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Use and characteristics of Leisure Horses
Before deciding to buy a leisure horse, first time purchasers should be realistic about their own capabilities. Choosing the right horse is dependent on factors such as the physical fitness, height and weight of the rider. A horse or pony for leisure riding can be any height or colour, though some breeds have been developed to cater for the pleasure rider. Cobs of various kinds are popular in the UK. A good source of suppliers who will sell a leisure horse or pony can be found in the British and European native breed societies. Regional breeds such as the Highland, the Basque Pottok and the German Classic pony are good choices for family ponies. American breeds like the Rocky Mountain Horse make great leisure horses for trail riding, too.
Origin and history of breeding Leisure Horses
Horse riding was once an everyday activity for most people. Men, women and children all rode horses until the arrival of the car. Even those who didn’t own horses may have travelled on horseback. Records show that when maidservants needed to move from one job to the next, they would travel as “half a pack” seated on the back of a pack horse. People rode for pleasure, and they also rode because they needed to get from one place to another, often over great distances. The only alternative was to walk or to ride in a coach, and not everyone could afford that. Riding as a leisure activity began after the invention of the steam train in the early nineteenth century made long-distance travel a lot faster and more comfortable. People continued riding for other reasons. They would dress up and ride in places such as Hyde Park, or enjoy a canter along the beach simply for the pleasure of riding. There was already a stock of suitable riding horses since breeders had been producing reliable, sound riding horses for as long as people had ridden! In Britain, horses for everyday riding were – and are – called hacks. Some were simply sound, sensible horses, while others were showier, for people who were park riders. Elsewhere in the world, reliable horses for travelling long distances were still being bred, especially in those areas where there was not yet a railway network. Horses with smooth gaits like the Icelandic horse and the American gaited breeds are very comfortable to ride. These countries did not lose their traditions of gaited riding horses, unlike Britain and parts of Europe where these breeds had disappeared, probably by the eighteenth century, in favour of trotting horses. Today leisure riders are rediscovering the comfort of riding gaited horses that amble and rack.
Leisure Horses in equestrianism
No leisure horse needs to be a member of a particular breed. Those who ride for pleasure simply want a sensible, kind and willing horse as a partner to view the world.