Some equestrian business had been told they were not eligible for the Covid-19 grants, but after H&H made representations on their behalf, the councils reviewed their decision.
Many equestrian centres are eligible for the government’s Covid-19 financial help, despite the fact some have been told this is not the case.
As part of measures aimed to support those forced to close during the pandemic, businesses can claim a year’s business rates holiday and a significant grant.
The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) and the Sport and Recreation Alliance have confirmed the retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund can be claimed by “businesses used for the provision of sport, leisure and facilities to visiting members of the public (including for the viewing of such activities)”. This applies to riding schools, livery yards and competition centres.
Kate Morris, of Blue Barn Equestrian Centre in Kent, was told repeatedly by Ashford Borough Council (ABC) that she could not claim the assistance. But after H&H interceded, ABC confirmed she was eligible.
Kate said: “This is wonderful. I’d rung the council and spoken to someone who was very nice, but said riding schools and equestrian centres are excluded.
“I can understand how people would struggle with this. I rang again [after H&H had called ABC the first time] and was again told I wasn’t eligible.
“This is absolutely incredible news, and it opens the doors to all the other equestrian centres and riding schools in the area.”
An ABC spokesman said after H&H made representations on their behalf, the council was able to look at the case in more detail before coming to its decision.
“The team has had a look at this and has made the decision [Kate Morris] is eligible for the 100% retail/hospitality/leisure discount on two accounts – the riding area and the stables and premises,” a spokesman said.
Sue Walker of competition centre and livery yard Duckhurst Farm, also in Kent but under Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), told H&H her first business rates payment had been taken in April, although she should have been eligible for the relief, and that she had struggled to contact the council. After H&H got in touch, Sue had a call from MBC to say they would be refunded that payment.
“It’s wonderful news,” she said.
Ruth Gardiner, of the Enborne Equestrian Centre riding school in west Berkshire, told H&H she had struggled to get through to the right person, having rung her council every day for a week, but once she did track him down, she was told she was eligible for the help. She urged other businesses to be persistent in seeking the help for which they are eligible.
“Finally, after hassling and pushing, I was given an email address,” she told H&H.
“He was absolutely fantastic and couldn’t have been quicker on the job; by the afternoon, I got a message to say the money was in my account.”
A BEF spokesman told H&H there has been some confusion around the term “leisure”, which different councils have interpreted in different ways, but the Sport and Recreation Alliance has confirmed equestrian centres are eligible, as long as they are open to the public, adding that it is natural there would be teething problems as the grant scheme is new and covers such a wide range of businesses.
“Come to us, the BEF, and we can help, and the British Horse Society has said the same,” she said.
Alliance CEO Lisa Wainwright told H&H: “The Sport and Recreation Alliance has been working with the BEF to clarify government guidance on business rates relief and grants, to build on support for their members.
“We hope this guidance allows eligible equestrian facilities to access the financial assistance they require to support them through Covid-19.”
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The money will go directly towards ensuring the care and welfare of horses and ponies at BHS approved centres