The ancient bond between man and horse endures in modern age

Morning View
Morning View

News of the closure of the riding school at Lessans near Saintfield will be met with sadness to the many thousands of people who learned to ride there.

The proprietor, Philippa Auret, is staying in the equestrian business, but focusing on providing a livery service.

There are still many other schools, and Ms Auret will help direct her pupils to some of them.

Running a riding school has become an increasingly burdensome process for their owners as society has become more litigious. Horse riding is, and will always be, dangerous. Injuries are inevitable among even the most experienced horse people. The only thing anyone who regularly gets on a horse can hope for is that they will avoid serious injury.

But for all the risks, and for all the advances in technology that provide people with multiple other options for their free time, horse riding will be a part of societies for as long as there are both horses and humans.

Horses were of course much more at the heart of daily life a century or more ago than they are today. The early News Letters, in the years after the paper’s founding in 1737, are crammed with news about horses: there are reports of races, or of accidents or of horse thefts — which was a hanging offence until the early 1800s, such was the preciousness of horses. There are advertisements of horses for sale.

And yet, while the advent of rail and cars meant that horses became much less central to movement, and while many people are far less aware of horses than they were in the past, the enduring and almost mystical bond between man and horse is undimmed.

Learning to ride a horse remains a rite of passage for many young people, particularly girls.

They might well give up the activity in adulthood, but they are unlikely to forget the relationship that is forged by having to control, but be humble around, such a powerful creature.