Every year a friend of mine gives up a week of her time in the summer to run a Youth Clinic for young riders. The aim of the clinic is of course to hone their riding skills, but also to encourage them to socialise with other youngsters, and learn how to help themselves and each other. I have volunteered in the past but as I know very little about horses, and the bewildering array of tack they wear, I’m not much use! But I can ride and I like horses and enjoy their antics so this year I thought I’d go along to take some photos – you know, document the goings on for posterity.
The first day was horrendous as we had to endure torrential rain, but as they say ‘the show must go on’ – I’ve come to the conclusion that riders are no different from, say, golfers in their attitude to weather conditions: there are two types – ‘rainy’, which is ‘okay’ and ‘dry’, which is better!
The Youth Clinic is held in the beautiful grounds of Monnington Stud, which nestles in the Herefordshire countryside alongside the River Wye. The facilities for the horses are second to none with a beautiful stable block, a green and schooling areas galore for the lucky equine residents.
A lot of those who sign up to the Youth Clinic bring their own horses and therefore their own accommodation – it seems horse trailers have come a long way. Some of the children still like to camp out – it adds to the excitement, so they bring tents ……. and scooters ………. and bikes ………… and their favourite teddy and ……….. well, you get the idea.
An hour or two is spent on the first morning getting the children settled and playing name games, but the very young ones must to be accompanied by a parent so there are plenty of adults on hand if they fall over, get homesick etc.
After breakfast and the group photo it’s all hands to the pumps.
Carriage driving is one of the activities the kids can do but horse riding is also about tacking up and bonding with that ‘gentle giant’ (hah!) No, obviously these equines are hand picked for their kind temperament and patience. The objective is for the week to be fun, but they do a lot and so they learn a lot.
So as not to overwhelm them on the first day, a trip to Gifford’s Circus was planned for the afternoon. It was great fun – Gifford’s is a tiny family run affair and the star of the show was definitely the clown, who held it all together and kept us entertained for over two hours.
The week always ends with a gymkhana and a fancy dress parade and lots of rosettes being given out. The visiting judge casts her critical eye over proceedings and I’m sure all the young riders feel they have achieved a lot. Some have come from as far afield as Manchester so they must think it’s worth it. It wouldn’t happen without the dedication of the stud manager, Trudy, the owners of the stud, Angela Connor and John Bulmer, but it most definitely wouldn’t happen without the dedication of my good friend Hilary.