Urgent plea to save London riding school for the community it serves

  • A London community riding stables is appealing for support to help buy its home or risk no longer being able to help those whose lives have been changed by horses.

    Park Lane Stables in Teddington, southwest London, has survived for hundreds of years while the surrounding area has been developed.

    It has a rich equestrian history, from serving as Teddington Fire Station in the 1800s when fire engines were horse-drawn, to the riding school in its current form that makes horses accessible to those who might not otherwise have the chance.

    The current operators have been told by the landlord that their lease, which expires in May, will not be renewed, so they have started a crowdfunding campaign to raise £1m to buy the premises and secure their home, for all those who benefit from the work they do with horses.

    “If we can’t do it this way, then sadly we will be gone and it will just be another sad story of a riding school lost in London,” manager Natalie O’Rourke told H&H.

    “I’m sure the landlord has his reasons and our only hope now is to purchase. Because of where we are in London, the value of the property is quite high, so we are trying desperately to fundraise so we can secure our own future.”

    The registered charity operates as a community stables that welcomes people from across London and makes horses accessible and affordable — with a pay if you can ethos — to those living in the city.

    It is also both a Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Pony Club centre, as well as serving as a safe haven for children, who can be referred there by the local authority and schools. As well as riding lessons, much of the work at Park Lane Stables also involves welcoming those who benefit from and enjoy spending time with the horses on the ground.

    Among those the organisation has helped is James Wiseman, who spoke at a parliamentary reception in February 2019 about how volunteering for the RDA at the stables “saved him”. The charity also helped combat loneliness and isolation during lockdown, by exercising the ponies in the local area and letting residents know when to look out for them and wave.

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    Natalie added that 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.

    “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.”

    The crowdfunding campaign was launched on New Year’s Eve and has already reached £29,000, for which the charity is hugely grateful.

    “If we don’t fight now, when [the pandemic] is over and everybody is well again, the horses will be gone. That is why we need to fight now, we are determined and we are positive,” Natalie said.

    Click here to find out more about the Park Lane Stables crowdfunding campaign

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