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‘It has transformed our lives’: two weeks to save Park Lane Stables

A family whose lives were changed by the horses and people at Park Lane Stables are urging people to support the charity’s campaign to secure its future as time is running out.

The London-based charity has until 25 February to raise the £1m needed to buy its Teddington home and continue to provide its vital services to the community.

The stables is home to a branch of the Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) as well as a Pony Club centre, and 14-year-old Louis Woolf, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome aged seven, is among its regular visitors.

Louis’ parents, Gary and Thea, took him to a horse club in Hampton, run by Park Lane Stables, after reading about the benefits of animal interaction.

Since then, Louis has attended the Pony Club centre every weekend for the last five years and has also started to help lead other RDA riders.

His parents said his confidence has grown enormously.

“It has transformed our lives and transformed his life,” said Thea. “He went from being a child who would say regularly ‘I’ve got no friends, no one really understands me’, who now has a group of friends and they just talk about horses.

“Yes it’s changed his life, but actually it’s changed our life as a family because I think we were reaching a breaking point, we just didn’t know how we were going to cope as a family.

Gary added: “The key thing is Louis’ independence. He can just get on his bike and cycle down there and come back when he’s done.”

Centre manager Natalie O’Rourke has previously told H&H about the importance of the stables’ location.

She said it is not simply a case of moving elsewhere as stables in London are few and far between, and moving to a rural area would take them away from the community they serve, many of whom can only get to them because of their urban location and public transport links.

The charity, whose appeal featured on Good Morning Britain this week (Thursday, 11 February), has raised more than £377,500 so far and was recently listed as an asset of community value (ACV). The £1m is needed to buy the base as the landlord wishes to sell and the ACV is important as it means the charity has to be given the opportunity to buy the premises first, if they can raise the money.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has contributed to the

‘save our stables’ fundraising campaign so far,” said Natalie.

“The generosity and community strength at this tough time in our history has been truly heartening. The stables provide a lifeline for many families that will be devastated to lose the horses from the community”.

Park Lane Stables employs six disabled people, who would lose their jobs if it were forced to close.

Stables worker Hannah Collard-Grey, who is visually impaired (registered blind) and epileptic, says: “Working at Park Lane Stables has allowed me to find my niche and is a place where I’m accepted for being me. Being a part of the Park Lane family has significantly improved my self-esteem and self-confidence because it is a place that has enabled me to

grow and find myself. It may be my occupation, but it’s so much more than that.”

Park Lane Stables has been home to horses for close to 200 years. The black and white building served as a fire station with a horse-drawn engine in the 19th century and has been a riding school since the 1950s.

The stables opened in its current form 12 years ago and has 23 horses and ponies, offering riding sessions in Bushy Park for people with disabilities and learning difficulties as part of the RDA.

The charity is also a safe haven for children and young people, who can be referred there by schools and local authorities.

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Should Park Lane Stables be successful in its fundraising, it has said that it will be able to provide more subsidised lessons as it will no longer have the cost of the lease to pay for.

It will also invest in therapy equipment, and the on-site cottage will become assisted living for those with additional needs.

In a normal (non Covid-19) year the stables provides more 3,000 sessions of therapeutic riding, including hippotherapy and carriage driving, and it has a long waiting list of adults and children in need of its services.

Stable staff and ponies have been cheering up the local community through the lockdowns by visiting those shielding or self-isolating in their homes, so they can wave to the ponies through their windows.

To donate, visit: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/save-our-stables

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