Can 43,000 more people be persuaded to take up horse riding in Britain by 2013?

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has £200,000 to allocate through its “Hoof” network, to help regional equestrian centres and other businesses, including riding schools, achieve this.

There are currently 350,000 once-a-week riders in England. Sport England would like 43,000 more a week added for the Government to increase future funding to the sport.

Maggie Still from the BEF said: “If we don’t meet this target we are unlikely to get as much [future] funding, and we need all the help we can get.”

Hoof is an Olympic legacy project, launched in 2007, aiming to convert more people to riding.

The temporary nature of the 2012 site means there will be no iconic equestrian facility as a legacy.

Initially, Hoof was focused predominantly on BEF member bodies and the south-east of England — but now its scope is widening.

“£200,000 is not a massive amount, but it’s a start,” Ms Still said. “It’s about getting new people in and keeping them in.”

Riding centres can apply for funding for any project that may help attract new riders.
“A centre could secure funding for floodlighting for an outdoor arena and thereby increase their time available to give lessons,” added Ms Still.

“If the government sees the demand is there, it is more likely to help grow the sport.”

But Hoof is also urging businesses to apply to local authorities for further funding — and to Sport England directly, which earlier this month announced a £50m fund to update sports facilities.

Hoof has run a series of networking evenings to encourage local equestrian businesses to share ideas.

Andrew Stennett from Grove House Stables in Doncaster said he plans to apply for funding.

“It’s a really positive way of marketing the benefits of equestrianism,” he told H&H.

Sophie Osborne from Cheston Farm EC in Devon said it was a “much-needed push”.

“Hoof as a forum for networking in a largely fragmented and voiceless sector is refreshing,” she said.

But Jane Keep from Sidcot Equestrian Centre in Somerset said: “We need to get more children involved to grow the sport in the future. But every under 16 needs a licence to help at a yard. We’d be better having help with that.”

For information, visit: www.bef.co.uk and www.sportengland.org/funding

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (28 July, 2011)