This is a video of riding inside the riding school field. My instructor (Wan) get me to canter for a round in school before heading out to the park located next to the riding school. We used the sandy track to head out, which is a much smoother ride when horse canter on sandy track.
This is a video of us riding in the park next to Putrajaya Equestrian Park. The whole track is about 3KM (a rough estimation). It takes about 20-30 minutes if you canter all the way. It will be 40-50 minutes if you trot or walk occasionally. You can see from the following video, the track is pretty clear so it’s possible for you to canter all the way in the track. There will be some 90° degree sharp corner (like the one in the beginning of the video) so it might be a good idea to trot over instead of cantering.
There is a playground (accessible by public) right next to this park. The following is a video of us walking through the playground
Hey riders! This is Daniel Foo, an equestrian enthusiast. My blog shares practical information about riding horses in Malaysia. If you are considering whether to take up horse riding as a sport, go for it. No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle!
For many Malaysians who live in city (like I am), it is not common to have horses as pet. Therefore most of us do not have experience in riding horses. It become really important to take up proper riding lessons before going for more advanced activities with horses.
Riding lessons in Malaysia are offered in packages. You will often see riding schools offer different riding packages with different pricing and different number of session. However, generally you will find the packages as following:
Beginner Level package is usually short sessions from 20-30 minutes for each session. Reason why it is designed to be short session is to allow the student to get used to using specified part of their muscle to ride a horse. In Beginner Level, instructor will pay 1 to 1 attention to the student to ensure the student’s safety. The fee for this package range from RM350 to RM450. The number of session range from 5 sessions to 8 sessions – depending on package offered by different riding school. In this level, student will learn
the correct posture to sit on horse
different types of horse movements (walk, trot, canter)
different aids to communicate with horse (leg, hand, sound)
different terms for the gears on the horse (stirrup, rein, etc)
At the end of your Beginner Level, you should be able to comfortably ask your horse to move forward, bend left / right, and stop. If you are a quick learner, you will be able to trot comfortably as well.
Intermediate Level package is usually longer sessions around 45 minutes each session. In Intermediate Level, the instructor will pay 1 to 1 attention OR the instructor will coach a group of Intermediate Level student together. The fee for this package range from RM450 to RM500. The number of session range from 5 sessions to 8 sessions – depending on package offered by different riding school. In this level, student will practice
consistently displaying correct posture to ride on horses
riding on different horse movements (walk, trot, canter) and the transitions
riding horses using different aids to communicate with horse (leg, hand, sound, whip)
At the end of your Intermediate Level, you should be able to comfortably ride your posing trot and sitting trot. If you are a quick learner, you will be able to canter steadily on different horses. Some student might need to take up more than one Intermediate Level package to be more solid on the riding skills. A good benchmark is when the student can confidently and effortlessly trot and canter on different type of horses.
How to spot a good instructor? I have taken up lessons with couple of instructors, some are harsher, some are friendlier and some just don’t really care. For me, a good instructor is someone who gives me constant feedback by telling me what is my problem and how to fix it. A good instructor should also have strict standard on his students. In other words, do expect a good instructor to shout to you across the paddock “YOUR LEG IS TOO INSIDE!”, “LEAN BACK!”, “OPEN YOUR SHOULDER!”. It might get embarrassing at times but this is the cost to being a good rider.
The number of sessions in the packages offered by riding schools could be a little too short for someone totally new. Do not be discouraged that you have finished up all the session yet you are not good with riding. It takes at least 6 months (which is 20-30 sessions) for someone totally new to be fairly comfortable with riding different horses.
Should you ride the same horse all the time or should you ride different horses? Unless you own a horse yourself, generally it is a good idea to ride different horses to learn the different rhythm in horse movement. It help you to develop your adaptability to quickly adjust your tempo for different horses, so that you can ride on any horses in the future.
One thing to take note is while riding ex-racer (horses which are retired from racing). They are often being bought and retrained to be used in riding school. Please be careful while riding an ex-racer. Although they have been retrained, they could still get pretty excited while cantering. If you are new to cantering or you are learning to canter, it is best to avoid ex-racer.
Half chaps is a protective gear that cover from the ankle to just below the knee. Half chaps are made of either leather or fabrics, and have a zipper or hook and loop closure on the outside. The purpose of wearing a half chaps is to prevent the stirrup leathers from rubbing and pinching your legs. It also save your breech (riding pants) from being dirty quickly. I find half chaps a great choice over full chaps for a few reasons. First, Malaysia whether is HOT, half chaps allows better air circulation. Second, if you are new into horse riding you want to get the basic with minimal cost to keep you going, see if you really like horse riding before investing into better gears. Half chaps is cheaper than full chaps. An entry level pair of half chaps I bought cost RM105 (in 2015). When trying out your chaps, ensure you get your chaps fit perfectly to your leg. If you can’t find one that fit “perfectly”, get the one slightly tighter. Best if you wear your breech (riding pants) while trying out the chaps.
Gloves protect your palm and finger from directly rubbing with reins. It could make your palms or fingers red and painful when you are new and still learning how hard you should hold and pull the reins. A pair of entry level horse riding fabric gloves will cost below RM50. I got one pair for RM35 (in 2015). You can opt for the higher end leather glove. Leather grade will last longer however price will be more expensive and hotter compared to fabric gloves. Again, while choosing gloves do choose a pair that fit your palm comfortably (not too tight and not too loose).
Breech which is more commonly known as riding pants. Breech is a tough yet comfortable wear. I wear my breech for leisure hiking sometimes. Although a lot of people (including the experienced riders) wear a pair of jeans to ride horses, it never hurts to wear the proper attire for riding. It fact it looks much better in breech than in jeans. Breech is slightly tighter than your usual pants but the material is flexible and expandable. Breech has extra padding around the knee level (inner facing). The extra padding serves as an additional layer to prevent your breech from worn out quickly, as riding will be using that part for gripping while riding. An entry level of breech will cost around RM200-RM300.
A whip is an aiding tool to help you to communicate with your horse. The main purpose for using your whip is to ask your horse go faster. The image above is a short whip. You use this type of whip to tap on the horse shoulder. You can also use it to tap at the back but that will require you to put your hand slightly behind. Personally, I prefer use such whip to tap on the back instead of shoulder because it is more effective in asking to ask the horse to go forward. A basic whip will cost around RM30 (in 2016). There is another type of whip which is longer. Riders use it for Polo. It cost slightly more but it is more comfortable to use because it can reach to the back of the horse effortlessly. I personally use a short whip because it cost less and it is easier for storage.
Of all the gears, helmet is the most important because a helmet might just save your life. Needless to say, the helmet is for your head protection. It is to spread the impact of your head on any hard object (for example a rock) if you happen to fall from horse. Touch wood! An entry level helmet cost around RM300-RM400 (in 2015). If you are buying a helmet for your child, consider one that the size is adjustable because your child head is going to grow over years. If you an adult and you are buying one for yourself, buy one that fits your head perfectly. When you are choosing a helmet, be sure to put it on and shake your head a little to test out how firm does it fit into your head. If you buckle up and shake your head yet the helmet moves around even slightly, it’s a sign that the helmet is too loose for you. You should choose one that does not move around even when you shake your head. The degree of “bumpiness” on a horse is much greater than shaking your head yourselves. If the helmet did not survive your shaking, be sure that it will not able to handle the “bumpiness” while you are riding. It will be really uncomfortable if you have to adjust your helmet every 100m while you ride. Having said that, also be sure not to get a super tight helmet as it will feel like your head being squeezed all time during riding that might lead to headache.
Camera (nice to have but not necessary)
A camera that can mount on your helmet is a really great addition to your riding experience. It is not a necessity but definitely something nice to have. Personally I did not get a camera until 1 year into my riding. I like to use the camera to record my outride session to keep it as record for every unique route or place I visit. Click here to look at some of the videos I created from my camera.
A pair of riding boot is essential for riders. It serves 3 main purposes. First, it has a heel which will stop your leg moving too inside into stirrup. If you wear sport shoes which does not have a heel and your leg move way into the stirrup, it is extremely dangerous if you fall from horse at this point because you leg will be hooked inside the stirrup. Your body will be on the ground, your one leg (or maybe both) inside hanging on the horse. It is a really ugly scene you wouldn’t want to imagine. Second, it is water proof. It does not look dirty easily when going through muddy path. It is easy to clean the surface. Third, the back of the boot is pretty high which allow your chaps to wrap your boots tightly. When you are buying boots, be sure to try it on with the socks that you will be wearing while riding. It is alright to buy boots that is slightly tight. As you wear them for a few more times the boots will expand slightly to fit your feet. For beginning, you can consider getting rubber boots rather than leather boots as the price difference is significant. A pair of rubber boot cost around RM200 (in 2015).
While buying your gears, be sure to try it out yourselves personally physically. Remember, you do not want anything that is too loose or too tight. Horse riding is not a “gentle” sport, you need to have your gears tough and fit perfectly well to you. As you probably notice, the upfront investment for gears is slightly on the high side compare to other sports. It might be a good idea to get the minimal basic to keep you going. Once you are in the game and your gears started to get worn out, it’s never too late to upgrade your gear one by one. Have fun!