Staff, volunteers and riders at the Urban Equestrian Academy are hoping to continue their “journey of independence” to their own property, as they have been asked to leave their current home.
The Leicester-based community organisation, which aims to provide access to horses to those who may not otherwise have had the opportunity, was told to leave Scraptoft Hill Farm by today (14 July).
Founder Fr33dom Zampaladus hosted an online meeting on 2 July to explain the enterprise’s journey since, in the early days, staff would take young people in a minibus to equestrian centres. The academy then spent some months at premises in Kirkby Mallory but the aim was to have the horses nearer the city, to allow local children more opportunities.
“We went through hell in that experience, but the business grew massively, and the racism and bigotry we experienced, and the not being wanted, prepared us for where we are,” Fr33dom said in the meeting, adding that complaints were made about the academy and it had to find a new home.
That home was Scraptoft Hill Farm, which the academy rented, but the move was not a happy one.
In the meeting, which lasted nearly two hours, Fr33dom and members of his team, as well as parents of riders, and riders themselves, made statements about instances of racism and incidents involving the yard owner, whom Fr33dom said admitted he was racist. Tensions rose, to the point the yard owner banned Fr33dom from the premises this spring.
“He did that because he’s racist,” Fr33dom said. “I’m going to say it for what it is.”
Fr33dom stopped going to the yard but he and other academy members said the incidents continued. He said the owners raised complaints about the grassland management, then when he heard the academy had bought some new horses, told them to leave.
“We had to move the horses elsewhere,” Fr33dom said. “Two are in a volunteer’s garden; they’re small and it’s a big garden, and the others are 12 miles away, so we have to split the team to care for them.
“A meeting was called in relation to the eviction, because we said we needed one; we’re happy to move on because this is too much, but let’s discuss it.”
The team put forward a plan to move in three months but were told, in a letter, that had they not left by 14 July, all chattels and horses remaining would be sold, the proceeds used to cover costs — Fr33dom said no costs are owing, and the owners take a cut of the academy’s profits — and the rest given back to the academy.
The matter has been put in solicitors’ hands, Fr33dom told H&H this week, as there are doubts over the legality of the eviction notice, but the academy is asking for help to realise its dream of a new home.
“We need as much support as possible,” academy volunteer Shareefa said in the meeting.
“We need to keep the momentum so one of the campaigns we’re launching is ‘a pound is sound’. Keep up to date with our social media and keep sharing.
“It’s really important for people to see the beauty and the successes of the Urban Equestrian Academy; thousands of people from the inner city who would never have accessed the equestrian world have done, and we need to celebrate that.”
Shareefa said the team needs help with increased running costs now, to care for the horses. The “pound is sound” scheme is for people to give support by committing to donate £1 a month, or more. The second campaign is the Urban Equestrian Academy land ownership fund; the team wants to own land outside the city as well as inside it.
“We want to make sure the community is supported? to have their own land,” Shareefa said. “That’s very important.”
Fr33dom added that the team would take legal action if the owners tried to sell any horses or equipment by today.
“The animals and stuff belong to the inner-city community,” he said. “Their letter has caused panic; with staff and supporters, young people in tears wondering whether the horses are going to be disposed of.”
But he said there is action under way, and “all the right noises” are being made towards the academy’s being able to secure land in the city.
For now, the plan was to move horses to nearby land, but on which there are no stables or field shelters, so support is needed to put these buildings in, so the horses can have a home until the funds are raised to secure and develop the new site.
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“Your donating will allow us to cover all the resources and materials so we can continue doing what we’re doing,” he said.
“We do want to go, but in a reasonable way. Let’s show that we can look after ourselves, do this ourselves and no one’s going to stop us. Urban Equestrian is going to prosper and thrive for ever more.”
H&H contacted the owner of Scraptoft Hill Farm, who declined to comment.
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