(This is a contributed post)
Horse Back Riding as a First Date
By Nancy Smythe
So you want to suggest an equestrian outing as a first date. It could certainly be romantic in a riding-off-into-the-sunset kind of way...or not.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan your outing to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
It is important to consider that riding a horse, even a calm, well trained one can still be risky. This is a living animal, not an amusement park ride and the risk of falling off is real.
Things such as severe allergies (to the horse, dust or hay), mobility issues etc may limit what kind of activities you can do.
Be sure to ask your date ahead of time if he or she has allergies or any other issues that would prevent them from enjoying the activity you have planned.
So to start, what kind of activity would you and your date prefer?
There are a surprising number of stables that offer a variety of services to novice riders within an hour radius of most downtown areas. It is important to choose a place that will offer the type of experience you both are looking for but with an acceptable level of safety.
It may be for a half hour trail ride all the way to full weekend trail rides with camping, or an hour introductory riding lesson, or even just a petting zoo/farm visit type of experience.
A good place to start your search would be with the Provincial (or State) equestrian association of your area. In the province of Quebec we have Cheval QuÈbec and the Equi-QualitÈ program which lists stables that meet the safety and horse welfare criteria set out by our national equestrian association. There you can search by region and type of activity to find just the right place for your date. If you are referred to a barn that isn't part of Equi-QUalitÈ or a similar program, it may still be a good place, but make sure of the following:
Are they insured? It is generally standard to be required to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks. If they don't have one to sign, they probably aren't insured in case of an accident.
If you are going to ride, do they have helmets for you to wear? It should also be standard that they have you wear a helmet. If they don't, not a good sign either.
Is your guide certified by your national or provincial association? This is not necessarily standard (and not really necessary if you are visiting a farm but not intending to ride) but is becoming more common and also goes a long way to ensuring your safety and enjoyment of the outing.
If they are sending you and your date out on the trail with a non-certified teenager as a guide, definitely not a good idea. Most associations will have lists of certified trainers, instructors and guides available on their web sites.
Once you've booked your outing and are preparing to leave, make sure you and your date are properly dressed. Skirts, dresses, shorts, sandals and high heels that are commonly worn clothes for summer dates are major no-no’s. It is dangerous, uncomfortable and a reputable place shouldn't even allow you to ride in such clothing.
The best clothing for riding is fairly close fitting but not restricting. Sports pants and boots with a small heel (similar to cowboy boots) are ideal for the average trail ride. Jeans are ok, but unless you have real riding jeans, you are likely to get blisters or chaffing in all the wrong places because of the seams. Not particularly conducive to continuing the date after the ride.
Sun block and insect repellent is recommended as with all outdoor activities.
Now you and your date are at the barn and ready to ride! Make sure you pay attention to the instructions your guide gives you. Following guidelines will keep you safe and help to ensure an enjoyable ride.
Do not insist on galloping or even trotting if your date isn't comfortable with it. Going at speed on a horse is not as easy as it looks. It takes skill and balance that is most often developed by many hours in the saddle.
So while keeping the horse at a walk may not satisfy the adrenaline seekers out there, it may still prevent a trip to the hospital.
Be respectful of your date's comfort zone.
Trail riding or visiting a farm can be a great way to get some quiet time to talk and get to know your date while enjoying a natural setting. So plan ahead, be prepared and enjoy the ride!
Nancy Smythe has been certified by the Canadian Equestrian Federation (now Equestrian Canada) and the Federation Èquestre du Quebec (now Cheval Quebec) as a Level 1 Trainer since 1991. She has supported numerous riders and their horses in achieving their personal goals, whether those goals are to win a Championship, overcome a particular fear or simply improve communication between horse and rider to instill safe riding skills.
To contact Nancy you can reach her through her Facebook