Riding schools are finding new ways to drum up trade as they suffer the continuing effects of the downturn.

Some are turning to offer websites like Groupon and Living Social, which offer one-off massive discounts for services like riding lessons to the public, to boost their winter custom.

Others are offering buy-one-get-one-free lesson deals, activities for mums while their children ride and even “cowboy adventures”.

Julian Marczak of the Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS) said while some stables close to major cities are at “full capacity”, smaller stables in rural areas are having more problems.

“They are having to work hard to entice new clients and retain existing ones,” he said.

Last week you could buy a “half-day equestrian experience” at Trent Park Equestrian Centre near Enfield, London, for £39 (normal price £100) through group-buying website Groupon and a 2½-hour ride on the North Downs at Hopeful Earl, in Cranleigh Surrey, for £35 (normally £85), through Living Social.

In a deal offered last week a beginner’s riding lesson cost just £5 at Carrington Riding Centre in Manchester and a two-hour cowboy adventure costs £39 at Burley Villa Riding School in the New Forest.

Martine Dawlings, of Trent Park, said it was the fourth time the stables had used Groupon since September last year and it was proving very lucrative.

“We have had thousands of people falling over themselves to take part,” said Martine. “It brings in a different clientele.”

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (15 December 2011)