14 March 1997

Two million are already seated & more to come

WHILE an estimated 2m people ride each week there are millions more who would like to give the sport a try.

That is the thinking behind National Riding Week (Mar 23-29), a promotion suggested by the British Equestrian Trades Association, taken up by all the major equestrian sporting, training and welfare organisations and presided over by the Princess Royal.

The aim is to get 1m people not only to take an interest in the sport during National Riding Week but to actually get involved. More than 2500 events have been arranged for the week in which each day is dedicated to a particular aspect of horsey activity: Sunday is competitions day; Monday is welfare day; Tuesday is careers, education and training day; Wednesday is countryside and safety day; Thursday is opportunities for the disabled day; Friday is "take a friend riding" day, when regular riders are being encouraged to take a friend along with them for a free or discounted lesson, and Saturday is fun day, with heaps of sporting activities and many local ones arranged by riding schools and equestrian centres. A National Riding Week hotline (01926-334422) has been set up to give information about local events and offers.

Many colleges are supporting National Riding Week by opening their equine departments to the public and putting on displays.

Writtle College, Chelmsford is heading its countys National Riding Week input by staging The Day of the Essex Horse, in conjunction with local members of the British Horse Society, on Sun, Mar 23 at the equine unit in Cow Watering Lane, Writtle

"It will be an over-arching day with demonstrations, lectures, clinics and static displays," says the dean of applied science Liz Warr who will be contributing a talk and video on equine nutrition. Equine services and organisations will stage displays, while the programme of activities runs from Pony Club mounted games, through dressage, horse trials training with international eventer Sarah Cotton, carriage driving, vaulting, Riding for the Disabled, and Western riding, to a show jumping clinic.

Holme Lacy College, Hereford has a crowded programme of activities spread over several days, beginning on the Sun, Mar 23 with the official opening of The Sling, the colleges new cross country course. Riding for Disabled members will be give a display and later in the week tackle a sponsored ride. On the Monday there is a programme of talks and demonstrations during the day and an evening question time on getting horses fit, chaired by the college principal, Peter Savidge.

Anybody over 15 is welcome to go along for a hands-on session of lungeing, bandaging and grooming on Tues, Mar 25 when experts will be on hand to give advice on training, and those wanting to learn side saddle should not miss the afternoon demonstration by Lindsay Smith. Wednesday evening is put aside for the Holm Lacy Equine Safety challenge, a competition for riding club teams. Activities conclude with a clear round show jumping competition. All inquiries to Emma Harris (01432-870316).

College open day

Third-year HND equine students at Brackenhurst College, Southwell, Notts, are organising an open day on Mar 25 and have invited many of the colleges old students along to talk about the careers they are forging in a wide range of equine activities. Tickets are not required but anyone who would like to take advantage of the riding opportunities also being offered that day should ring first (01636-817034).

Jeremy Michaels FBHS, head of the equine centre, will be among those giving demonstrations during the open day (Mar 25) at Hartpury College, Hartpury, Gloucester. Students will be working as on a normal college day and visitors can see them in action, learn about career opportunities and take a tour of the centre which will host the European Pony Championships in July.

Guided tour

The Northern Racing College, Rossington Hall, Great North Road, Doncaster (01302-865462) offers a 2-3 hour guided tour starting at 10am during its open day (Mar 25).

The British Racing School, Snailwell Road, Newmarket, Suffolk is also opening its doors to the public that day. In the morning (9.30-12.30) visitors can see activities in the yard and the groups of horses going out to exercise, while guided tours are offered at 1.30pm and 2.30pm. Inquiries (01638-665103).

Brinsbury College, Pulborough, West Sussex, (01798-873832) Lackham College, Lacock, Wilts (01249-443111) and Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria (01768-863791) are also planning activities.

Ann Rogers

The indoor arena at Writtle College which has 300 full-time equine students on a range of courses from BTEC

First Diploma to Honours Degree.

Left:The Princess Royal who is president of National Riding Week. Above:A musical ride performance given by Writtle HND students at an open day. A dressage to music demonstration by Elaine Sibley is on the programme for The Day of the Essex Horse.