson or a lead rein lesson.
“Horse riding is a risk sport, but the AIRE goes to every length possible to ensure the risk of injury is limited. AIRE schools must have first aiders present and all instructors are monitored and approved with the necessary qualifications. It is also a requirement that AIRE approved staff have taken a Child Protection Course.”
There are many different disciplines to the sport: Trekking where participants take a leisurely stroll on the beach or through beautiful scenery; Show jumping - riding over a course of approximately eight to 15 jumps; Dressage - where participants are marked on control and smoothness of movements; Racing - which does as it says on the tin; and polo where two teams of four play against each other with sticks and balls.
When starting out horse riding participants will be taught the basics. These include walking, halting, perhaps trotting and the basic parts of the horse. Then participants will start moving up the stages from trot to canter and eventually to jumps, if they wish.
This process can take anything from a couple of weeks to years depending on how fast or slowly participants want to take it.
AIRE instructors are trained to help you achieve your personal goals and work at a different pace for each student. Many AIRE Riding Centres are also approved for ‘disabled riding’ and welcome horse enthusiasts with all capabilities.
For more information on getting involved in horse riding or even to just have a chat to about the sport, telephone 045 854518 or visit www.aire.ie