A thriving military saddle club is to lose its premises as part of a major army redevelopment, giving rise to fears that the historic garrison will sever its links altogether with horses.
Colchester Garrison, part of which dates back to the 19th century, is to undergo a £2billion four-year redevelopment to turn it into the largest military town in the British Army.
But Colchester Garrison Saddle Club, formed when the garrison was first built, is to be evicted from its site, which is to be sold, and, as yet, no alternative premises have been found.
The garrison’s commander, Colonel Barton, is also president of the saddle club, which he describes as “fairly thriving”.
However, he continues: “There is no need for equitation in the army — we don’t have mounted units. My intent is always to have riding at the garrison, but this is a ‘club’ as opposed to a military function.”
Two new locations were considered but rejected as unsuitable. Funding is in place to secure a new site, but time is now running out.
Flight Lt Mike Mason, project manager for the move, is worried: “Our last-ditch attempt is to find a civilian yard. We’re asking anyone in the Colchester area if they have room for 10-15 horses. We have money to build stables and a manège, if necessary.”
The saddle club is mainly for military personnel and their dependants. It consists of a BHS-approved riding school of 18 horses and ponies; two Parachute Regiment mascot Shetland ponies; 13 military liveries and three civilian liveries. Riding for the Disabled sessions are held at the club, and seven BHS instructors and 16 civilian staff work there. Current facilities include indoor and outdoor schools and a nearby cross-country course. The club holds shows and hunter trials.