For my junior year of college, I decided to take the plunge and study abroad in London, England. I was worried that in leaving my horse behind, I would not have as many opportunities to ride. Luckily, I found that I would be able to keep up my riding while abroad.
Research the universities
Many universities have societies or clubs that abroad students are allowed to join! Before going abroad, I looked at the universities in London that were compatible with my schools, to see if they had any riding teams or clubs. I ended up choosing Queen Mary in East London because I wanted the city experience but also wanted a campus feel. Queen Mary University has a club fair in the fall semester, which allows each club to have a table and let the freshman and new students know what they’re all about. Luckily, Queen Mary had an equestrian society, which offered lessons to all riding levels, from those who had never ridden before to seasoned equestrians. The benefit to joining a club on campus is that you can easily become friends with other, fellow equestrians. The equestrian club at QMUL offered socials that included meals, movie nights and pub crawls. I know other equestrian clubs in England and Scotland offer similar opportunities.
Find barns to keep up on your skills
On top of the equestrian club, I wanted to see what barns were in the area so I could take private lessons on my own time. There were so many barns that London had to offer. These stables all had various price points, but most were fairly high (we are talking about London, the most expensive city to live in). I picked Lee Valley Riding Centre, which was only a forty-minute bus journey from my campus. If studying in London, I highly recommend this riding facility! The staff are friendly and helpful and they offered both flat and jumping lessons. They even let me take semi-private lessons with my boyfriend, who had never ridden before. I ended up taking weekly private lessons so I was not completely rusty once I returned to the states. No matter where you study, you’re highly likely to find some barn where you can keep up on your skills.
Go on hacks to see the country
In London, there were many barns where one could ride outside of the ring. Stables in London allowed individuals to go on guided hacks through the green space that the city had to offer. For example, the stables in Hyde Park allow individuals to go on guided hacks through the park, depending on your skill level. Wimbledon Village Stables also offers a variety of lesson and hack packages. Even if you’re not studying abroad in London, look to see if there are any barns in your area that offer these kind of rides, because it is a great way to take in the landscape of the place you’re studying. It is nice to relax and not work on equitation or skills, and just have a thrilling, scenic ride.
Take in the country’s horse culture
While each country’s relationship with horses is different, England’s was great because they take horses and riding so seriously. While I was there, I visited country towns where people ride their horses on the road or through the countryside. Soldiers in England are still trained in the art of riding and they put on shows for tourists. I visited the Royal Mews which still houses royal horses and carriages. It also held a lovely museum which explained the history of the Royal Cavalry up until today. You can tour the Royal Mews and see some of the horses and carriages, which are still used today in parades and events (like the wedding of Prince William and Kate). I also saw the Horse Guard’s Parade which is the changing of the horse guards. There were other events and shows I saw in which horses were used, like war reenactments etc. To me it was neat to see that the tradition of horses is still alive and well in England.
Riding while abroad is such a great experience to have. It allows you to keep up with your sport, while still having the benefit of leaving the US and experiencing a foreign country. I would highly recommend studying abroad! Living in another country allows you to take in a new culture that you would not find on your US campus. Riding while abroad just makes the experience even greater.