For as long as I can remember I have felt quite smug in the fact that I had uncovered the secret to the perfect first date activity. And I have happily shared this factoid with many poor people over the years like some crazed cupid.
What all you Tinder daters ask? Why, horse riding! Riding horseback, side-by-side, maybe even a little hand-holding. How romantic does that sound?! There’s also a hint of action-adventure so you can let your inner Lara Croft come out.
Well this was all until I actually went horse riding and realised it wasn’t as wistfully clichéd as I had imagined. There is nothing attractive about trying but failing to master the canter and being thrown around like some floppy Elsa doll.
For my birthday last year, my sceptical husband Jude decided to shut up my four-year horse riding rant. In hindsight, he should have saved himself the pain and organised for us to go horse riding three years and 354 days earlier.
Driving out to Daylesford
On our way to Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides, which is technically in Mount Prospect, 10 minutes from Daylesford, I was super excited to live out my horse riding fantasy. Massive points to Jude.
It wasn’t until when Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides owner Kieran was giving us the obligatory safety announcement, warning us that, you know, you could DIE that my notions of romance and relaxation started trying to escape out the window. I’m the biggest klutz in the world, up there with Ralph from The Simpsons, and I wanted to do an activity where I could die. Great idea!
Get that Wilful F*$!ker away from me!
Saddling up, Jude was given a black stallion called Wilson Tucker. He had just about as much attitude as Jude. So a perfect match really. They should have bonded instantly. Although it was a battle of the alpha males and we decided his real name must be Wilful F*$!ker, only Kieran had given us the PG version.
I was saddled up on Pixie, although calling her a horse was surely a stretch given she was more of a pony. And as much as I imagined I was going to be the horse whisperer, let’s be honest, there wasn’t an instant horse-human bond. Most likely because she could sense my escalating fear.
Once we got trotting on our trail ride it became apparent pretty quickly that in the pack of 10, Pixie was best mates with the only other pony on the trail, a white waddler, who was being ridden by an eight-year old boy. For the entire two hours Pixie and White Waddler (not his actual name) would gravitate to one another, making me think that the only romance on this trail ride was some pony lovin’.
On the other hand, Jude and I had been paired with two sworn enemies. So much for our hand-holding. Wilful F*$!ker and Pixie couldn’t stand to be in the vicinity of one another, with Pixie choosing to freeze and then bolt off (although I’m told it was only a canter) anytime that Jude would try and ride next to me.
“Get that Wilful F*$!ker away from me!” Jude: “But he likes your horse”. Me: “If by like you mean he likes to niggle and annoy her, yeah you’re right. He’s kind of like you actually.” Kieran: “Oh yeah. Sorry guys, those two f*$!ken hate each other*.”
* I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually use these precise words but it was something along these lines.
Where is the lagoon?
When Jude booked our horse riding adventure with Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides, by it’s name, I also imagined this romantic horse riding experience to be taking place around some kind of lagoon, which initially I was a little disappointed that it didn’t.
Now I see that any body or puddle of water would have obviously been far too dangerous for me and I would have had a 95% chance of falling in. Given that it took our group of amateurs about 45 minutes to exit the vicinity of the property, in reality we probably just didn’t have time to get to the lagoon. Mind you the forest we trotted through was incredibly peaceful and picturesque – well worth the 45-minute driveway expedition.
Horse riding in Daylesford
Well my scratch has now been itched, it’s bled and healed, and I have confirmed that I have less coordination than Rumplestiltskin. Interestingly enough, I haven’t spoken about horse riding since.
However, if you want to go horse riding and are slightly more coordinated, I highly recommend Hepburn Lagoon Trail Rides. Kieren was incredibly friendly and patient. Plus, it was quite impressive that he was casually riding in thin shorts, when I was padded up with thick leggings underneath a pair of kevlar jeans, which I was very grateful for the next day when the bruising and muscle ache set in.
And the cheesy pizza and orange fizzy drink that we gorged ourselves on afterwards seemed to restore all that is right in a world where both feet are on the ground. Firm soil had never felt so good. That is once feeling returned to my legs, which kept randomly collapsing underneath me post-ride. A little awks.
Perhaps, next time, I’ll leave my action-adventure date escapades to Lara Croft.