As a child I loved horses and always wanted to learn to ride. But my ballet teacher put her foot down – no riding if I was learning ballet with her. So instead I would read every book possible and visit local horses to see them. So when I was introduced to Lambourn Open Day and offered tickets to the event by In The Paddock, I was keen to have a look and introduce N to horses close up.
Our nephews/niece are all into riding, but mounted games or hunting, so to see and find out about race horses is something different. As no family members could come with us, we took Mary and Monkey from Over 40 and a mum to One with us. This did mean we were talking way too much in the car, and what should have been an hour’s journey was closer to 2 thanks to me missing turn offs and not watching the sat nav. Oops.
Lambourn is known as the Valley of the Horse, with lots of racehorse trainers based in and around the area. The Many Clouds Lambourn Open Day is on its 26th year. With trainers opening their yards in the morning, and a family activity afternoon in the main arena. It’s perfect for families whether you know your racing or not (we don’t, other than what I’ve read in Dick Francis and John Francome books). But for horse obsessives, it’s definitely an essential day out.
It’s really well organised – you drive from yard to yard (or just pick one or 2 of the 25 that are open), see the horses, and other displays like seeing the water treadmill in use and other talks. The car parks are massive fields. Then in the afternoon you can move down to the arena car parks and spend the afternoon wandering stalls, eating, checking out children’s activities and watching displays in the arena.
The trainer’s yards
We’d been invite for a tour around trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard. Our guide George was really helpful, and answered all of our questions. The boys just wanted to nosy around the buildings and see a few horses. They weren’t fussed about finding out details of which horses had won the big races. With over 100 horses it’s a massive yard and we saw recent retiree, the gorgeous Sprinter Sacre amongst other horses.
Monkey posed with the horses for photos. N was more interested in trying to do a Dr Doolittle talking to them.
It was interesting to see the different temperaments of the horses. Some were already sticking their heads out to see all the visitors, others waited for people to approach their boxes, while some refused to even turn around from their corner inside.
One of the best bits was watching the water treadmill. N was excited about this because he’d seen horses swimming on Tractor Ted and wanted to see it for real. After the display of it, the boys wanted to know where the water had gone. Nothing like a bit of engineering to interest boys!
We were able to wander the yard and check out the covered exercise circuit. N wanted to run it but noone was going to join it. It tickled us that they have to go different directions on different days. It’s obvious, but until you see the signs it’s not something that would occur to you.
After we’d had our fill of horses, it was time for lunch. We decided to wait until we’d gone to the main arena and get lunch. With the main car parks there filling up fast it was a good job we did. If you’re going to the open day, do make sure you’ve comfortable shoes on because there’s lots of walking involved.
The arena show
If you’re expecting a huge show, you won’t get it. Everything is obviously still horse themed, but at the family fun day part, it’s a mix. From representatives from the local hunt, to riding for the disabled and a dressage display. From watching farriers at work to falconry and dog displays.
We didn’t have a problem finding somewhere to perch to see the shows, but there aren’t many bales to sit on, so we should have remembered our picnic blanket or even our fold up chairs. Luckily it had been dry beforehand, so was fine sitting on the ground.
We didn’t have to queue for too long for food – we just had hot dogs and burgers, but there were also pork rolls, noodles, pizza and other foods on offer as well the obligatory ice cream vans for a day out.
While Monkey was happy with a ride on the shire horse trailer and going into the ring to meet the hounds, N was more about ‘rides’. It always amuses me that N never wants to meet animals when we go out to places. I suppose he sees horses and hounds at the bloodhounds meet we have on our land, and meeting numerous dogs on the farm all the time so has no need to see them elsewhere.
But N spotted the ride on vehicles and was determined to have a go. At £3 the hovercrafts were reasonable value; he was the only child going on them at the time. I must keep a watch out because a newspaper photographer took his photo and details, so hopefully he’ll be in the paper. He had a great time on them, although I then did get hassle later because he wanted to go on the bouncy slide too which I vetod. As with any ‘fayre’ day out, it can get pricy if your children want to go on everything.
With the open day only an hour away, it’s certainly a good day out. Adult tickets were £15, kids were free. If you’re really into horses, it’s the only chance you’d get to go behind the scenes at yards. It’s something totally different for children who love the outdoors. Especially if you want to see something other than the usual farm parks and wildlife parks.
Do you have horse fans in the family? Is this somewhere you’d like to go?
Disclosure: We had tickets as guests of the new racing ownership website intothepaddock.co.uk. All words and opinions are my own.
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