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Riders can boost their equestrian qualifications for as little as 25% of the usual cost in return for 20 hours’ volunteering in the equestrian sector in the capital.

The initiative is part of London 2012’s plans to leave an “equestrian legacy” after the Olympics.

“This is a great opportunity to get people into London’s riding centres,” said a spokesman for backers the HOOF Rider London Olympic Legacy project.

Courses, which are all funded through the Mayor’s Legacy Skills Investment Fund, range from British Horse Society stage exams to first-aid and cross-country course-building. The fund will also enable centres to host training towards Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Pony Club badges.

Volunteering must be carried out in London but attendees can live anywhere in the UK and can complete the 20 hours at their own pace.

The British Equestrian Federation’s David Gadsby said: “The potential of this funding is huge — it’s almost too good to be true.”

The Greater London RDA has seen an uptake in volunteers and has run over £5,000-worth of subsidised courses.

Chairman Diane Jeffries said: “This is a great initiative to encourage those considering volunteering, giving them the skills to support their community.”

Zara Rossiter, a yard manager at Penniwells Riding Centre for the Disabled, attended a subsidised course.

“I learnt a lot more about how to interact, talk to and explain things to disabled riders, especially the visually impaired — volunteering has added a sense of fulfilment to my day,” said Ms Rossiter.

Victoria Padolsey, 50, is new to equestrian volunteering.

“This is the most rewarding of all the volunteering I have ever done — the results are wonderful and each week someone does something amazing, whether it’s a rider or a volunteer,” she enthused. “When you are offered training you automatically feel part of the group and hopefully this will benefit riders,” she said.

Seven riding centres across the capital are hosting volunteers. They are Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre (Hammersmith), Trent Park Equestrian Centre (Enfield), Lee Valley Riding Centre (Clapton), Woodredon Equestrian Centre (Waltham Abbey), Greater London RDA (various locations throughout the city), Vauxhall City Farm (central London) and the London Horse Network.

For more details about how to get involved e-mail: jodievm@aol.com

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (23 June, 2011)