New scheme to ensure horse sport is available to all

  • Horse welfare, competition and trying to make sure equestrian sport is for everyone are the central themes of a new British Dressage (BD) urban equestrian centre programme.

    BD was “delighted” to welcome the first group of 10 riders on to its pilot scheme, at Summerfield Stables near Birmingham. The group will take part in a six-week training programme at Solihull Riding Club, with which Summerfield has a partnership, led by BD coach Jo Swain. The aim is for the riders to perform a BD test in a competition at the end of the course.

    “Aside from learning about dressage and falling in love with the sport, it’s all about improving the confidence of these young people,” said BD project delivery lead Emma Bayliss, who has been instrumental in delivering the scheme.

    “The programme gives them the opportunity to learn from our coach, interact with each other and develop valuable life skills that they will be able to take forward into the wider world.”

    A BD spokesperson said that one of the organisation’s key principles is making the sport accessible to all by removing barriers to participation.

    “Summerfield Stables is a community riding school in the heart of Birmingham, offering an inclusive environment that provides access to horse riding for young people, as well as volunteering opportunities for those keen to learn and care for horses,” she said.

    “Their ethos is to give everyone the chance to experience the special bond between horse and human, regardless of age, race, gender or disability, while demonstrating the important role that horses play in society, especially for those who may not be fortunate to be able to learn, interact or engage with equines in their daily lives.”

    The initial selection involved people who already ride at Summerfield. A second cohort will follow there, followed by programmes in London and the north-east.

    Georgina Urwin, who runs Summerfield Stables, said: “It’s really important that all riders have the same opportunities as those who own their own horses. We want to give this experience to as many young people as possible, so they don’t feel excluded from activities within the equestrian world. We don’t want them to have to deal with a huge financial outlay just to experience affiliated sport.

    “The programme has given our students a wonderful opportunity to experience these great facilities and give themselves a chance to shine, showing that they are as good as any other rider. Often, it’s assumed that riding school pupils can’t ride to a good enough level.

    “We have a variety of lovely horses and Jo Swain has commented that our riders already work to a high standard – it’s great to have that affirmed, so they can move forward with more self-belief.”

    The 10 riders will also be able to complete the first two levels of the BD horse-care programme.

    “Awareness of equine welfare is a central tenet, and educating these new students at the very start of their dressage journey will be a major part of the development activities,” the BD spokesperson said.

    Phoebe, one of the students who volunteers as well as rides at Summerfield, said horses have had a positive influence on her.

    “Horses mean a lot to me – if I’ve had a bad day, I can come to the stables, they reset me and allow me to be OK,” she said.

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