Skip to content

Column: Horsing Around in Richmond (part 3)

It's a case of no reins, no stirrups, no problem for News reporter during his third riding lesson
In his third lesson, News reporter Alan Campbell learned how to ride one-handed, and ‘bridging the reins,’ as he shows in this photo while riding Chance this week.

In a bid to strike something off his bucket list, Newsreporter Alan Campbell enlisted the help of Yolanda Blommers, of Richmond’s Blue Meadow Farm, to teach him how to ride a horse.

Over the next few weeks (or maybe months), at her three-acre riding school in rural, south-east Richmond, Blommers will be digging into her 30 plus years of coaching expertise to get Campbell competent in the saddle.

Follow his progress weekly in his Horsing Around column

Horsing Around
Yolanda Blommers owns and operates the Blue Meadow Farm horseback riding school in rural, south-east Richmond


With the reins tied in a knot and out of reach, it was time to take my feet out of the stirrups and put my hands on my hips.

I think it’s important to note I was on top of a moving horse.

Granted, the horse, Chance, only got as “fast” as a trot.

But when you’ve no reins to hold onto and no stirrups to anchor your weight, all while going around in circles, it feels like you could tip out of the saddle and break bones at any given second — which is what I suspect some readers (and definitely my mates) are waiting/wanting to happen.

Indeed, there was nothing but the grace of God - and a vice-like grip with my thighs - keeping me from going UR (unseated rider in horse racing parlance).

I admit there were a couple of baby wobbles from side to side, where it had the potential to produce the goods for the aforementioned “fan” base.

But once Yolanda told me to slightly twist my torso inwards, it all but neutralized the wobbles. Sorry, folks, no UR today.

The weather was so good for News reporter's third horse riding lesson that instructor Yolanda took the session with Chance outdoors

Feet back in the stirrups, reins untied and back in the hands and it was like driving a Range Rover with new tires, when all you’ve known is a Hyundai Accent with balding, all-seasons.

OK, I may have exaggerated the transition for effect, but going from hanging on for your life to being in total control is quite a leap in a few seconds for a novice rider.

Truth be told, Yolanda, via the lunge line, had it all under control during these “lunge lessons,” which she said are for balance and used for beginner to advanced riders to stay centred and improve straightness.

And I was never more than one frantic grab of the saddle pommel away from rescuing myself.

Earlier in the lesson, we went over a few of the basics again to warm me up and progressed into riding one-handed, while “bridging” the reins with the other.

Sitting during the trot and then posting the trot (motioning hips back and forth to the horse’s stride) with the now requisite sight of my delicates slamming into the saddle pommel.

Should I be wearing protection? It sure feels like it, but I’m told that it’s not a practise peculiar to horse riding. It certainly focuses the mind to get the posting correct!

Yolanda got me into the two-point, “show-jumping” position; butt off saddle during the trot (without posting), grabbing a bit of Chance’s mane and using my knees to balance the weight.

And being a horse racing fan, I could visualize, for a split second, attacking a jump. OK, I may have taken that too far.

Eric Lamaze I am not, and never will be. But one can dream.

Prior to the lesson, I had asked my more experienced equine fanatic, Megan, how to keep the horse moving while I was riding and trying to perfect the various techniques being taught by Yolanda.

Suffice to say, if you take your foot off the gas in a car, it is going to slow down and stop at some point.

With a horse, as I’ve learned, the regression to a halt tends to happen a lot quicker than when driving.

Both Megan and Yolanda explained that the gas pedal is replaced by your heels and calves. Chance, being a seasoned lesson horse, is always waiting for the pedal being pressed.

Remembering to press it, however, while trying to stay upright, posting, keeping your heels down, eyes front and hands positioned correctly etc. is easier said than done.

But it feels like I’m getting better?

The plan is to record a short video next week, so everyone can judge for themselves how good, or bad, I am.

Let’s hope, no matter how many of mates’ fingers are crossed, it won’t be footage of me rolling around in the dirt.