I started riding in L’Isle-Adam in 1961. A family friend would drive my sisters, me and a picnic lunch out from Paris. XO of a merchant ship, he loved to ride while on shore leave. Eventually, our mother took over and made our trips more predictable.
The horses were ex-cavalry remounts from North Africa. They were perhaps not the best horses for total beginners but they were kind. This is where I had absolutely no trouble learning to post: Barbs have a spine-shattering trot!
Once we’d mastered staying on fairly consistently, we were allowed out on the trails.
The feature I remember most clearly was THE CLIFF! It was most likely a glacial moraine which had been “adapted”. You gallopped up the trail on one side, turned your mount a quarter-turn at the crest and jumped down. It was Kebira (my usual mount) who chose the best moment to leap from the moraine. He had zest in this maneuver which might have had something to do with being born in the Atlas Mountains. The moment when rider was most likely to part company with horse was after landing on level ground. Unless your seat was particularly adhesive, you’d end up either in front of the saddle with chin between ears or on the ground. The horses were not as self-disciplined after landing as they were on the moraine. And who could blame them? There was such a lovely lane nearby.
Kebira was a fifteen-hand smoky grey with darker grey points. I’ve no idea how old he was. I did ride others but he’s the one I remember best.
One day, my mother decided that we could have once-a-week more “structured” riding lessons closer to Paris.
We became members of the Societe d’Equitation de Paris, on which more anon.