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Fans of riding, still a minority sport in Serbia, say it releases stress, creates positive energy and helps people re-connect with nature.
Horse riding is not particularly popular sport in Serbia. But there are dozens of horse riding schools and clubs in the capital that provide services at reasonable rates, especially compared to those in Western Europe.
“People say that horse riding is a sport for all ages, from 77 to seven. But even children younger than that can ride,” Sinisa Gojic from the “Na Konju” riding club says.
“We had one girl who used to ride a big horse who was only four. When she went to another club, she cried, because she still wanted her big horse,” he added.
Horse riding was on rise in Serbia until World War II. But it was sidelined after the Communists took power in Yugoslavia after the war, as they viewed it as a bourgeois activity.
Today, on average monthly salaries of only €350, most Serbs can scarcely afford regular equestrian lessons.
But, horse-riding lessons in Serbia are good value.
A lesson lasting an hour-and-a half for children in most schools cost about 1,000 dinars [€8.5]. For adults the price is about 1,500 [€12]. For those who already know how to ride, an hour costs between €12 and €15, which is half the going rate in the UK.
Almost all clubs organise individual training, or training in small groups, which can be more useful than one-on-one sessions.
“When people come to learn, the trainer holds a horse on a rope, so the trainees can just focus on the technique,” Nina, from the “Aleksa Dundic” club, said.
“After that it’s best to ride in a group, behind someone, so that they can think more about technique, and gain confidence.”
Depending on the club, lessons take place at the Belgrade hippodrome or at the club premises.
However, after the starter lessons, most clubs organise riding in the open and in the woods at Topcider and Kosutnjak.
Trainers explain that riding is all about engaging all the muscles, so it is demanding but healthy exercise.
Riding strengthens the muscles, spine, joints, and helps overall coordination and body movement. However, physical benefits are not the only benefits from riding.
“Riding brings people back to nature, as you are in contact with the animal and you are outdoors,” Nina said.
“You exchange energy with a horse and they really fill you with positive energy. On the other hand, riding releases you from stress and negativity.”
Sinisa Gojic agrees, stating that the benefits of horse riding can be clearly seen in children suffering from disabilities.
“They can show you all good things that you can get from horse riding,” he said.
“Some of them have poor coordination and some are more nervous. But it’s extraordinary how horses and riding influence them – they become stronger and more relaxed,” he added.
Trainers say that children who take care of their horses, feeding and cleaning them, learn how to become more responsible, how to adapt to new challenges, overcome fears and gain confidence.
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