A group of inner-city schoolchildren is taking part in weekly riding lessons thanks to a collaboration between dressage rider Emile Faurie and an equestrian centre in Manchester.

The Emile Faurie Foundation was set up and registered as a charity last year to fund projects to help children — particularly those with behavioural problems.

“I was talking to a client who runs a riding school about the difficulties they currently face, and the types of children who had the opportunity to ride,” said Emile.

“Around the same time, I saw a television programme about kids being rehabilitated through horses and I thought I had to do something to help.”

To kick off the fund-raising, Emile filmed a demonstration of dressage to music with live musicians at Merrist Wood Equestrian Centre in July 2006. The DVD was sold to raise money for the charity. He has also been giving lecture-demos around the country, and says word has spread among friends .

“People’s generosity is quite astounding,” he said. “I’m amazed by how lovely everyone has been.”

The first school to receive a donation from the foundation is Buile Hill High School in Salford, Manchester. Children from Buile Hill have been riding at Rider’s Farm Equestrian Centre each Friday for the past 14 years, funded jointly by the school, parents and the equestrian centre.

The British Horse Society (BHS) stepped in four years ago with a donation of £10,000 to help fund lessons, but this money dried up at the end of 2007.

“Emile heard about it and came along at the right time,” said Rider’s Farm owner Sarah Fitain, who last year won a BHS Silver Stirrup award for her work with the school children.

“And for the first time we can offer riding to the kids that couldn’t come before. Different children come each term, 10 or 12 at a time, and we split them into groups teaching them to ride, to lead the ponies and some stable management.”

Many of the older children now help out at weekends, too.

Karen Finkhill, a PE teacher at Buile Hill, told H&H: “It makes a massive difference to them. We teach in a really underprivileged area and most of the kids have never seen a horse or been near a working farm, but they love it.”

Emile spent a day with the children last November, and is enthusiastic about their response to the horses.

“We just want to help as many children as possible to learn to ride,” he said.

Future projects are planned for cities across the UK, including Newcastle, Liverpool, Hull, London and Cardiff.

Tel: 01453 866766 for a copy of the DVD, or details of how to donate to the Emile Faurie Foundation.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (31 January, ’08)