When getting into a new hobby or, as in my case, taking one up again after a break of over a decade, it’s probably wise to seek a little advice before you get stuck in.
And so last week I solicited some guidance from those in the know about the best way not to embarrass myself during my impending riding lesson. Tips on getting back into the saddle were many and varied.
The horse can feel your nerves, so DON’T PANIC. Also helpful.
Put Epsom salts in a hot bath afterwards. Actually genuinely helpful.
Don't forget gloves. Heels down, sit deep, relax!
Keep the horse between you and the ground. I was hoping for sophisticated and useful advice from the expert types at Horse & Hound. How wrong I was.
Breathe. Be like a firm jelly, upright but absorbing the movement. If you’ve ever sat on a horse, you’ll know that this image is actually far more helpful and sensible than it sounds.
Shoulders back – put the headlights on full was Best Mate’s offering (there’s an image I’ll never be able to shake), followed by Yes. Sports bra. Them’s wise words.
But whilst I was busy taking all the reminders of technique, clothing and the best possible ways of alleviating the subsequent aches and pains into close account, there was one thing I hadn’t considered: getting to the lesson itself.
Now, Brixton is a hotbed of diversity. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black, white, hipster, elderly, or crazily and shoutily evangelical: SW9 has it all, and rare is the day that you’ll be looked at askance on the street because you don’t fit in.
Rare, that is, unless you happen to be in a gilet carrying a riding hat under the crook of your arm: that day, I have now discovered, you’ll get looked at every which way and backwards.
Admittedly, it’s something I should probably have anticipated, ponies being rather less common on the streets of South London than in the Home County. But if a girl walks into your branch of WH Smiths in a pair of long boots and buys nothing but three packets of Polos, you can leave off the look as if to say she’s 12 hours too early to a Jilly Cooper-themed fancy dress party and instead probably make an educated guess that she’s spending the morning trying to keep a horse between herself and the ground.