Get Inspired: How to get into horse riding and horse racing

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Kai's ambition is to be a professional show jumper
Fast Answers
Why get into horse riding?This is a unique activity. The bond you create with the horse mean it's beneficial physically and mentally.
Who is it for?Whether you are are an adrenaline junky or seeking quiet relaxation and stress relief, horse riding is for you.
Is there a cheap option?Group lessons at an approved equestrian centre are your most cost effective option. They will provide all the equipment you need including the horse!
What if I want a proper workout?The horse definitely doesn't do all the work! As well as strengthening leg, bum and tum muscles, you'll get the heart racing.
Can I take it to another level?There are competitions for all horse sports from beginner to advanced level.
Is there a disability option?Riding for the Disabled Association is a registered charity that can help you get started.
Is there a family option?Horse riding naturally appeals to children and is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family together.

The most enjoyable aspect to horse riding is the bond you create with a horse or pony whilst being outside in the fresh air, once you have mastered the basics there are a number of equestrian disciplines and equine sports you could specialise in as your confidence, skill and knowledge grows. Competitively, it is one of the very few sports where women and men can compete equally.

British Equestrian Federation is the main governing body where you will find information about all the different horse sports and disciplines. The British Horse Society is the biggest UK horse charity, offering training information and qualifications as well as guidance on horse ownership, bridle paths and the welfare of horses. They cover Wales and Northern Ireland. If you are in Scotland, visit Horse Scotland for information on how to get started.

The governing body for Horse Racing in the UK is the British Horseracing Authority and for Northern Ireland visit Horse racing Ireland.

Horse Riding

Horse riders at sunset

You don't need to own your own horse or pony to start riding, however you do need specialist instruction to find the right horse for you. Hoofride is a great place to find out about local riding schools and information for total beginners whatever your age. Once you have chosen the riding school the riding instructor should help and advise you about to what to wear on your feet and also what type of trousers to wear, the riding school should provide you with a hard hat that is fitted correctly. Once you have decided that horse riding is for you, then you can invest in a hat, boots and jodhpurs which are comfortable soft trousers designed for riding in.

Young Riders

Three ponies being ridden into the distance

Not only is horse riding it a great physical activity, but through the responsibility of caring for horses and ponies, children and teenagers will learn some important life lessons. The Pony Club help young riders learn the skills they need while providing opportunities to learn riding and road safety. They also give young riders an opportunity to try the different equestrian disciplines and are a great source of information and guidance for parents. For the more advanced youths, Mounted games is competitive, very fast, and riders need to be fit and quick as they perform various gymkhana games with their ponies.

Disability Riding

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Guy Disney: Former soldier's journey from war to riding winners

A Starting point would be to contact Riding for the Disabled Association is a charity that provides support and accessible riding lessons on specialist trained horses. There are over 500 centres across England, Wales and Scotland. If you are based in Northern Ireland, contact Riding for the Disabled Northern Ireland

Horse Racing

Ruby Walsh rides Nichols Canyon to a win at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival
Ruby Walsh rides Nichols Canyon to a win at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival

The British Horseracing Authority is a good place to start. The BHA is the official governing body of racing in Britain and offer tools and resources to those interested in watching and participating in the activity. The British Racing School runs general training courses and specific jockey training for aspiring riders - they include courses on obtaining an amateur riders permit and practical Jockey training. The Pony Racing Authority have information, advice and support for young people who would like an introduction to becoming a professional jockey.


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Joanne Eccles, from Kinross, is a vaulting world champion

For people who love horse riding and are also keen on gymnastics, Vaulting is for you. Best described as gymnastics on a cantering horse, this is not your ordinary activity. The horse is lead by a handler doing the lunging in the middle of the arena, keeping the horse at a steady rhythm allowing the rider to perform elegant and fluid movements on top of the horse. We've provided a video here for you because it's got to be seen to be believed!

Equestrian Sports

Equestrian is a sport that that tests horsemanship, there are three sports that will be appearing at 2016 Olympics. The Olympic governing body is the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). Most riders when starting out try each discipline and then specialise based on their abilities and what aspects of the equestrian sport that they enjoy. This is a partnership between horse and rider this means the horse needs to also have the ability to excel in the chosen sport.

TeamGB's Fiona Bigwood, riding Ortilia in the dressage at Rio 2016
TeamGB's Fiona Bigwood, riding Ortilia in the dressage at Rio 2016

Dressage is a French term that describes the training of horse and rider. The combination complete a set test in front of judges who score the individual movements based on harmony, rhythm and expression, the impression should be of horse and rider dancing together. Dressage tests are set for all levels of rider starting at walk and trot for beginners. After many years of training some will progress to Grand Prix, the pinnacle of the sport contested at the Olympics. Look out for the freestyle choreographed to music. Buzzwords include piaffe, passage and pirouette.

Para-Equestrian Dressage is the Equestrian discipline that is included in the Paralympic Games. Competitors ride set dressage tests in exactly the same way as their able bodied counterparts with the complexity of the test based on the athletes impairment classification. The Grades range from Grade Ia for the most severely impaired, to Grade IV for the least impaired. The main governing body and source of information is British Dressage.

Nick Skelton jumping to gold for TeamGB on Big Star at Rio 2016
Nick Skelton jumping to gold for TeamGB on Big Star at Rio 2016

Show jumping is where horse and rider jump over coloured fences, obstacles and water jumps, the main aim is to get round without a refusal or knocking over a fence for which the horse and rider are given penalty points. In the result of everyone jumping a clear round, then a jump off will take place usually against the clock. This sport is something that novice riders can take part in at a grassroots pony club or riding club level. Visit British Showjumping for more details on the rules, where to find a trainer.

Eventing is the triathalon of the horse world where horse and rider compete in 3 phases, the first is dressage, the second cross country and the third element is showjumping. Cross Country is the muddy cousin of showjumping, with solid fences ridden over uneven ground, a course is designed to test horse and rider's endurance and skill - typically the course uses rustic wooden jumps instead of brightly coloured fences. The aim is to be the horse and rider with the fewest points after completing all elements. Visit British Eventing for more information.

Other Horse Sports

Endurance consists of riding across long distances competitively. for this horse and rider need to have been in training to be as fit as possible. More details on the competitive sport is available at Endurance GB. Distance riding is an activity suitable for beginners at entry level with pleasure rides starting at around 16km and with routes often running through beautiful countryside. The sport gets more technical as it progresses with competitive rides of 160+km - where support crew and veterinary checks to ensure the welfare of the horse become integral.

Carriage driving at the 2014 World Equestrian games in Lisieux, France
Carriage driving at the 2014 World Equestrian games in Lisieux, France

Carriage driving is a form of competitive horse driving where one, two or four horses are harnessed to a vehicle and controlled by "the driver" who sits in the carriage. They are accompanied by at least one groom who provides support at obstacles or when driving on roads help to ensure safe crossing at junctions. This can be a pleasure activity for all ages, and abilities. In competitive horse driving trials combinations compete three phases similar to eventing without the jumping; driven dressage; marathon which includes timed phases and solid obstacles to negotiate at speed and a cones round, equivalent to the accuracy test of showjumping. For more information visit British Carriage Driving. The Riding for the Disabled Association provides therapeutic opportunities for carriage driving for anyone with a disability.

Britain's Shane Borland reining at the 2015 European Equestrian Championship in Germany
Britain's Shane Borland reining at the 2015 European Equestrian Championship in Germany

Reining is a style of western riding originating from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors. The equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. Riders complete a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops designed to showcase the agility and obedience of the horse. Likened to a Western form of dressage with both disciplines requiring finesse and correctness, demonstrating the unity of horse and rider. British Reining is the governing body for the sport in the UK and they hold events across the country for all levels throughout the year.


Woman volunteering in a stable

Volunteers are vital to the sport and the varied opportunities can offer a valuable insight in to the specialist equine disciplines. There are often chances to meet experienced competitors, stewards and judges who can give you guidance, support and inspiration. All the specialist equine sport pages have volunteer pages - go the page of the sport you are interested in to find out more.

You can also go to Join In UK,Volunteer Now in Northern Ireland or Volunteers Scotland to find an opportunity near you.

Aspire to be like

Charlotte Dujardin

What next?

1. Go to our Activity Finder to find events near you.

2. Visit the British Equestrian Federation or the British Horseriding Authority to find local horse riding and racing opportunities in your area.

3. Share your story and inspire others.

Are you inspired to try rowing? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the sport by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired, visiting us on Facebook or email us on

See our full list of activity guides for more inspiration.