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Riding schools see post-Olympic boom in trade

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Could Britain’s equestrian Olympic golds do for riding centres what Strictly Come Dancing did for dancing schools? Apparently so, if an early surge of calls is anything to go by.

James Shepherd, who runs South Cambridgeshire EC, told H&H he had seen “a massive increase in inquiries from new clients and people returning to riding since we started doing so well in the Olympics.”

He added the riders range from seven-year-olds to adults wanting to return to the saddle.

“Ten minutes after the [dressage individual] medal ceremony, I had a call from a 13-year-old girl who hadn’t ridden for 18 months, who wanted to book a lesson and join the Pony Club,” he added.

A spokesman for Ebony Riding Club in Brixton, which caters for disadvantaged children, agrees that London 2012 has had a positive effect.

“We have seen a rise in interest, which is almost certainly connected to the Games,” she said.

Martine Dawlings from Trent Park EC in North London was also positive.
“We’ve seen more inquiries, but also the fact so many people are talking about the Olympics has to be a good thing,” she told H&H.

“We are involved in the legacy project, offering subsidised riding to those who might not have normally ridden. And so many of those want to keep it up, it’s tremendous.”

Vikki Hayton from College Farm EC said she had definitely noticed a surge in interest.

“There’s no doubt we’ve had an increase in business,” she said. “But there’s also been a knock-on effect on riders with their own horses, many are telling us they’ve been inspired and have a renewed enthusiasm for the sport.”

A spokesman for the British Horse Society said the organisation hopes the Olympics will provide a “much needed boost for our centres“.

Julian Marczak from the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) added: “We certainly anticipate seeing an increase in interest. Also Charlotte’s [Dujardin] medal and with so much made of her background, we hope to see this break down the perception of it being an ‘elitist’ sport.”

ABRS is considering how riding schools may meet H&H Editor Lucy Higginson’s challenge last week to attract new clients with good incentives.

“The ABRS believes that initiatives, such as Lucy has proposed, are crucial to riding schools being able to introduce new clients to their yards, particularly in the present economic climate,” added Mr Marczak.

Equestrian businesses! Have you noticed an ‘Olympic uplift’? Write to us at H&Hletters@ipcmedia.com.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (23 August 2012)