West Pinchbeck riding school allows riders to try their hands at Horseball!
Could you imagine playing a fusion of netball and rugby while on board a horse? Well now horse owners and riders in South Holland will have the opportunity to take part in this exciting game.
Horseball is a fast-paced and exhilarating sport which has been running in this country for more than 20 years but there are new plans in place to increase the number of people playing.
Teams of four players compete for the ball, fitted with leather handles to ensure it can be picked up from the ground at canter, to shoot at a vertical goal.
Invented by a rugby coach and riding instructor Jean Paul Dupont, Horseball is incredibly popular in France and now boasts more than thousands of riders and attracts huge audiences.
Now more riding schools are being encouraged to take part so that it will open the sport up to people who would not normally have the opportunity to play as they do not own a pony.
Sadly, I fall into that category (despite my yearly requests to Father Christmas for a horse and hopes for a big lottery win although my Dad has offered to make me one out of a well-known brand of fried pancakes) and would not have had the opportunity if not for the fantastic Four Winds Equestrian Centre, in Leaveslake Drove, West Pinchbeck.
So after seeing the advert on the yard's Facebook page, I leapt at the chance to try something new.
Our session was led by Hayley Garner, who has been part of the sport for 25 years and plays for Nottingham Knights along with travelling all over the country to coach new players as well as holding down a fulltime job.
She said: "I love Horseball because it is a team sport, an exciting game and is just something different.
"It is a sport for all abilities and you don't have to be young and fit to play. That is one of the great things about it.
"Horseball is also great if you have lost your confidence with riding. I had a bad accident and wouldn't be riding if it it wasn't for horseball.
"We are trying to get more riding schools involved as it gives people who do not own horses the opportunity to play."
Equipment-wise, Horseball is a little different from traditional equine sports. Firstly, the reins are knotted quite short, so they don't get in the way of the action but are still there to help steer the horse, and there is also a belly strap which links both riders' stirrups.
To get warmed-up, our session started by simply passing the ball between us in a (sort-of) straight line down the arena (depending on the riders' steering abilities!) as the horses, Luke, Pru and Domino, initially walked and later trotted.
Having briefly played rugby when I was much younger, I felt like Owen Farrell as we trotted down the arena passing it ...until I dropped it.
And this is where the belly straps come in handy, as another key element of Horseball is the pick-up from the ground which requires a certain amount of bendiness - which I am definitely lacking!
The correct position is to move your outside leg up, bent at the knee while balancing the top of the stirrup on your foot and then lean down the opposite side, holding a neck strap, and reaching down to grab the ball.
Despite Hayley holding onto me as security, I found it impossible to reach it but one of my co-players, Heidi Goodley- Gray, not only managed it while the horse was stood still but also at walk!
Another element of Horseball, which lends itself from rugby, is the use of the line-out. As we had no opposing team during the session, we were able to practice throwing in and set pieces to move the ball forward as if we were shooting for the goal.
This was again a lot of fun as we had to move our horses into positions to pass the ball between us before tearing off for the goal.
I would definitely recommend Horseball in the future as it's not only a huge amount of fun and incredibly exciting but I've also found that it's helped with my leg aids which is something I have struggled with in the past.
It would also not have been as enjoyable without my amazing steed, Luke, who was incredibly honest and really seemed to enjoy the session.
Four Winds will be hosting another Horseball session on November 16 and December 14, which costs £28 for an hour's tuition and horsehire. To book call 01775 640 533 or email Paula@Fourwindsequestrian.co.uk
More by this authorVictoria Fear