Autistic rider’s desperate bid to stay in the saddle

  • An autistic rider who suffers with severe anxiety has turned to crowd funding in the hope of still being able to ride her favourite horse at her local equestrian centre.

    Lydia Honeyman has been riding coloured mare Lola for a year, and has formed a close bond with her, but may have to give up her weekly lessons after business rate hikes forced the riding school to up its prices.

    Lola said she had gone from being “too scared to mount” when she first met the mare at Weston Equestrian Centre in Norfolk, to “racing through fields together” and that she was “petrified” of losing the ability to ride her.

    “I ride with my carer normally and my care budget pays my lessons but as of October 1 they are going up to a point that they can’t be covered,” she said.

    “The trust we have together is beyond anything else and I feel like together we can conquer the world. Going up to see Lola once a week has also improved my communication skills as I can now interact with the staff on the yard.”

    Tamsin Conyers, who owns and runs the equestrian centre, said Lydia had first approached her about a year and a half ago.

    “She got in contact with me to tell me about her autism and asked if she could come and start grooming a horse. Then we started getting her on the horse and now she has lessons and goes for hacks, often with her carer.

    “Lydia has come on great, she was so nervous and worries about everything but as soon as she gets on Lola she forgets it all. I never thought I would see her canter across a field.

    “She’s gone out and bought Lola rugs and headcollars. She thinks if her as her own horse, which I don’t mind.”

    Tamsin said she had no choice but to put lesson prices up after her business rates doubled from £9k to £19k.

    “I have had to put prices up but I haven’t put them up a vast amount. All my lessons have gone up by £5. Lydia has private disabled lessons, which are at a discount rate, and they have gone up to £30,” she explained.

    “It’s hard at the moment — another riding school locally has closed down and we’ve taken on their ponies. We teach until 10pm at night, run a busy riding club on a Saturday and have four RDA groups in. We also have liveries, competition horses and holiday lodges here, trying to do all we can to keep going.”

    After hearing about Lydia’s situation, a group of well-wishers created a crowdfunding page for donations to her lessons.

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