A London charity riding stables has raised more than £1m to buy its home and safeguard its future following a crowdfunding campaign.
Park Lane Stables in Teddington, a Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Pony Club centre, started the campaign on New Year’s Eve after learning that the lease for their home of 12 years would not be renewed as the landlord wanted to sell.
The charity, which is also a safe place for at-risk young people who can be referred there by schools and local authorities, faced the challenge of raising £1m by 25 February to buy the yard.
Coverage on Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast, as well as celebrity supporters, boosted its campaign — with more than £500,000 raised in the past 24 hours alone.
The campaign hit its target today (Thursday, 18 February), and the total is still climbing.
Proprietor Natalie O’Rourke, who has run the stables in its current guise for the past 12 years, told H&H the team “feel so overwhelmed by kindness”.
“The people power won through,” she said.
She added there was one significantly large donation of £50,000, from someone in racing, who also gave them very kind words and “buckets of encouragement” that empowered them to keep going, while the rest was all from individual “believers that wanted us to succeed”.
“The big donations have been fantastic and lifted our spirits every time, but to those who pledged their pocket money, and all the people who gave £5 and £10 and said ‘sorry I can’t give more’, we and our staff and RDA riders would like to say a huge thank you. Between us we made it happen!” she added, in an update on the Crowdfunding page.
She said any extra support will go towards the upkeep of the horses, general running costs as well as buying land for grazing and an arena for RDA riding and carriage driving.
The stables has been home to horses for hundreds of years, serving as Teddington Fire Station in the 1800s when fire engines were horse-drawn, to the riding school in its current form.
Natalie told H&H in January that it was not simply a case of moving elsewhere as its location was key and moving to a rural area would take them away from the community it serves, many of whom can only get there because of the urban location and public transport links.
Park Lane Stables also employs six disabled people and its closure would have meant they would have lost their jobs.
“Horses are being forced out of London,” she said. “We are going to fight as hard as we can to stay, we just need as much support as we can get. It feels like we have a huge mountain to climb. Covid has made it even more difficult, but we are getting local support, which is brilliant and people really want us to stay.”
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The stables has also been raising spirits in the community through lockdown, by visiting those shielding or self-isolating in their homes, so they can wave to the ponies through their windows.
It has been listed as an asset of community value, which is crucial as this ensured it was given first refusal on buying the premises before it could be offered elsewhere.
The charity also promised that if its fundraising was successful, it would be able to provide more subsidised lessons, invest in therapy equipment and the on-site cottage will become assisted living for those with additional needs.
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