Well after all the build-up, it’s here! The world’s best athletes have descended upon London for possibly the greatest sports event on earth over the coming weeks. And to build on the excitement Visit Wales is challenging people to head for Wales on holiday and have a crack at some medal-themed challenges!
Equestrian events are some of the first to get underway, but you don’t have to be horse-riding hero to have fun in the saddle. Wales has a host of riding options on offer – whether you’re a virtual beginner, a holiday hacker or keen to progress to higher things.
But don’t take our word for it, we’re delighted that Welsh riding expert, Stephen Clarke who is President of the Dressage Ground Jury for the Games, has helped us come up with gold, silver and bronze riding challenges. Fancy having a go?
Over to you Stephen!
So here are my three riding challenges – if you’re in Wales this summer have a go and tell me how you got on!
BRONZE – get trotting
If you’re relatively new to riding then this challenge is for you. Spend a day at a riding school and learn to do a proper rising trot – rising and falling in time with the motion of your horse as he trots is one of the first things you need to master as a rider. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but once you do, it all feels surprisingly natural. A great place to learn the basics and progress to a higher level too is the Aberconwy Equestrian Centre near Llandudno.
SILVER – step up from hacking
Wales is fabulous for just cruising through the countryside in the saddle, but if you fancy taking your horsemanship a little further try the Mostyn Farm Ride. It’s just over nine kilometres and you can just enjoy it as a quiet off-road hack with great views, but your challenge is to try tackling the course of professionally designed and constructed fences. There are over 50 of them including ditches, water jumps, banks and steps They can be set at varying degrees of difficulty too – and they are all optional.
GOLD – compete in an event
If you’re pretty competent in the saddle how about entering a dressage competition? Here’s my gold medal challenge – really put your riding skills to the test and have a judge assess them. There are 13 centres all across Wales. The David Broome Event Centre in South Wales offers competitions for all equestrian disciplines and at all levels. For other centres and details of events see the British Dressage Wales regional page.
What do you think? Reckon you can crack them? Let me know how you get on in the comments below!
More about Stephen
Winner of the Queen’s Award for Equestrianism in 2010, Stephen enjoyed a successful dressage career before becoming a full time judge and trainer. He was recently named President of the Ground Jury for the 2012 London Olympic Games and has officiated at five World Cup Finals, three European Championships and three World Equestrian Games. “I chose Dressage judging as Dressage is such a wonderful sport,” Stephen says. “To see beautifully trained horses being virtually turned into “works of art” is truly magical.