The last time I sat on a horse, I was 14. He was called Quinoa and, inspired by his namesake, he ate. A LOT. In fact, he spent most of our ride veering disobediently off the trekking course to nibble on anything he could find. Ten years on and I find myself gingerly waiting to mount a Baron. Oh please, get your mind out of the gutter; I am talking about a horse. Baron is my equine friend for the morning; and what a handsome chappie he is. As black as ebony, with a lightening white streak down his muzzle, and this is his home – Hyde Park Stables.
Set back off a busy main road, you would hardly believe that tucked behind a deli and a few houses lies Bathurst Mews and in that, a collection of period stables dating back over 300 years. In fact, I am told the only periods in history that the stables have been unoccupied were during wartime.
History lesson over and, graciously, Baron does not buckle under my post-summer-holiday bulge and off we head. The delicious sound of hooves clip-clopping on the cobbled streets of London fills me with nostalgia and I am instantly transported back to Victorian London; except instead of slops being thrown from windows, my only distraction is to dodge the angry horns of impatient commuters who try to parallel park around my noble steed’s colossal hind.
A few streets away and Baron and I are veered safely into Hyde Park by our trusty guide and the next hour whizzes by in a pleasant flurry of chatting, trotting down the infamous Rotten Row and spotting Hyde Park’s other hidden gems.
I discover that the stables host 13 geldings, which are rotated with another 12 who are currently on holiday in Ireland. I imagine a field filled with horses, slapping on suntan lotion and meticulously flipping every hour to assure they don’t get saddle marks. Maybe not. Apparently it’s more like a horse spa where they frolic and fatten up. Yet still, it’s clear to see these handsome lads are well looked after, whether working or playing.
The stables are open seven days a week. Rides vary from group outings to one-on-one tuition and are open to all levels of experience. They even cater for birthdays and hen parties, though for the horse’s sake, I can’t quite picture the latter. Prices start from £64 for an hour’s ride.
A word of warning though; try not to have anything planned afterwards other than acquainting yourself with a bar of soap and a long hot soak in the bath. Let’s just say I know why John Wayne walked like John Wayne.
Hyde Park Riding School
Hyde Park Stables
63 Bathurst Mews
Tel: 020 7723 2813
Nearest Tube: Lancaster Gate