Something Else

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The Independent Culture
Sick of weaving through traffic jams and belching exhaust fumes? Then try your hand at country-lane hacking with a pony and carriage. Sara Dowe, 33-year-old manager of family-run Bradbourne Riding Centre, will teach you the basics from scratch.

Novices start with 20 minutes on a 'horse simulator'. You learn that reins are held in the left hand, and steering is controlled by the right hand coming across. (Alas, no strap-cracking a la 'Rawhide'.)

You board a harnessed horse and carriage and sit next to an expert rider, who'll take you round an enclosed paddock. Then, when you've had a chance to observe technique in action, the reins will be handed over.

For people who excel, there's a choice of competitive areas to master, such as the thrill of cross country, the frill of dressage, and the skill of slalom (cones).

And, unlike traditional horse-riding, barriers such as old age, injury or arthritis are overcome. 'No painful rising trot,' Sara smiles. The stables also cater for disabled clients, offering five specially adapted carriages. 'Wheelchairs are pushed up a ramp, and clamped onto the vehicle,' she explains.

The sport even offers a solution for parents left holding the pony after their children have grown up. 'We can retrain the animal to pull a carriage. It takes six weeks.' So, there's the answer] Take a few lessons, recycle the family pet, and before you can say neigh, you've got yourself a smoke-free limo.

Bradbourne Riding Centre, Sevenoaks, Kent. Tuition: pounds 8 half-hour, pounds 12 one hour. Open 9am until dark (0732 453592). Details of approved schools: 0203 696697

(Photograph omitted)

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