Having spent a large chunk of my childhood in rural South Wales, I grew up loving horses and even having two of my own between the ages of 13 and 18. It was a wonderful hobby, I made lots of friends away from the claustrophobic scene of my local high school. It was also a fantastic tonic for all that teenage angst. So, when I had my first born, I knew I wanted her to have the opportunity to learn to ride one day, although I knew that living in West London would make it more tricky than it had been for me as a child!
I’ve always found horses relaxing animals to be around (apart from the odd occasion when one has bolted with me on its back!) so for me it’s a bit like a treat for myself taking my daughter there too. I just love that my children can grow up with all the cultural and social benefits that West London brings, but don’t have to be denied some of the more pleasurable rural types of activities either – thanks to Ealing Riding School.
I moved to Ealing in early 2003, attracted by the green parks and convenience for travelling home to see my family in Wales. I had no idea when I moved here that I’d be able to get riding lessons in Ealing but soon heard about the stables on Ealing Common and as had lessons there for a couple of years.
Life took over and children, so it was a pleasure to return just under a year ago to find the centre now under new management, headed up by former marketing and advertising consultant, Ailean. They have set about making great improvements to the yard and have a lot more planned. Cerys has been having private lessons there about twice a month and has, since Easter, also attended two Pony Days during the school holidays. As well as the riding school in West London, Aileen and Charles also have use of large paddock facilities in Buckinghamshire, so the ponies are rotated and not stabled full time there as I once thought. Consequently, they are well schooled but fresh and happy and healthy-looking animals.
My daughter has done two Pony Days at the stables and had a wonderful time, despite not knowing any of the other children when she arrived. Instructors, Alex and Olive, soon put her at ease and got her introduced to other children around her age. At the last one she went to, at the beginning of the summer holidays, they had temperatures in the mid 30s to content with, but the staff dealt with that in their stride. Break time included water fights and the lessons took place in the cooler part of the day with stable management and games, during the hotter part of the afternoon.
An exciting new development at Ealing Riding School is the development of a previously overgrown and hardly used area to the side of the arenas. Like West London Kids, the riding school is a firm believer that, at all stages of life, being active outdoors and in nature has huge benefits on both our physical and mental wellbeing. This new section of the stable yard is designed to be both a pony trek area and a wild(ish) place for energetic youngsters and stressed adults wanting to connect with the outdoors, Gallivanters Field Craft is a bit of a forest school, as well as a bush-craft and creative area.
It is also a place that will be used to complete Pony Club country, animal, camping, carpentry, den-building, survival and fire badges. Gallivanters activities will take place on weekends, after school and during school holidays. It is also very popular with the West London home schooling community.
Animal Care Camps, Field Crafts and more
As well as the tradition field craft activities, there will be Gallivanters workshops/ holiday camps on animal care (helping look after the 2 baby goats, 3 chickens, 12 dogs and 30 ponies & horses. Also on the agenda is Fire and Wood: a field craft day which will give the children greater confidence in planning, fixing and working with the physical materials of the natural world.
The Tree & Garden Magic days will demonstrate to the children how all parts of the eco-system work together biologically, with a little bit of theory and a lot of practice. The day will include fun and educational activities such as soil study, beetle safaris, planting and teamwork. For more information on Gallivanters at Ealing Riding School, see their website: https://ealingridingschool.biz/gallivanters-field-craft/
Riding lessons in Ealing
I shouldn’t finish this without a bit more discussion on the wide choice of lessons available at riding school. There is a wide choice of times available for all standards of riding and you can opt for a group lesson (slightly cheaper and in some ways more fun for your child) or a private / semi-private lesson (a bit more costly but they will learn quicker and ideal if you want them to get a bit more confidence or to master a few skills to move up a level). My daughter has had both private and group riding lessons and both are high quality.
As someone who has ridden in dozens of different riding centres across the country – and abroad – I’ve been highly impressed with the quality of teaching. The instructors we’ve had are without exception, very talented at teaching and have a wonderful way of engaging with children. Gone are the days of being yelled at incessantly by some old hag with a whip that I remember from my days of learning to ride in South Wales in the 1980s. The instructors are firm – as you would expect with a sport that undeniably contains risks – and yet absolutely lovely with the children. My daughter adores them all and sees them as friends she looks up to!
I think they challenge the children just the right amount, whilst keeping safety and the child’s confidence as the highest priority. So many riding stables fail at this hurdle in my experience. I also love the system they have for volunteers. The teenagers (or over 10s who have reached a certain level of riding) who help out around the yard and leading children on ponies in the beginners’ lessons) are just lovely. I have full confidence in them, and they’ve been a key part in helping my daughter get more confident. When she was still in leading-rein classes, she also loved having a “big girl” to chat too. Now she looks forward to the day when she will be one of the “big girls” helping out at the stable yard on weekends and during school holidays.
Ealing Riding School also offers lectures on equestrian subjects and after-school stable camp session so there are a wide variety of options. Whilst I appreciate, regular riding lessons are not within every family budget, do keep an eye on events taking place at the riding school. You can even host a Pony Party for your child for a birthday with a difference here! There are lots of exciting new developments in the pipeline, including, shorter ‘hacks’ in the area that’s being redeveloped.
For smaller children, there’s also toddler barn and hay storytelling, a summer pony show and other opportunities for West London children to spend time with these wonderful animals. We will keep you updated with the events at Ealing Riding School on West London Kids or visit their website Events page regularly and sign up to their newsletter: https://ealingridingschool.biz/events/