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Show-jumping legend Harvey Smith and his wife, top national hunt trainer Sue, officially opened a new equestrian centre at Whalley Corn Mills in Lancashire last weekend [Sunday 19 October].

The centre is the brainchild of farmers John and Dorothy Townson. It is based at the family’s Brookhouse Farm in Whalley, which has impressive facilities including a solarium and hydrotherapy suite as well as more than 20 stables, an outdoor menage, cross-country course and shop.

John has been involved with horses since childhood and his previous exploits include being a successful amateur jockey and national hunt trainer as well as a sheep and beef farmer.

“Over the years we have diversified from being primarily a farming family and now have most of the farm set aside for equestrian pursuits. We run a successful shop selling everything needed by the horse and pet owner, alongside the livery yard,” says John.

The centre is a family concern with the Townson’s daughter, Andrea Shipley, a freelance human and equine physiotherapist, running a “horse and jockey” physiotherapy clinic at the centre one day a week, while their son has also played a major role in the development of the business.

“The facilities are open to all horse owners, with a wide range of local people making use of the solarium and hydrotherapy to help horses with injuries and keep their competition horses in tip-top condition,” explains John.

The livery yard is currently full with a waiting list and John’s plans for the future include improvements to the cross-country course, which sits in 66 acres, and possibly more stables to keep up with demand.

“Although we had already decided to undertake the work to adapt the farm to offer improved equestrian facilities, we were delighted to receive a 30% grant through Defra’s Rural Enterprise Scheme earlier this year,” continues John.

The Rural Enterprise Scheme is part of Defra’s England Rural Development Programme, which helps farmers adapt to changing markets and develop new business opportunities.

The grant was awarded to the Townsons at the Royal Lancashire Show earlier this year by Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty, who says: “I was impressed with the enthusiasm and commitment of John and Dorothy Townson when I met them and wish them every success for the future. Projects like theirs can help revitalise rural communities, providing jobs and contributing to the local economy.”

Individuals interested in applying for funding under the Rural Enterprise Scheme can visit www.defra.gov.uk/erdp or (tel: 01772 865232).