Tired of riding alone and bored of hacking around the same route? Maybe a pleasure ride is for you. There are hundreds organised throughout the UK every year. Joining a pleasure ride is a great way to meet fellow riders, enjoy the great outdoors and ride in new areas that may not otherwise be accessible to you. So are pleasure rides all they are cracked up to be and is there likely to be an opportunity to join one in your area?
Ellie Head, who has organised pleasure rides in East Anglia for 25 years, believes that the opportunities to join these groups are limitless. One of the best places to start is the BHS website, where access groups are listed.
Endurance GB has details of the pleasure rides it organises on its website, but these can be a little more serious and even if you take part in an unvetted Group Ride, it has to be completed at a minimum speed.
If you are a beginner, therefore, it is probably best to seek out your local pleasure ride group, which will allow you to go at a speed at which you feel comfortable. If there isn’t a BHS ride in your area, try Horse Dates, Facebook groups or just Google ‘pleasure rides’ and see what pops up.
Which pleasure ride should you join?
Pleasure rides tend to be between five to 15 miles long, with a few up to 20 miles. Choose a ride that matches your level of experience.
Rides are organised on various going, sometimes on private estates, over moors, along bridleways or in forests, where the ground on permanent tracks tends to be good. For those up for a bigger challenge, public rights of way can offer a step up, such as the Trans Pennine Trail, which can include long daily rides and overnight stops.
What happens in a pleasure ride?
Most pleasure rides will start at around 10am and will be over by 2pm. You will be emailed details about timings and the route when you sign up. “Most fun rides offer a variety of distances on the same day. Be aware which ride you will be tackling before you set out,” advises Head.
The first step on arrival will be to check in with the ride secretary. At the start you will be dispatched with a couple of minutes between you and the horse in front.
As you near the end of the ride, walk the last part to allow your horse to cool down. After you have been presented with a rosette, dismount and either cool your horse or rug him up, depending on the conditions. In fact, it’s a good idea to have everything ready for your return to your lorry before you even set out.
How fast do you ride?
There is no time limit and you can go at any speed you wish to, provided you don’t upset other horses by rushing past.
Those wishing to go at a quicker pace will be sent out early by the starter — so let the organiser know on your entry form if you wish to ride within a particular time band.
Quiet and safe
If you are an inexperienced rider, a quiet and safe mount will make your first experience of pleasure rides infinitely more fun. On BHS and EGB rides there are also rules that prevent overtaking without the rider behind first being given permission.
Bear in mind that you might be covering longer distances, and possibly more hilly terrain, than you usually do on a hack, so your horse will need to be fairly fit.
Rather than going on a pleasure ride alone, if you generally hack out with someone else, why not join a pleasure ride together? However, no one should be put off if they have to go alone as the trail riding fraternity prides itself on being friendly and approachable.
Your usual bridle and saddle will suffice on a pleasure ride. Make sure that you have the right bit, too, to ensure that you have brakes. Riders need to wear a hat that meets BHS safety standards, while some choose to sport a body protector too. The right kind of footwear is also essential.
If you plan to progress on to EGB rides, you will need to check the rules as certain items, such as spurs, aren’t allowed.
Get it covered
Pleasure rides really are supposed to be fun, so go out an enjoy yourself, but be aware that if things do go wrong, the event will be covered by insurance and so will you, under your membership of the BHS or EGB.