Riding Around in Circles for Fun and Exercise
Text Linda Lippner
One night, as I was walking home around midnight, I heard the unusual sound of a galloping horse coming up from behind. It was a little disconcerting, to say the least; I am used to dodging cars that occasionally jump the curb to park on the sidewalk but not to springing out of the way of a horse. A moment after clearing a path on the sidewalk, a young woman in full riding regalia galloped by, obviously exercising herself and her steed when traffic was at a minimum on the Moscow streets. A unique way to keep up your riding skills if you are a horse lover, but my friends who can’t do without the occasional gallop have found a safer, more secure way to indulge themselves.
I joined them recently as they saddled up at the Pradar Equestrian Club (http://www.pradar.ru/), adjacent to the Hippodrome, Moscow’s racetrack venue. The Hippodrome has seen better days and seems to be waiting for a facelift to bring it up to snuff, but it’s still fun to walk around, look at the stables and trainers, and get a whiff of “horse culture” right in the middle of the city. Driving up to Pradar at the back of the racetrack is to enter an entirely different horse world. This is equine entertainment de luxe. The “luxe” extends to the stables with their art moderne ironwork gates as well as to the horses, which are well groomed and picture perfect. The owners are rather well groomed themselves — mostly trim, attractive women and their young daughters, outfitted in immaculate riding gear.
It seems to me that horseback-riding lessons are more of a girl thing, and my two friends fit the profile. They are ready to pay weekly fees of close to $100 to saddle up and learn the fine art of cantering and galloping, with maybe a dose of elementary dressage thrown into the bargain. The horses seem gentle enough, but my friends say their instructor is constantly telling them to “control the horse” with the knees, the heels, the reins, or a not-so-gentle slap of the riding crop. That’s a lot to remember when astride several thousand pounds of horse flesh.
Meanwhile, I sat upstairs on the balcony above the riding arena enjoying the part of Pradar that doesn’t involve the horses. A bar was set up and lunch served. Cushy sofas are available for reading or catnapping, something I found immediately attractive. Or you can sit at a table along the balcony railing sipping a cappuccino while watching the action in the arena below. While my girlfriends worked up an appetite on their horses, I satisfied mine with a light lunch.
Observing the scene from above, I soon understood why there was a young man sitting on a folding chair at the far end of the arena. A call from an instructor sent him running over with a shovel and “dustpan” ready to execute a cleanup assignment in the soft brown dirt that covers the floor to a depth of several inches. I wish he had been around that night I saw the young woman and her horse, who left something in my path as I continued on my way.