The Big Smoke is a magnet for jobseekers, but juggling equestrian interests with a London career can be daunting.
“London livery yards certainly have their challenges,” says British Horse Society (BHS) chief executive Lynn Petersen. “However, a great livery yard will rise to these challenges and be incredibly creative in how they solve these issues.”
If the price is right
The biggest issue London horse owners face is cost. The BHS estimates that full livery in the capital will set you back on average £200 per week, compared to £90-95 elsewhere. In central areas with good hacking that can rise to £400 per week.
One option to reduce costs is working livery, where owners allow their horses to be used by the yard for lessons.
“This is a good alternative and much more popular in London,” explains Claire Mallett, office manager at Wimbledon Village Stables. “Everything is done for you, and our working liveries pay between £600 and £650 per month compared with £1,200 for full livery.”
While DIY and part-livery is an option in some parts of London, trekking across the city every day isn’t always practical. Fortunately, many yards are easily accessible by bus or tube.
“Lots of our liveries live slightly further out of town, and they drive here and drop the car in the morning before commuting into the centre,” says Maria Johnson, yard manager at Trent Park Equestrian Centre in North London. “Those who live more centrally come up on the tube after work. We have long opening hours, so liveries can ride from 6.30am to 10.30pm.”
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t impossible to find a London yard with year-round turnout — although you may have to be flexible in your choice of location.
“To get turnout, you do usually have to go further out,” explains Charlie McMillan, owner of Frith Manor Equestrian Centre near Barnet. “You wouldn’t get turnout in Hyde Park, but we turn out liveries 24 hours a day in the summer and during daylight hours in the winter.”
Then there is the question of hacking.
“While there are bridlepaths here, your horse does have to be OK in traffic to hack in London,” says London Equestrian Centre director Yvonne Segen. “But even in the country you have the dangers of riding down country lanes.”
The best hacking is focused around the capital’s great parks, such as Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Hyde Park, but liveries here can expect to pay a premium for the location. Owners looking for lower costs and more extensive hacking could consider looking outside of the M25.
Living in London doesn’t have to mean missing out on hacking and turnout — but many owners rely on some form of horse transport.
“Most people drive to the countryside to give their horses a good blast,” says Harriet Williams, who recently opened Lower Priory Farm in Stanmore.
Other options include booking your horse in for turnout “holidays” outside London and joining organised events such as sponsored rides.
Five London livery yards
1. Mote End Farm: one of the few London yards without a riding school attached, Mote End Farm has a large outdoor school and horse walker as well as a four-mile private bridleway, a cross-country course and all-year turnout. Part livery is from £179 per week, full livery from £207.
2. London Equestrian Centre: set within 34 acres of green belt land, this BHS-approved yard is a short walk from Mill East tube station and has an indoor school, plus year-round turnout. DIY is from £250 per month, part livery from £590, full livery from £770.
3. Trent Park Equestrian Centre: two indoor arenas, an outdoor arena, cross-country course, horse walker and on-site restaurant make this a popular North London yard. Full livery starts at £160 per week. www.trentpark.com
4. Mudchute Equestrian Centre: it only offers working livery, but Mudchute’s central location on the Isle of Dogs and its reasonable prices (from £55 per week) are a boon for London-based horse owners.
5. Wimbledon Village Stables: glorious hacking on Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park are the major draws of this south London yard, which offers working livery from £600 per month and full livery from £1,200. www.wvstables.com
This article was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (6 November 2014)