Riding provides mental and physical benefits.
Confidence and self-esteem: Improving their skills and achieving previously difficult riding tasks increases a person’s belief in themselves.
Teamwork and cooperation: Riders learn to work with their horses as a team. As they become more advanced they begin to read the horse’s strength and weakness. They start to understand how they can change their riding in response.
Stress relief: Riding can take a person’s mind off their day to day worries and reduce stress symptoms. Horses listen but only judge if the rider is out of balance with them. Riding is a sport like no other and incorporates balance, feel, accuracy and core strength. Even just going to the stables, doing yard work and horse care or just meeting like-minded people can provide a welcome escape. This is especially true for people who live in busy urban areas. At Contessa we are happy to take on volunteers. You are welcome to spend extra time with the horses.
Responsibility and discipline: Riding and caring for horses is very good for teaching children and young adults to be responsible and disciplined. It makes them understand the responsibility of having another living creature depend on them for its needs and direction. Once the rider has learnt to ride more independently it also encourages them to take control and make well considered decisions for their partner; the pony/horse. Young riders can also benefit from having other riders around them and become involved with the social activities. They can tell their horse/pony whatever is on their mind and alleviate stress.
Empathy, feel and understanding. As they improve riders learn to feel certain things about the way a horse is going. For example; is it tense? is it excited? what work does it find hard and what does it find easy? They will also have to learn to empathise with the horse and understand what it needs in these situations. They will also bond with horses and begin to care for them.
Improvement of physical/mental condition. Horse riding can be used as therapy, to build confidence and mentally stimulate those with disabilities. At Contessa we work with the RDA (Riding for Disabled Association). Horse riding has been shown to benefit people with long term illnesses and/or disabilities, improving their physical condition and/or mental state.
Strength and cardio-vascular fitness. Riding requires strength. Particularly important is core strength which is needed for good balance. At the faster paces it makes the heart and lungs work harder. Riding quickens reflexes, increases joint mobility, boosts the cardiovascular system, improves blood circulation, stimulates sensory integration and improves the visual perception of space.
Flexibility. A good riding position will stretch and strengthen certain muscles. For example; moving with the horse will make the lower back more flexible, bringing the heels down will stretch the muscles along the back of the leg preventing muscle cramps.
Co-ordination. Horse riding requires a lot of multitasking which builds on coordination. This is learnt through the feel of riding, and having body awareness of your own and your horse’s body.
It’s also one of the few sports where you have to share. You have to listen to another living creature, interpret its body language and movements, and be respectful but authoritative. When you make that connection with such a powerful animal it is an amazing feeling. When you really get to know a horse you develop a strong bond and friendship the same way you would with any treasured pet.
The Best British Riding School in Europe
Contessa is a family-run business which started in 1977. We are approved by the British Horse Society and the Association of British Riding Schools. As a BHS ‘Where to Train’ centre Contessa is rated A5 and able to train candidates up to BHSI. We are also one of the only centres in the UK that is able to train for and holds the ABRS Advanced Teaching Diploma.
Contessa was voted third Best Riding School in Europe 2006 – the highest placed British entry and it has continued to grow and blossom ever since.
Proprietor Tina Layton-Elliott BHSI has competed internationally at up to Grand Prix level. The highlight of her competition career was representing Great Britain internationally at a CDI with Pik Dame, a mare she trained right through the levels. She has always worked to a classical method of training, and she continues to work to instill that in all her Instructors and Students.
The philosophy at Contessa is to strive to create harmony between horse and rider, working as a partnership with the horse.
Located in the heart of Hertfordshire we have easy access to London and Cambridge. Head Girl Dawn Elliott-Moulden ABRS ATD, BHSIT and our Chief instructor and rider Joao Cavaco ABRS TC are dedicated to improving the detail, quality and experience to horse and rider. Both hold regular clinics and workshops. They work very closely with our team to maintain our standards.
Co-proprietor Sheila Layton, Tina’s mother, has been an integral part of the running of Contessa since it opened in 1977. She has remained deeply involved in the ABRS and became a fellow of the society in 2006 and has also been awarded a MBE for her services to the equine industry.
Contessa has top facilities, happy horses and friendly staff.
When you come to ride at Contessa, you will be presented with a professional, friendly and well run yard of happy horses and friendly staff. As well as our equine and human assets, we boast the following top facilities:
- Indoor School – Contessa has a 20m x 40m rubber and sand surfaced indoor arena with a viewing gallery, allowing clients, family and friends to watch the lessons and training sessions. There are mirrors around the arena to enable riders to check their position and the horse’s way of going. The indoor school is planed daily and the watering system helps to maintain the surface. Floodlights allow evening lessons to take place.
- Outdoor school – Contessa’s outdoor arena is 20m x 60m with a jumping lane and is surfaced with sand. There is a seating area for spectators and a watering system to maintain the surface. Jumping lessons tend to take place in the outdoor school and a full set of show jumps and fillers are stored close by.
- Round Pen – The round pen at Contessa has a multitude of uses. It provides a safe area for small children’s lessons, a lunging area and a small ‘play pen’ for restricted turnout. It is also used for backing youngsters.
- Horsewalker – Contessa has a Monarch horsewalker which invaluable for providing non-ridden exercise on horses’ days off.
- Stables – The main yard, known as Court Yard, was constructed in 2005 with 15 new ‘Scotts of Thrapston’ stables – which provide luxury accommodation for our horses! Phase two of the building project was completed in 2007 with 11 new stables on New Yard, which houses our ponies. Phase three of the construction provided a hay barn extension to the indoor school and included Loddon Stables behind the Gallery area which currently houses our stallions. All stables include ‘Equimat’ rubber matting for the horse’s comfort.
- Club room/Lecture Room – this provides comfortable seating and a work area for lectures, client day courses or just somewhere to sit and have refreshments before or after your lesson. We also sell cold refreshments in the office.