Rhik Samadder tries … horseriding: ‘I pretend I am in control. I feel like the Marlboro man’
It should be alarming to be up this high, but it’s weirdly calming. Is it possible I’m forming an emotional bond with Bumble?
I loved my driving theory test. It involved a video game of old people and dogs, the idea being I had to try not to kill them, like a reverse Grand Theft Auto. I assumed that driving a horse would involve a similar amount of sit-down theory, perhaps an instructional DVD. Yet, within minutes of my arrival at Silvermere Equestrian Centre in Surrey, instructor Charly Press has told me to throw my leg over and sit on top of Bumble, a real horse. I’m not qualified for this, and, incidentally, never passed my actual driving test. I’m too good at Grand Theft Auto.
“Don’t you have any trousers?” Press asks. It’s a hot day, and I don’t. “I guess we’re doing this cowboy-style.” She doesn’t mean I have the swagger of a vaquero – in my shorts, helmet and polo top, I look like I’ve been airlifted off a mountain at the taxpayers’ expense. I climb some little circus steps, and get on to a horse for the first time in my life. It feels so wrong. I grew up in south London where only the police or imagined aristocrats rode horses. But times are changing, and the number of people who tried horse riding in 2019 rose to 3 million. (That statistic is from the British Equestrian Trade Association, though obviously one wishes it had been Gallup.) There’s also a less “proper journalism” reason for my visit. I’ve heard that horses are excellent therapists, and my usual therapist is away for the month.