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Taking up horse riding in my 30s gave me a new sense of freedom

After a move from London to the countryside, 30-year-old Lotty Campbell Bird felt inspired to step further out of her comfort zone

Lady in a fleece
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In March 2022 I moved out of London with my (now husband) after 10 years and went back to live in the Cotswold village where I grew up.

I can’t say the decision was easy. I had spent my childhood dreaming of a life in London and having completed my degree in London and forged my early career in the city, it felt like a part of my identity was about to be taken away.

But the reality was that I was tired of renting a small one-bed flat with slightly odd decor, a damp bathroom and absolutely zero outdoor space.

Blonde lady in stripes posing by a pillar
Lotty made the decision to leave London

When a small development of new houses was built in the village I had called home as a child, it was a turning point. They were available to purchase using shared ownership, meaning we could afford a small three-bed house with a garden, with fewer outgoings than our London rent. Suddenly it felt like a no-brainer and before I knew it my new life as a fully flagged adult in the countryside began.

Out of my comfort zone

Moving away from the city certainly pushed me to 'put myself out there'. I moved back to an area that all my childhood friends had moved away from, so I didn’t know anyone.

The best decision I made was to join the local gym. Suddenly my fears that I wouldn’t meet anyone my age or with common interests vanished, as I connected with like-minded people and soon went from smiling across the gym floor, to meeting up for coffee dates.

Making friends as an adult

It turns out, many other people are in the same boat and I have found it much easier to make new connections since moving here than I ever did in London. I soon found myself asking people out for drinks, trying out local restaurants together and even having people round for dinner.

At first, it feels a little like friendship blind dating, but like anything, the more you do it the more confident you feel.

Through the gym I made a close friend, who recently opened a beautiful boutique yoga and Pilates studio in Cirencester, Retreat and Rewild. As a Pilates instructor myself, I teach several classes there, which has really made me feel part of a community and a sense of belonging here.

Blonde lady doing Pilates© Instagram
Teaching Pilates helped Lotty make friends

Trying something new

But on top of new friends and existing hobbies, I feel compelled to try something new. I turned 30 in 2023 and towards the end of the year started thinking about the last time I had really stepped out of my comfort zone.

This prompted me not to ask for physical gifts for Christmas, but for my family to club together to purchase me some horse riding lessons, so I could take on a brand-new hobby.

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Other than attending a friend’s birthday party around the age of six, where I recall sitting on a horse and being led around a small paddock for around 10 minutes, this was my first experience of horse riding. If I’m being honest, part of me wanted to live the ‘country-girl’ dream I had created in my mind, visualising spending sunny afternoons trotting down the plethora of bridle paths in the area on my trusty stallion.

Lady riding a horse
Lotty felt elated after her first riding lesson

I really can’t remember the last time I felt so excited about something as I did before my first lesson.

As we get older, new experiences that put us out of our comfort zone can be few and far between, so naturally I was also feeling slightly nervous. I’ve thus far made it through life without a broken bone - a record I plan to keep intact.

Lady riding a black horse
Horse riding was out of Lotty's comfort zone

This was an activity I had dreamt of trying for years, so any anticipation before my first lesson was won over by my eagerness to get started and start my journey to becoming the next Zara Tindall!

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Feeling elated

I couldn’t believe how quickly my first session went and I felt instantly elated afterwards. My instructor Lucinda was great, straight-talking and humorous. I thought there would be more conversation and ease into the lesson, but within two minutes I was sitting on my horse and plodding (a fair description) around the school.

I was boosted by my teacher telling me how quickly I picked things up. As an ex-dancer and a current Pilates teacher, my skills in balance, coordination and inner thigh strength certainly helped.

Lady riding a horse
Lotty was inspired to try something new

I plan to continue with weekly lessons initially to keep my momentum going and build on my confidence. It was such a positive thing to do in January and given me something to look forward to each weekend in a slower month with less social plans.

After my second lesson, whilst walking back to the yard, Lucinda pointed to a horse in one of the other arenas and said that she thought I was ready to ride on her in my next lesson as she was a little younger and more spritely (as I start to progress from plod to trot!)

It was at that point that said horse proceeded to buckaroo a young girl off its back who then landed on the floor with a thud. The girl was absolutely fine… I’m just not sure my confidence was quite as intact!

Read more inspiring stories of people who stepped out of their comfort zone on HELLO!'s Happiness Hub.

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