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Shetland reads, cooks and does Joe Wicks workouts to lift children’s spirits in lockdown

A Shetland pony from a North Yorkshire riding school has been keeping spirits up during lockdown with his antics on social media.

Kirklevington Riding Centre had been hearing from parents that their children were missing the ponies, so started using its Facebook account to post fun updates.

Shetland Spencer was already a favourite with the children, so was the obvious choice to star in a series of pictures, also involving his friends Tilly, a Dartmoor, and Lenny, a Welsh section A.

“Spencer is one of the coolest ponies you’ll ever meet, even the way his forelock flaps around is cool!” said Katie Carter, who has been helping at the riding school since she was put on furlough from her usual job in event management.

“He is one of our stoic lead rein ponies and he is a great personality and so friendly with kids, which is why so many of them adore him. You’ll often find them clinging to his neck, and he loves the attention.”

Spencer has been seen dressed up in a Hogwarts scarf reading Harry Potter, playing board games with Lenny and addressing his expanding waistline by working out with fitness coach Joe Wicks, as well as attempting some low-fat cooking.

“I think at this point, every time I appear at his stable he thinks ‘God, what are we doing now’, but he’s a typical Shetland, he loves it,” Katie added.

She said it had been nice to have a way of keeping the children engaged while they were unable to ride. The riding school had also been able to continue educational elements, with Tilly leading lessons in pony care and knowledge.

“We’ve had children message and say could we give the ponies a cuddle for them. While we are lucky to have such lovely facilities here, we also want to keep that family-run and friendly, progressive atmosphere. Spencer has been very good at helping us in our mission,” she said.

While a number of ponies are working liveries and their owners have been able to come up to ride, with booked time slots, lessons for the smaller children are likely to be slower to resume.

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“We’ve restarted private lessons with the more experienced adults who are able to tack up for themselves, as we don’t need to go anywhere near them but it’s harder with the younger children as we have them on the lead rein and have to be more hands-on,” Katie said.

The riding school has started to bring some ponies back into work in anticipation of being able to offer more lessons.

“I think we’ll have plenty of people keen to come back — there are probably a lot of parents out there tearing their hair out wanting to be able to take their kids out again,” Katie said.

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