There’s something very natural about riding a horse.
For most of our lives we’re accustomed to the relatively smooth rides of motor vehicles, rather than the bumpy gait of quadrupeds.
Being in the saddle for the first time is a startling but satisfying experience. Fortunately Cardiff is home to a great place to learn.
Briwnant Riding Centre in Rhiwbina is extraordinary in its nearness to the city as well as its idyllic rural setting. It’s a short journey from urban hive to peaceful countryside.
Husband and wife Paul and Sarian Knott have run the centre for almost three years. They have doubled the number of horses it holds in that time.
“When I married her I knew I would have to learn about horses,” said Paul, 57, a former army mechanic who only started riding 20 years ago.
Equestrianism might have a slightly posh image, but the centre caters for a wide variety of people.
As well as the usual children’s birthday parties, it teaches disadvantaged people who rarely get to see nature how to ride.
Problem kids, as Paul calls them, react differently around the animals, and the centre has been used for therapeutic purposes.
Social services often bring people with learning disabilities to Briwnant to learn how to ride.
It also provides an interesting diversion for bored housewives. Paul says many women who rode horses as young girls will book in a day’s riding at the centre before picking up their children from school.
The police have used the staff’s expertise to train their horses to the incredibly disciplined standard required.
Despite all this trade, financially the centre is only just ticking by. It receives no support from the council and has to survive commercially.
“We just about break even. We could do with more customers,” Paul said.
He has hopes for a permanent roof over the parade ground which would enable riding in the winter. He also wants to construct a three-mile horse track around the farmland in north Rhiwbina.
“I would like to see more schools sending children to learn how to ride, particularly from around Cardiff,” he said.
The animal welfare side of the centre is also very important. Paul has nursed former race horses back to health after they were left psychologically disturbed, a process which can take up to five years.
He and his wife are happy to put in the work though. He said: “It’s our passion. We do it for the lifestyle really, it’s certainly not about the money.”
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