With Fulham mums rumbling their 4x4s down the narrowest streets, lycra-clad cyclists whizzing at 40mph, construction wagons turning into their blind spots and busses coming twice at once, London doesn’t seem to be the natural place to take up riding. Horses, famously, enjoy grass, open fields and and not doing a cavalry charge at Picadilly Circus tourists. But, head to London’s green spaces and suddenly it’s easy to see why London is home to more horses than any other capital, and why so many of us are heading out to do what the Americans anatomically correctly call ‘horse-back-riding’.
Wimbledon is so village-like that at times you think you must be deep in the rural beyonds. Then you spot the Ivy Café. But one of the most countrysidey aspects of the place are the clipperty clop of the horses trotting through the village to and from Wimbledon Village Stables.
The stables has plenty of helpful stuff, horses for instance, but also horse simulators, yoga and fitness classes and so on, but the real value-add is the proximity to Wimbledon Common. The immense stretch of countryside stretching from Wimbledon to Richmond.
Apparently horses have been a common sight in Hyde Park since at least the reign of Henry VIII whose Tudor court would use the park as a hunting ground. The royal coachmen (and, presumably coachwomen) exercise the Buckingham Palace horses every morning in the park.
But it’s not just royalty who can take their horses up and down the famous carriage ways. And if you fancy joining the ghosts of king Henry’s hunters then head to Ross Nye Stables. Founded in 1965, the stables are an unexpected discovery down Bathurst Mews, and claim to be the the longest-established riding school in Central London.
From Wimbledon to Knightsbridge to, um, Mudchute. But don’t mock, this DLR destination boasts an equestrian centre that’s one of the best in London. As well as an all weather floodlit riding arena, offering year-round facilities with show jumps and cross-country fences, there’s also 32 acres of countryside right in the heart of East London over which to ride.
It’s ever-so-smart, of course, but this is Richmond. Stag Lodge Stables sits on the borders of Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park and have been sending horses out into these open spaces since the seventeenth century!
Operating from two sites, the ‘original’ Stag Lodge, which is at the Robin Hood Gate to Richmond Park, and the cunningly named Stag Lodge 2, which is a multi-stable, multi-arena 11-acre site half a mile down the road.
They offer lessons, hacks around the huge park, Shetland Pony rides and have one of the largest Pony Club Centres in the whole country.
So popular there’s a two to three month waiting list, Vauxhall City Farm offer riding lessons, jumping lessons, disabled riding, with their eight on-site horses and ponies. For £80 your child can clean up the horses’ poo, learn about pony care and, finally, ride them thanks to the ‘own a pony’ (for a day) scheme.
Set on the oldest of London’s city farms, you can enjoy a wide array of animals, right in the centre of London.