Equestrians give new meaning to horsing aroundHoofbeats of galloping horses echo through the thick fog one recent morning on a beach along the Taean peninsula in South Chungcheong province.
Galloping down the shore, the sleek animals cut through the wind ― and sometimes splash through the surf.
“I can’t put in words how it feels to be on the back of a horse,” says Choi Hyeon-yi. “I feel like I’m flying in the clouds.” Ms. Choi says she’s so close to her steed, she can even feel the animal’s rapid breathing.
This is Ms. Choi’s first time riding off the track since taking up horseback riding a year ago. The 24-year-old is a member of Mal Dalija, a riding club at the Internet portal Daum that numbered 850 members at last count. Twice a month, the group meets at the Namyang track in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi province. On this particular day, 17 club members have made it to the beach.
Lee Byeong-cheon, a 48-year-old photographer and avid motorcyclist, is one of them. “For some time now, I’ve wanted to ride a horse,” he says. Two months ago, Mr. Lee took the leap, enrolling in an equestrian class offered by the Korea Racing Association.
“Each horse has different characteristics, and riding feels different every time I go out,” Mr. Lee says. “I enjoy the thrill of the unexpected.”
Their manes waving in the breeze, the horses seem more energetic today; it may be because they’re on an open beach with nothing hemming them in.
Suddenly, one horse picks up speed and runs a few hundred meters off the beach. The rider, a 26-year-old office worker, loses his balance and falls off the horse. Fortunately, he escapes from the incident with no serious injuries.
“If they held onto the reins until the end, they wouldn’t fall off. They’d land on their feet,” says a trainer overseeing the riders.
After an hour, the riders’ shirts are soaked with sweat. “When a man rides horseback, he becomes one with the horse,” says Kim Jae-hyun, the head of the equestrian academy.
Experts say riding a horse requires the use of muscles that are not regularly used, so it’s an ideal way to develop the entire body, not to mention proper posture. The up-and-down body movement one experiences while riding is said to give one’s intestines and hips a workout and even prevent constipation and loss of bladder control.
On an average horse, the saddle rests 1.6 meters (5.25 feet) above ground. For first-timers, being atop a horse is something akin to looking down from a second-floor landing. Beginners tend to have a hard time keeping their balance when a horse starts to pick up speed. Before tackling any open beaches, riders must acquire the fundamentals ― mounting the horse, stopping, climbing down and leaving.
Afterward, novices gain confidence riding horses on slow walks of up to 6 kilometers (3.8 miles) per hour, before progressing to fast walks of up to 15 kph. By comparison, sprints often seen in the movies are as fast as 60 kph. As for the enthusiastic riders on Taean beach? They’re moving at about 24 kilometers per hour.
by Kang Hye-ran
The Korea Racing Association (Web site at www.kra.co.kr) offers free lessons five times during each year. Applications for the next free session beginning Aug. 21 will be accepted via the Web site from Aug. 12 to 14.
The lessons run either thrice weekly on weekdays or twice weekly on weekends. Only Korean citizens born between 1950 and 1991 are eligible. The KRA provides both morning and afternoon classes, with a maximum of 30 students at a time.
A number of privately owned tracks around the country also provide lessons. Horseback riding costs differ by track. For example, the Namyang track, located about a 90-minute drive from Seoul, charges 50,000 won ($42) for daily use. Lifelong membership requires a one-time payment of 2 million won as well as 300,000 won per month.
Horseback Riding Tracks
Name Location Phone number
Namyang Club Hwaseong, Gyeonggi province 031-356-8421~4
Napa Valley Horseback Riding Paju, Gyeonggi province 031-342-4115
Kimpo Riding Club Gimpo, Gyeonggi province 031-987-1110
Singal Riding Club Yongin, Gyeonggi province 031-286-6490
Yangji Horse Riding Club Yongin, Gyeonggi province 031-321-2255~6
Osan Bora World Osan, Gyeonggi province 031-373-1062
Unak Riding Club Pocheon county, Gyeonggi province 031-532-3732
Ilsan Horseback Riding Training Center Goyang, Gyeonggi province 031-977-0227
Jayooland Royal Horseback Riding Club Paju, Gyeonggi province 031-942-9999
Beverly Hills Horse Riding Club Cheongwon county, 043-217-5698 North Chungcheong province
Coryo Horse Riding Club Wonju, Gangwon 033-732-0906
Geumgwa Riding Club Sunchang county, North Jeolla province 063-652-4828
Pyeongang Green Riding Club Suncheon, South Jeolla province 061-745-4599