Fast-growing sport of horse boarding

A new and fast-growing equestrian sport in Britain is horseboarding- and one West Sussex person who is actively involved is Emma Grainger of Bognor Regis.

Emma has always been involved with horses. She was a former stable girl for the late racehorse trainer John Dunlop at Castle Stables, Arundel, and went on to compete successfully in dressage and showing classes with one of his ex-racehorses, Swingkeel.

Winning performance by Swingkeel and Emma Grainger

Today she is one of the growing number of competitive and successful horseboarding enthusiasts, having started in the sport just over a year ago as a rider. Now she is a member of a new all-girls team, Rough and Tumble, as well as still riding in the Elites for another team riding an ex-racehorse.

Emma said:”Horseboarding is a growing extreme sport and we want it to get bigger. I started in the sport just over a year ago as a rider and have now started to board with our new all-girls team, Rough and Tumble.

“I am also still riding in the Elites for another team riding an ex-racehorse. The sport is now fast growing and becoming more popular every year. It requires a team of three elements- a horse rider, a horse and a boarder, who all have to work as one to complete a course of tight turns, chichanes, weaves and speedy straights against the clock.

“There are three categories- novice, intermediates and elites. Speeds of up to 30mph have been recorded by the team of Just Wing It. I first saw horseboarding at Burghley House in 2017 and just knew instantly, being a horse racing girl that this was something I wanted to be involved in.

“The team of The Black Dakotas was formed and we went to our first competition at Cheshire show ground in 2017 and took home first place in the novice.

“We went on to storm through the categories with back to back wins taking us up into the elites. We were very fortunate to have an elite boarder Ryan Roberts behind us making out job a lot easier.

“Then came the sad loss of my horse Zeeba, so I decided it was time to give the boarding a go myself and together with Ellie Higginson and her New Forest Pony Jester, we put together the team, Rough and Tumble and competed at our first competition at Sandringham estate at the beginning of September at Cheshire show ground in 2017.

Emma Grainger horse boarding behind the rider
Photo: Susan Scott

“Being an all girls team we couldn’t have been more pleased with how well the team did over the course of the weekend and to our surprise we took first place.

“I have also been lucky enough to have been given the ride on Anglo Paddy (formerly trained by Neil Mulhullond) for the Elite team of Limited Edition with the fast progressing boarder Lloyd Crabb, Limited Edition also hold the fastest horseboarding uk land speed record of 31mph which was held at Beverley racecourse on the Bullet race day meeting.

“It really is an exciting adrenaline fuelled sport, with great sportsmanship and friendly atmosphere. If anyone is looking for something new and exiting to do then this is it.”

Horse boarding at Sandringham Show: Photo: John Simpson

Horseboarding was born in 2004, when, unaware of the far-reaching effect this seemingly routine event was to have on his life, Daniel Fowler-Prime went to train some horses for a friend, Tom Kilrow, in Cornwall.

One evening after a long day of training they decided to tie a mountainboard behind a car. Then the idea of towing a board behind a horse was raised with success. In 2004, they achieved what was thought to be the first ever mountainboard to be towed behind a horse.

Tom had tied a rope to the back of a car driven by his sister, and climbed on to a mountain board and raced round the field. It did not end there and developed into tying the rope to the door frame of the car and later to tying it to the back of a motorbike.

Then Dan had the idea of tying the board to a horse. But plenty of questions had to be addressed, ranging from how the horse would react, where would the rope be attached, and would it be safe for everyone concerned.

Rough and Tumble ridden by Ellie Higginson, Emma Grainger boarding Photo :Kirsty Batteate

It is believed that this was the first time ever that a mountain board was attached to a horse- and that horse, Rohan, is now a legend.  For the first experiments were successful with Rohan towing a boarder at a good pace around the field.
Dan was already working professionally as a stunt rider, and his brother, Tom, started playing further with the idea, trying to find a use, or application for this new skill they were learning.
During one of these experimental sessions Dan started playing with the idea of boarding behind the horse which had no rider itself, nor was there any direct control of the horse. They soon realised they needed to wear protective padding and they also started working on the art of getting the horse to run in a straight line without a rider on  its back, while towing someone on a board.
From this developed the idea of being ‘loose-towed’ on a surfboard along the beach and then vaulting in the saddle. Then came the idea of towing someone on a surfboard behind a horse.
The manager was not willing to lend one from the shop, but offered the loan of his own personal board. Always one to push a situation one step further, Dan replied “What I would really like to do is to tow someone on a surfboard behind a horse.”
After discussion, it was agreed that the shop manager, Matt Smith, would be on the beach for the shoot, with mountain board and kite board to try out horseboarding and the still untested ” horsesurfing”.
That photo shoot triggered them to fame, with the pictures shown all over the world.
The shoot was a complete success, shown left. Dan got all the photos he could have wanted. The press picked up only on the horsesurfing shots but by the end of that year those photos of “these crazy guys in England” had been seen all over the world.
In the following year, 2006, the first ever Horse Surfing competition was held in La Baul, in France,

Over this year and the following years,the sports of horse boarding and horse surfing continued to develop. Dan perfected the loose tow on the mountain board, and performed it with a kite board for the Extreme Sports Channel 2007.  In 2008 Dan organised the first horseboarding / horsesurfing competition at the Skegness.

2012 saw the third National Horseboarding Championship, sponsored by 8th Day UK, with seven events and a total of £1000 prize money. The championship was won by team Dead Pigeon. (Rohan having been retired at the end of the previous season, aged 19).
 With the popularity of the sport growing rapidly,  in 2013 Dan and his brother Tom Kilroy formed a dedicated organisation to develop the sport and take it forward under Horse Boarding UK. Under this banner, it has flourished and grown with enthusiasts  in West Sussex and across the country enjoying this exhilarating sport.

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