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What's this blog all about?

Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Ride like they do in Mongolia

Nell bareback on George in Wales.
This blog is about family travel around the world without leaving the UK. Impossible? No. This post is about how taking a ride on a horse just might make you feel as if you are away from it all in Mongolia. Words from Nicola Baird (see www.nicolabaird.com for more info about my eco-friendly books and blogs).   

I was lucky to be allowed huge freedoms as a child - from the age of eight I was riding a 13hh pony around the Hertfordshire lanes and fields. Telstar had almost no brakes and turned into a bolting wreck if we met a tractor. Two ponies later my bigger 15hh mare, Cassiopeia, was traumatised by the sight and sound of pigs. Unfortunately there was a pig farm on two of my favourite routes. If we were attempting to walk on hind legs past the pigs and a car came too fast there could have been a disaster. Indeed riding today on roads is far riskier - people drive faster, in bigger vehicles and there are so many more people driving. Strangely I don't remember ever being frightened by my horses' behaviour - but people drove slower then so I was at less risk of being damaged too.

As a result of the hours I clocked up with horses I took a professional riding qualification (BHSAI) back in 1982 (just before going to university). But nowadays to escort a hack at a BHS approved riding centre - through woodland with no roads at all - I need to upgrade my knowledge with two more exams (one a tourist leisure qualification, the other on Riding and Road Safety.

It's good that riding safety is taken so seriously, but an absolute pain to have to don hard hat, tweed jacket and jods for another exam in order to be allowed out riding in the woods again.  Meanwhile, when I go to stay with friends who have ponies, sometimes I get to take my children out riding on very quiet roads and tracks (see pic of Nell bareback above borrowing Hannah's pony, George).

Me in front, Lola and Nell in Wales. Possibly like Mongolia?
It's not like that in Mongolia. There people are still brought up with horses and have what appears to be the most marvellous roaming life across the huge steepes as they search for fresh summer grazing. My friend Anna has recently been visiting and says that the closest equivalent would be to go on a riding tour across the mountains of Wales. I've had a taste of this in Powys and it really is lovely - high up, stunning long views and often across wild country. Anna recommends Equitours as the place to hire a horse and go for a long, fast, Mongolian-style trek. Actually you could fix up your own style trek across Wales as the British Horse Society has worked hard opening bridleways, see info here on riding holidays.

If actually riding a horse is too much - try the great book by Rupert Isaacson, called Horse Boy (it's a film too) which charts his family's journey to Mongolia to try and help his severely autistic son through contact with horses and life in the vast outdoor safe space of the steppes. It's a really good read.

Over to you
Where in the UK is a lovely place to go for a ride and feel as if you are far from overcrowded Britain? Or what else could I do to get a feel of Mongolian life - besides take a mini-break in a yurt (though that sounds fab)?

1 comment:

Nicola Baird said...

From facebook:
Tim "I once was so bored at a horsey event (my then girlfriend was riding) that I tied the horse I was supposed to be looking after to my shoelace. You can imagine the rest I'm sure. Both relationships did not last."

Nicola Baird "My younger brother had to suffer two older sisters going to lots of horse shows and not riding himself. He says this gave him the highest tolerance possible for boring things. Of course it's quite different if you are riding!"