Rein Check: Learning to Ride Requires Concentration, ControlHorseback riding clubs are a favorite autumn activity for horse lovers wanting to enjoy the great outdoors. A 10-minute car ride along the Seomgang River from Wonju city in Gangwon province will take you to a place called the Goryeo Horseback Riding Club. There, you can see a herd of horses freely galloping through a field, despite a scorching sun on their backs.
At the banks of the nearby Seomgang River, I could see several people already riding, taking their horses into the knee-deep river to cool off. It looked like a lot of fun, and I mentioned that to my host.
"Horseback riding through the water is out-of-bounds for novices, because dangers can occur without warning," said Kim Jung-il, a representative of the club. It is only after practicing riding for three to four days, learning how to handle the horse within the fences, that you are allowed to ride in the open with an instructor.
After receiving a 30-minute lecture on horseback riding, I put my feet in the stirrups of 7-year-old Taki, my horse for the day. I hollered out an awkward yelp and lightly kicked his sides with my heels, but Taki remained still.
Obviously, I was doing something wrong. I thought back to the lecture, and remembered one of the tips I had received. I stroked the horse's face and then let out a forceful kick. That got Taki moving. Fast. All too fast for my taste, and he was showing no signs of slowing down. My body bounced painfully in the saddle and a rain of sweat fell from my forehead. I remembered yet another lesson, and pulled in the reins, slowing the horse down to a more manageable speed.
For a novice like me, though, there was too much to worry about at first, even at more modest speeds, for me to enjoy the surroundings.
But gradually, I found myself growing confident enough to quickly turn my head and view the early autumn landscape and feel the fresh breeze blowing.
I must have been riding for 30 minutes when I let out a whoop and, with a little tug on the reins, brought the horse to a halt. I dismounted and patted the horse's neck. Safely back on terra firma, I felt much closer to my horse than I ever did in that precarious saddle.
Most horseback riding clubs require memberships, but some of them are now selling lesson packs, from individual lessons to 10 lessons. Unak Horseback Riding Club (031-532-3732) located in Pocheon county, Kyonggi province, charges 50,000 won (about $39) for an hour of riding. For novices, a day-long program riding along a trail on a Mongolian horse is also offered. Prices range from 50,000 won to 150,000 won according to the trail, and only groups of five persons and above may apply.
Goryeo Horseback Riding Club (033-732-0906) does not offer one-day programs, but 10-time riding coupons are available for 400,000 won, and three people can share the coupons.
A one-hour ride at Namyang Horseback Riding Club (031-356-8421) in Hwaseong city, Kyonggi province costs 40,000 won and a 10-coupon special for beginners costs 250,000 won.
Another club in Kyonggi province, the Ilsan Horseback Riding Club (031-977-0227) has a special of seven lessons over the course of the month for 260,000 won. There are around 100 riding clubs around the peninsula, but only 18 of them are legally registered. Therefore, if a rider has an accident, only those riding at a registered riding club can receive insurance benefits.
As for the clothing, all you need is a pair of comfortable pants and sneakers. The riding clubs will provide you with a riding hat and leather gaiters for free.
by Sung Si-yoon