You would think that opportunities to follow a career in riding while living in the middle of London are few and far between but a riding school in Dulwich is, with the help of KEITS apprenticeship schemes, providing a group of girls with just that.

There are currently six pupils working at the school who are in varying stages of completing their NVQ Level 2 in horse care. All of them have received funding through KEITS without which most say that following their long-term desires to pursue careers in the horse world would be impossible.

Leonie Smith is a 23-year-old mother who is finishing off her NVQ Level 2. She read about KEITS in Horse & Hound and then saw some material which had been sent to the school. ‘We gave KEITS a call and they came to Dulwich to explain how the programmes work’, says Leonie. She was already employed by the riding school before beginning her course but says that having the NVQ qualification will be a great step forward. ‘It shows that I can be left alone in the care of horses, among other things.’ Leonie is a born-and-bred Londoner and has been going to the yard for the past 10 to 12 years. Now, with her family commitments, she spends over sixteen hours a week at the school. ‘Time would be the only thing that would stop me from applying for another KEITS apprenticeship to do NVQ Level 3,’ she says.

Fifteen-year-old Charlotte Pedal is another student who is studying for her NVQ with the help of KEITS. Jaye Montbello, the director of Dulwich Riding School, explains how Charlotte came to them. ‘She was having trouble at school due to problems with placements and her parents came to me in a bit of a panic. Now she’s on a KEITS apprenticeship through the 14 -19 initiative.’

Charlotte, like others at Dulwich, doesn’t come from a riding background. ‘No one in my family rides but I’d been on the yard and was interested in working with horses,’ she explains. ‘I was having trouble at school – not going to classes and such. Then I found out the stables offered the NVQ so I talked to my welfare officer who got in contact with KEITS for me.’

Having completed three months of the course, Charlotte has another 17 to go. One day she would like to become a BHS instructor. ‘If it hadn’t been for the help that KEITS has given me, there’s no way I would be able to do this NVQ. I’d have to have gone back to school, which I hated.’

Dulwich Riding school attracts riders from all over south London, including inner city areas that would not normally be associated with riding such as Brixton and Peckham. ‘Riding is no longer elitist and middle class,’ says the director, Jaye. ‘We supply riding boots and hats so all the pupils need to do is turn up in a pair of jogging pants with £20 to pay for the lesson. Lots of people come by word of mouth and the Internet has opened up the hobby to a lot of people who may not have chosen to ride before.

‘Doing the NVQs without the support of KEITS can be very expensive. We’ve got a good team – people work on flexi hours to suit their needs. Years ago when people came to work in yards it was either to compete or to work as a groom. Now that you can tell parents that their children can make career out of riding, they’re much more willing to let their children join the scheme.’

How it works
There are funding opportunities for:

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships (16-24 year olds) in Horse Care, Animal Care and Floristry

Assessor Awards

First Aid Qualifications

NVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Horse Care, Animal Care and Floristry

NVQ Levels 3, 4 and 5 in Business Management

BHS Stage 3 and PTT upwards

Please note, some location restrictions & eligibility criteria may apply, for further information contact KEITS (www.keits.co.uk )

For funded work based programmes, benefits include:

* Learning & assessment in the workplace
* No lost days attending college
* No course fees or examination fees
* Free first aid training for all Apprentices on programme
* Achievement bonuses for Apprentices & their employers
* Support from highly qualified & vocationally experienced staff
* Recognition between BHS & NVQ systems for Horse Care

KEITS also offer training courses in the following:

First Aid Training, Health & Safety Training, Manual Handling and Risk Assessment.

These courses are held regularly in Kent, Hertfordshire & Leicestershire; but can also be organised at your workplace or a venue near by.

KEITS aspire to be an equal opportunities employer and encourages applications from individuals from under-represented minority group.

For further information on funding or any of the courses, contact KEITS on (tel: 01923 854586), www.keits.co.uk or e-mail: info@keits.co.uk

Join Horse & Hound’s NAGS
Membership of the National Association of Grooms and Students (NAGS) is free to all bona fide grooms and students.
Benefits of being a NAGS member include: Horse & Hound subscription at £1 per copy, £3 discount voucher on a sack of Blue Chip Dynamic, 10% discount on Splash Equestrian equipment and clothing, no P&P charges from Equestrian Vision mail order and eligibility for NAGS-only competitions and offers.

If you are interested in becoming a member, write to: NAGS, Room 2018, Kings Reach Tower, Stamford Street, London SE1 9LS (tel: 020 7261 6993), e-mail: nags@ipcmedia.com, or click here to download an application form in PDF format.

And remember, the club is open to all students, not just those studying for an equine qualification.