Real-life Drama: I learnt to ride in Cyprus!
Akrotiri Saddle Club (ASC) in Cyprus is a great community of young and senior members who all share a love of horses. I lived in Cyprus for three years, and over that period I learnt to ride and took part in many competitions against other riding clubs in Limassol and Larnaca.
My favourite competition was the All Island Horse Show. This is the biggest in Cyprus and many people take part, but it was the first time Ben, I, and most of the other members had competed. I loved the jumping and enjoyed the dressage but the funniest part was when my brother’s pony, Jeffar, slipped in the arena and Ben slid off. He took off his hat and threw it away – he was so annoyed with himself! Everyone laughed but Ben was allowed to get back on and finish his test.
HOT, HOT, HOT!
Akrotiri Saddle Club is run by Jill McCool with many great instructors, grooms and volunteers. Joining the Club was my first experience of horse riding lessons and making friends was easy in the Saddle Club and everyone helped you get on. Riding in Cyprus is a lot different to riding in any other place as we can ride along the beach, on the cliffs and in the hot sun. It’s fun and exciting.
In the holidays the Club holds camps were you get to learn ride and groom the horses. We also had dressage and jumping camps and we had lots of fun with our friends. On Boxing Day we all went for a hack to the Station Commander’s house and he gave us all sweets and drinks. It was great as I went with my mum, and Ben and all my friends walked with us. In Cyprus it is still warm at Christmas!
IT TOOK MY MIND OFF THINGS
The Saddle Club was great as it helped me not to worry when my dad got posted to Afghanistan for four months. Everyone in the Saddle Club helped me and my brother Ben through this tough time. Helping and riding at the yard really took our minds off our dad being away, and kept us out from under my mum’s feet!
I was also able to complete my YELA (Young Equestrian Leaders Award), this rewarded my help around the yard and Jill and the instructors made sure I had lots of cool things to help out with, not just sweeping the yard (although that is what Ben liked doing the most!). We also got awards for our riding as we worked through different levels. These certificates prove my riding ability so if I ride again somewhere else, my new instructors will know my riding standard.
I also helped with the Pony Club for the younger children, and we went on some great visits; one day we went to see a Cypriot stud farm – they do things very differently from here in the UK but it was great, and the little foals were amazing.
The highlight of my time riding in Cyprus was meeting Martin Clunes as he came to visit the Saddle Club when it had been given Independent Partnership of the British Horse Society. Martin, who is the BHS President, came for the weekend and we held a show in his honour and he helped with the judging. He was so friendly and kind – he even signed my friend’s riding boots!
SAD TO SAY GOODBYE
Being in a military family means you can go to great places like Cyprus to live and ride, but it has its downsides, too, as me and my brother had to leave Cyprus after three years to go to boarding school. We were upset as we wanted to carry on riding, but since we left Akrotiri Saddle Club we haven’t been able to. We loved our time there and strongly recommend people there to join. It was a great experience and one I’ll never forget. We miss everyone, especially my friends, but we do get to visit the horses and ponies when we go back to see our mum and dad.