‘Hopefully we’ll be here for a long time’: riding school celebrates milestone 50th birthday

  • A riding school has celebrated its 50th birthday, as its 80-year-old owner hopes the centre will continue to be “here for a long time”.

    On 15 October Houston Farm Riding in West Lothian celebrated the milestone with an event attended by 150 past and present pupils.

    “We had a fantastic night, there were even people there who I hadn’t seen for 30 years and the fact they made the effort to come has left me lost for words. We’re still receiving messages and cards,” said Elizabeth Comrie, who established Houston Farm in 1972 with her late husband Ian.

    “When we started the school we always said it had to be a business, but above everything we wanted it to be a community and a family and it certainly has been that. We have a third generation of children riding, and we have one lady who will be 82 next month who rides with us for half an hour every Monday, she’s an inspiration to everyone.”

    The riding school started with three ponies, who Ian an instructor and keen showjumper – bought from the Kelso sales. The couple previously farmed pigs until 1971 following which they sold their breeding stock and decided to start Houston Farm. The couple’s daughters Fiona, Jane and Anne, and daughter-in-law Angela who is married to their son John, followed in the teaching footsteps, with Anne and Angela working full-time at Houston Farm.

    Over the years the British Horse Society-approved riding school has grown, and it is currently home to 53 horses and ponies, with 150 riders a week. Ian died in 2019 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but Elizabeth continues to run the business side of the school.

    “Most of our horses and ponies are on long-term loan, or they’ve been rehomed from welfare charities after having difficult starts. They’re treated as family here and they have a home for life, we have one pony who is nearly 40,” said Elizabeth.

    “Covid was a very difficult time and a real struggle because we had five and a half months when we couldn’t operate but we still had all the horses and ponies to look after. All the money we had saved went to feeding them. It was hard work, but things are picking up now and we’re determined. Hopefully we’ll be here for a long time.”

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